Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Finally, a Sign of Autumn

Here in the Finger Lakes we are in the grips of an extreme drought that dampens any hope of a colorful autumn.  No water in the gorge waterfalls, drab leaf drop due to stress on trees, and unusual warmth. But, I got a tip that the Fringed Gentians were in bloom, and my plan to bicycle was quickly dropped.  They are arguably the last fall flower to bloom. Often my plans to photograph them have failed when a cold front roars in with wet rain. But today was ideal. 

Arriving at the semi-secret location, the dew was still on the plants.  Fringed Gentians keep their blooms tightly closed until the sun warms them. That way the pollen is protected until bees are active.  The early sun bathed the flower heads in a warm light. Note the frilly edges on the curled petals.

Fringed Gentians are an uncommon biennial that requires a moist, calcareous soil of neutral pH.  It seems to me the soil is often shallow.

With about an hour before the sun reached enough elevation to activate the unfurling, I explored the interesting form as the light shifted from the extremely warm to a daylight color.  The purple color is very difficult to get correct.  You can see on the next image that the petals are just beginning to spread.  How amazing they are.

By shooting into the sun, I captured the sparkle of the dew drops on the fringes.

Some of the plants I had been working were close to a treeline, and tree shadows shifted across them to delay the opening. Looking farther out in the field, I realized some were now mostly open. 

See  how the color shifted as the sun climbed higher?  The bees began to show up, though they seemed to mostly like the Asters nearby. (None of them cooperated, sadly.)

Here's an earlier image from 2014 that shows a wonderful cluster of Aster blooms awaiting a bee's visit.

The Fringed Gentians are a pretty exciting flower to find. This year seems to be the richest that can be recalled.  Since they are biennials, it would seem that last year was an excellent year for seedlings to develop. We are enjoying the fruits of 2015.  I wonder how this drought will play out with the seeds destined to begin the cycle in 2017.  I'll be awaiting another message that gentians are in bloom for 2017.

Paul Schmitt


  1. Blue is a rare color in nature. The gentian photos are exquisite. You even captured the fringes. Connie

  2. That last picture is really extraordinary Paul!

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