While hiking in the high peaks of the Adirondacks, Sheila Daniels always came across beautiful wildflowers, but never knew what to call any of them.
That changed about five years ago, when she began joining in on the Spring Wildflower Walks sponsored by ECOS: The Environmental Clearinghouse, a Schenectady-based organization dedicated to understanding and improving the natural environment.
ECOS is holding the weekly walks at nature preserves throughout the region through early June.
"On all the walks , I've seen so many surprising things. There were a few common things that I knew, but not very many, so it was just a delight to me to learn all of these wildflowers," said Daniels, who lives in Duanesburg and now helps to schedule the walks .
Venues, which vary annually, range from the Wilton Wildlife Preserve to Wolf Hollow Gorge in Glenville.
"We travel from one natural area spot to another as the wildflowers progress," she explained.
The walkers get a glimpse of some of spring's showiest blooms and along the way, other interesting discoveries are often made as well.
"We've come across some plants that are either rare or they're growing someplace that you don't really expect them," noted Patrick Clear, executive director of ECOS.
He recalled finding a patch of bright blue forget-me-nots growing in the deep woods, where they're not typically found.
Clear also told tales of seeing a fawn run across a trail in front of the group, and of discovering an endangered eastern hognose snake on another Wildflower Walk .
Walk leaders are chosen for their knowledge of plants and for their expertise in other areas as well.
The May 14 walk in Wolf Hollow Gorge will have two guides -- one with knowledge of geology and another who specializes in botany.
The outings, which are held Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m., are about two hours long. Terrain varies from week to week depending on the location, but rarely are the walks longer than two miles.
"We don't do anything that's really intense. This isn't a hike. This is a casual walk where we stop and talk about a lot of flowers," Clear explained.
One walk each spring is handicapped-accessible. This year it will be June 4, on the Albany Bike-Hike Trail at Colonie Town Park.
The walkers go out wildflower hunting no matter what the weather.
"If somebody shows up, we always go," confirmed Daniels. "We just have rain gear and an umbrella and they're beautiful places, so if people want to walk , it's not an unpleasant thing to do if you're dressed for the rain."
Many of the walks take place in areas that may be wet and muddy in spring. Deer ticks and poison ivy may also be present, so Clear urged participants to come dressed appropriately.
Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Memo: ECOS Spring 2013 Wildflower Walks
All walks take place on Tuesday mornings and are free and open to the public.
Carpool meeting times have been set at an earlier time in order to ensure the group can meet at the trail head at 9:30 a.m. Participants may meet the group at the trail head if they are not interested in carpooling.
May 7 - Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary, Selkirk
Ed Miller will be the guide at this Audubon Society preserve in southern Albany County. An old farm returned to forest, this preserve includes a large stream and an old limestone quarry. The group should see wild native columbine, large areas of mayapples, as well as other spring flowers, mosses and ferns. Meet at 8:45 a.m. to carpool from Schenectady at the Crosstown Plaza on Route 7, on the east edge opposite Empire Vision.
May 14 - Geology walk by the Mohawk River
Participants will learn how rocks are made and how and when the local formations were formed. Meet at 9:30 a.m. to carpool at the parking lot directly adjacent to and on the east side of the Rexford Bridge, on the Niskayuna side. There will be a short walk there and participants will travel by car to the power plant opposite Lock 7 on the Rexford side of the river.
May 21 - Christman Sanctuary, Duanesburg
This is an excellent time to enjoy a wide variety of wildflowers in this preserve, including Dutchman's breeches and squirrel corn, foam flower, trillium and trout lily. The stream and waterfall are always delightful; mosses, ferns and lichens abound in this area. Meet at the Office Max parking lot opposite Rotterdam Mall at 9 a.m. to carpool.
May 28 - Wilton Wildlife Preserve (Old Gick Farm Parcel), Wilton
This is an area in Saratoga County noted for its pine bush habitat. The group should enjoy pink lady slippers and lupines in bloom and may even see the Karner blue butterfly. To carpool, meet at 8:45 a.m. at the Hannaford parking lot, Mayfair Shopping Plaza, Route 50 and Glenridge Rd.
June 4 - Albany Bike-Hike Trail at Colonie Town Park
The group will meet at Colonie Town Park and walk west toward Niskayuna. The trail in this area, which is handicapped-accessible, is built on the right-of-way of the old Troy-Schenectady Railroad. It passes through wooded areas where woodland wildflowers may be seen, as well as the early summer wildflowers in the open areas. This is also a good area for birding. To carpool, meet at the Crosstown Plaza at 8:45 a.m.
Some interesting wildflowers spotted on past ECOS walks :
HEPATICA - a pink, purple, blue or white flower in the buttercup family.
TRAILING ARBUTUS - a low-growing, creeping plant with light pink or white fragrant flowers.
MARSH MARIGOLD - a perennial found in swampy areas, known for its sunny yellow flowers.
SQUAWROOT - a plant with tubular, yellowish flowers and a stem covered with brownish scales.
SAXIFRAGE - a perennial herb with variously colored flowers that thrives in rock crevices.
PINK LADY'S SLIPPER - a showy flower belonging to the orchid family.
LUPINE - an attractive, tall, spiky flower that attracts Karner Blue butterflies.