Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – Part 1

One of the first signs of Spring is a red cast on bare trees; a sign that Red Maples (Acer rubrum) are blooming

Or fallen flowers, particularly after a storm or a windy day

A flowering branch

Flower buds just opening

A few days later

An immature flower corymb in profile

A mature flower cluster with pollen visible on the anthers. To be continued …

The Red Maple is native to the Eastern United States. They are common in Walton and Barrow counties including in Fort Yargo State Park.

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Distribution Maps:

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Identification resources:
- Southeastern Flora: Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

- Vanderbilt University Bioimages: Acer rubrum

- Wikipedia: Acer rubrum

Related posts:

- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower

- Red Maple (Acer rubrum) – Part 2

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hazel Alder (Alnus serrulata)

Hazel Alder (Alnus serrulata) is one of the first bloomers at the lake in the winter. This year, with the water level low, I’ve been able to get close to these plants and see how they flower and develop. These plants have male (catkins) and female flowers. I wanted to wait until the flowers seeded but this is going to take longer than I realized. I’m going to post their progress so far and finish the story later.

The male flowers, catkins. There are two female flowers at the top just to the right of center.

Catkins, up close

Female flowers (February 20th, 2010).

Catkins, three weeks later

Female flowers (February 27th, 2010)

Female flowers swelling (March 27th, 2010)

Leaf buds swelling (March 27th, 2010)

Leaves emerging (March 27th, 2010)

The Hazel Alder (Alnus serrulata) is native to the eastern United States. They grow in wet areas. At Fort Yargo State Park, they grow along the shore of the lake. I haven’t seen them at our place although they may grow along the creek but be inaccessible.

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Distribution map:
- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Alnus serrulata (Hazel Alder)

Identification resources:

- Southeastern Flora: Hazel Alder (Alnus serrulata)

- Missouri Plants: Alnus serrulata

Related posts:
- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

Two Lamium species – L. amplexicaule (Henbit) and L. purpureum (Purple Deadnettle) - grow in this area. The major differences, for identification purposes, are the color and shape of the leaves. Both species have lobed, opposite leaves. L. amplexicaule leaves are green, round and not stalked whereas L. purpureum leaves are a purplish green, pointed and stalked. L. amplexicaule flowers look more open with a single pair of leaves separated by more a length of stalk. The leaves and flowers of L. purpureum are clustered at the top of the stalk. In this area (North Georgia), L. purpureum flowers are generally a paler pink than L. amplexicaule flowers. From a distance, L. amplexicaule plants have a distinctly pink/purple color. L. purpureum plants look grayish at a distance with a very slight pink/purple tint due to the tight clustering of the purplish-tinged leaves and the paler flowers.

The leaves. Clearly green and rounded. The flower buds just showing.

The flower buds a little further developed.

The developing flower buds; a couple are just opening.

Several flowers are fully open.

The flower; front on.

The flower; profile

A flower head showing the open arrangement with pairs of sessile leaves separated from the next on the stalk.

L. amplexicaule
is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa and grows throughout the United States and Canada. L. amplexicaule is the only Lamium species that grows at our place; both species grow in Walton County and at Fort Yargo State Park/Barrow County.

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Distribution Maps:
- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit Deadnettle)

- Shedi de botanica: Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit)

Identification resources:
- Southeastern Flora: Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

Related Posts:
- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower
- Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

This was a pleasant surprise. With the lake level low, I’ve been walking the beach from the point (segment 3-4) almost back to the pedestrian bridge (segment 1). One of the inlets, about midway along segment 2, has water running into the lake.

I spied this little fellow. It was either an Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) or a Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus). I can never remember which.

The pattern on its carapace

I did know that I had to get a photo of its plastron (underside) to be able to identify it.

I turned it back over and waited to see if it would make its way back to the water. It poked the tip of its nose out but that was all. I was going to have to provide transportation back to the water.

The obligatory portrait. You can just see its eye to the left midway between the nostrils and mouth. The tips of its toes are just visible in the lower left of the photo.

Back in the water.

I didn’t realize how fast they could move. It took off up the waterway and swam in under this cover of algae. If I had passed this way a few minutes earlier or later I might have missed it.

