Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Quarter Park plant walk

It was a beautiful day for our first spring plant walk; warm, sunny and windy. A few days before the walk I discovered a nice collection of plants along a trail near the park entrance so after meeting at the designated location, I made everyone get back in their cars and head over to the new spot.

As we headed out from the parking lot we crossed a large grassy field filled with some typical spring lawn wildflowers: chickweed, buttercup, dandelion, and ground ivy, but also bluets (Houstonia pusilla) and violets (Viola sororia) which unlike the others flowers are native.



As we ventured into the wooded trail we quickly came across several members of the orchid family. First up was a puttyroot orchid (Aplectrum hyemale), which I've been stumbling across a lot lately. It won't be blooming for a few more weeks but this picture from Zach Bradford shows what we have to look forward to:

Evidently, their roots produce a sticky substance that was once used to fix pottery, hence the name. Their other common name, Adam and Eve, comes from the fact that their roots are in two parts, connected by small bit of connective tissue.

Of course, nearby was a cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor) - they're everywhere this time of year. Cynthia Long mentioned a great mnemonic for the Latin name that she had learned from Mary Hyde Berg. They have a green side and a purple side, so just remember Tipularia discolor and Tipularia datcolor.

I've never seen either orchid in bloom myself, but one of the field trippers, Kathi Mestayer, sent me this great photo of cranefly orchid that she had taken in a previous year. They're kind of hard to spot - it took Kathi 10 years before she even noticed them!

The next Orchidaceae family member we came across was rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens), once thought to cure snake bite (I'll have to come back when they're in bloom).

Other plants we came across were emerging wild comfrey, partridge berry with one or two fruits still left, emerging christmas fern, paw paw (host to paw paw sphinx and zebra swallowtail caterpillars), and a small golden ragwort.

We also saw a couple good-sized colonies of Pennywort (Obolaria virginica).

Mixed in with these were a few bloodroot leaves (Sanguinaria Canadensis). After the tour I went back to get a couple more pictures and came across a single flower poking through the leaves. It's a shame I missed it the first time.

We also came across a spicebush. It was rather small but it did give me the opportunity to show off this great picture of the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar by Michael Hodge which I found on Flickr.

After the walk through the woods we took a look at a couple of trees along the outside edge of the woods. Spring is the time a lot of wind pollinated trees produce their flowers. The blustery winds we encountered made it obvious why. Oaks, hickories, black walnut and other trees all have dangling flowers this time of year, perfect for catching a breeze. We didn't come across any of those, but we did see an impressively large ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana) tree covered with catkins.

We also found a sweetgum with flowers that were just starting to open, and loblolly pines sporting young pistillate (female) and staminate (male cones). I knew the male cones weren't ripe because I haven't yet seen the yellow-green pollen covering my car (like last year).

staminate cones

pistillate cones

Mixed in with these trees was a nice big redbud, with flower buds just about to open. I pointed out to the group that this member of the bean family has edible buds and flowers, so a couple of us had our first taste of spring.

After the field trip, a a few people stopped by Cynthia Long's house in Queen's Lake to see what was blooming in her garden. She had sassafras, coral honeysuckle, bloodroot, violets, and a very large spicebush that she had just discovered in her yard, long hidden by a recently removed tree. You can see all the photos from the field trip here.


Janet said...

Wonderful collection of these spring bloomers. The mnemonic to remember Crane Fly orchid is pretty funny. I feel as though I don't know natives very well at all. Great photos.

Phillip said...

Looks like a nice tour. I love the little bluets.

walk2write said...

Thanks for the tour. I thought I was along for the hike. The plant lore you included, like the info about the puttyroot, never ceases to amaze me. Wouldn't it be nice to grow your own glue?