Monday, November 2, 2009

Sandy Bottom Nature Park

A small group of VNPS members had a wet plant walk at Sandy Bottom Nature Park on All Saint's Day. Felicity Rask Ericson and Steven David, were not about to let a little bit of rain stop them.
The primary goal of the plant walk was to look at the fall tree color, but the trip turned out to be a little to premature. There was some color, but many of the trees were still very green. It's surprising how much difference there was between Sandy Bottom and Williamsburg, where the color is peaking right now.
Some of the trees starting to turn were beech (pictured at the top of the post), hickory (right above), red maple, and the two plants below. The yellow leaf is tulip poplar of course; the other one was handed to me by Felicity. It took me a few seconds before I realized it was a poison ivy leaflet! New rule: when identifying a plant, let the person who picks it up hold on to it!
In the shrub department, winged sumac (below) had been blooming for a while already. They had dropped a lot of their leaves. Sumacs are familiar sites along roadsides in the winter. The dried seed heads look a bit like dead rats hanging among the branches. There was also quite a bit of devil's walking-stick, though it was past its prime.
Our walk started out on the Wood Duck trail where we found bottom land species like the red maple, swamp chestnut oak, clethra.  The mountain mint below did throw me a bit.  I was surprised to see it growing in such a shady location.  
We also came across the small tree below.  At first I said  it was sweetbay magnolia, but I wasn't quite convinced. The little points at the end of the leaf and the veining didn't seem right. After the trip I began to suspect it might be horsesugar and made a trip back down the next day to collect a specimen.
Further analysis in my lab confirmed my hunch.  Chambered pith? Check. Short hairs on the surface? Check.  Longer hairs on the back? Check.  Bud scales ciliate on the margins? Check. Sweet taste to the leaves?  Well, not really, but I feel pretty confident about the id (famous last words).  I still want to go back when it blooms to confirm it.

After the Wood Duck trail, we took a walk between Sandy Bottom Lake and Crystal Lake, where we became a little nervous after seeing the sign below. These snakes get their name from our native bamboos, giant cane and switchcane, which used to form huge stands called canebrakes. Canebrakes covered vast areas before grazing and farming decimated them. We didn't see any rattlesnakes or bamboo, but we did see several wildflowers still in bloom including the asters and arrowhead below, as well as goldenrod, gerardia, pokeweed, and hypericum.
There were also several graminoids along the edge of Crystal Lake including woolgrass (below),
sugarcane plumegrass (below), beaksedge, needle-pod rush (I think) and plenty of phragmites.
I saw a nice specimen of seedbox as well.
This shoreline looks like a particularly good spot for plants—I'm looking forward to going back to the park next spring. If you want to see all the pictures from the walk, follow this link.


Janet said...

Having gone into the wetlands behind the Learning Garden with one of the MG's who knows his trees was a true learning experience. Your IDing the possible Sweetbay reminded me of our quest to ID white or green ash. My eyes could glaze over!
He did tell me you were speaking at the Hort. Society meeting. As it is date night I haven't become a part of the Hort. Society. Have a good one!

Marty Ross said...

Hi Phillip: I enjoyed the walk, and I love your lab! My desk is cluttered with leaves right now, too: Magnolia macrophylla, tulip poplar, witch hazel, dogwood, and a little pile of 'Jade Butterfly' ginkgo leaves. Marty

how it grows said...

Marty, I wondered if anyone would notice the lab.

Janet, have a good date night! I'm sure it will be better than my talk.

tina said...

What a wonderful walk. That beech tree has very nice coloring. I almost thought it was a smoke tree before you identified it, though I know the leaves are different. I hope you did not get a rash from the poison ivy. They do have pretty leaves but not that pretty. Ouch.

Les said...

I am so glad you had the opportunity to see Phragmites, such a rare treat.

Don't we wish it was rare. Sandy Bottom is on my Peninsula to-do list along with the Noland Trail, though I can do without the rattlers.

Phillip said...

The color is late here too but I've noticed the trees are really turning now. That sign would make me nervous too!

Carolbean said...

Hi Phillip,
I just got your name from Janet, who thought you might have an idea of what bush I saw growing in the water (amongst the baldcypress) in the wetlands of the Jamestown 4H Camp this week. It had sprays of small dark purplish berries each with a small "nipple" on top. When I crushed a berry, it smelled AWFUL, kind of like burning plastic. The leaves were ovate, I believe, probably about 2 inches, but I'm embarrassed to say I didn't take note of how they were arranged, or whether serrated or not (not compound or leathery, though. Any ideas? thanks

how it grows said...

Carolbean, my guess would be swamp loosestrife.

Janet said...

Thanks Phillip.

Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolbean said...

Thanks, Phillip, for the swamp loosestrife idea. I haven't found any pictures of the berries yet in the Decodon verticillatus sites, but will keep looking. What info I've found says the berries are brown, not the blue/black that I remember. Wish I'd paid more attention to other details at the time! Thanks again