Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sandy Ridge Wildlife Trail

While I was down in Duck, North Carolina for the Thanksgiving break, I took in a trip down to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge consists of 154,000 acres along the Albemarle Sound, and is known for its reestablished population of red wolves.
There are several trails in the preserve and my friends Susie and Jeff took me to the Sandy Ridge Wildlife Trail, which they had been to before. It has a great 2,300’ boardwalk that takes you through a swampy forest of pond pine (Pinus serotina), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum),
swamp bay (Persea palustris) and other trees.

It was an interesting walk, with a different palette of plants than I'm used to here on the lower peninsula. But since it was the end of the season, there wasn’t much in bloom. I did see a couple asters, smartweed, sagittaria, and a bit of hempvine. And there were some brilliantly colored blueberries here and there.
Though there weren't a lot of flowers, there was a nice variety of fruits. Some of the plants in fruit were black-druped inkberry (Ilex glabra),blue-gray druped southern wax myrtle,red druped American holly
black berried greenbriar,double black druped swamp tupelo,
amber druped poison ivy,
dark blue-black druped swamp bay,
and these red berried plants which I hadn't seen before. The fruit clusters looked a lot like those of greenbriar and I knew there was a red fruited species. A bit of research determined that it was coral greenbriar (Smilax walteri).
By the way, drupes are fleshy fruits with seeds encased in stony endocarp and berries are fleshy multi-seeded fruits resulting from a single pistil (is that clear now?).

Mixed among the fruiting plants were 4 shrubs with dried seed capsules. I immediately recognized two of the plants, sweetspire (second from top) and clethra (bottom), but there were two plants were new to me.
The first shrub was fairly low with wide evergreen leaves. I suspected it was a Lyonia, though the leaves were different from the species I knew, Lyonia mariana. Also the branches were strongly ridged. The dried fruit capsules were coarse and grew on a thick stem.The other shrub I couldn’t id was taller and had sprays of dried capsules hanging from the branches. Some of the leaves were bright red.
Once I was home, I went through my guidebooks and discovered that the plants were fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) and titi (Cyrilla racemosa). So even though it was the end of the season, I was happy to see these two plants in their native habitat for the first time.


Les said...

I love places like this. We saw several Cyrilla on the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail.

Phillip said...

An interesting array of plants. I really enjoy the berried plants this time of year.

Janet said...

Wonderful posting. I am happy to see the black druped plants. I saw some today and my mind went directly to Ligustrum.....not even thinking it could be a native plant with beneficial fruits. Drive by identifications are not always easy.
Could use your knowledge here as I try to figure out what I have in the woods...besides Muscadine vines.

Skeeter said...

Merry Christmas...