When I got home, I was able to identify it as a Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus). Given that musk turtles may release a pungent musk odor when irritated, this little guy was very tolerant of my interfering with whatever it was doing when I happened on it.

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Identification resources:

Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia: Turtles of Georgia and South Carolina
- Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

- Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

I first noticed her late one afternoon when I arrived home. She was sitting on Japanese Honeysuckle vines that had grown over a pile of bricks. It was blowing a gale but there she was, basking in the later afternoon sun. She was puffed up to increase the insulating effect of her feathers.

I was surprised that she didn’t fly off. I was able to back the car up and pull a little closer, wind the window down, and take these initial pictures. I parked the car and, camera in hand, slowly walked towards her. I got within about 6-7 meters before she became quite nervous. Instead of flying off, she hopped down into the tussle of vines and hid.

A little later she was up on the vines again. So I pushed my luck. I circled around and approached again by walking up behind the tractor which was parked quite close to where she was sitting. I got within 5 meters this time. Finally, however, she thought this intrusion into her space was too much.

She flew off. But not away from where she was sitting but up into the Pecan tree under which I was standing. She hopped from branch to branch, watching me.

A few days later I saw her again. She was sitting in the sun again probably listening to the male which had perched in a tree about 20 meters away and was singing his little heart out.

Then she paid me what I consider to be a high compliment from a bird. She became so unconcerned about my presence that she proceeded to groom and ignore me completely.
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Identification resource:
- The Cornell Institute of Ornithology: Northern Mockingbird (
Mimus polyglottos)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dinner For One

The first time I looked at this tree stump, I just assumed that the ‘stuff’ on top was detritus from several winters of fallen leaves and such. I’m not even sure what made me look closer. But when I did, I laughed.

I could just picture a squirrel feasting on the pine cone here. Since it appeared that this was a picnic, the least it could have done was to clean up afterwards.
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

Success at last! Before today, I’d seen three butterflies this year but haven’t been able to photograph or identify them. All three were orange; one was in the woods and two were in the field.

Today, I saw three Spring Azures (Celastrina ladon) at the lake. One was on the trail near a pool of water. The other two were drinking along the lake shore. All were quite skittish.

But I managed to stalk one and got a photograph.
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Identification resources:
- West Central Georgia Butterflies by Michael Beohm: Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

- BugGuide: Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is starting to bloom.

The foliage never died back completely during the winter and started to grow actively in February.

The bloom in semi-profile….

The bloom from almost directly above…

When it is really blooming. Chickweed grows better in partial shade than in full sun at our place. The vegetation forms a thick mat that grows up to 18-inches high blooms profusely.

Chickweed is native to Europe but grows throughout the United States and Canada. In addition to finding it at home, I have found it in open areas along the trail between the pedestrian bridge and the gas line in Fort Yargo State Park and near parking lots in Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center.

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Distribution Maps:

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Stellaria media (Common chickweed)

- Shedi de botanica: Stellaria media – Chickweed

Identification resources:

- Southeastern Flora: Chickweed (Stellaria media)

- Missouri Plants: Stellaria media

Related posts:
- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bluet (Houstonia pusilla)

I spotted our first Bluet (Houstonia pusilla) last week.

At our place... They don’t grow too thickly and only grow in a couple of spots in the front field. They are so small and scant that they are almost unnoticeable. You can pass by them without seeing them.

At Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center... A noticeable patch just by the entrance to the parking lot at Fox Lake.

A blue flower... The iridescent surface is quite clear in this photograph.

A white flower... These also have an iridescent surface but are much more difficult to photograph. In full sunlight, they reflect too much light. They photograph much better in the shade but it is difficult to capture the iridescence.

Bluets are native to the United States. At Fort Yargo State Park, I've found them on the trail from the campground to the dam; to the left just as you approach the incline onto the dam. At Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, I found them by the entrance to the parking lot at Fox Lake.

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Distribution Map:

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Houstonia pusilla (Tiny Bluet)

Identification resources:

- Southeastern Flora: Bluet (Houstonia pusilla)

Related posts:

- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)

I spotted the characteristic rosettes of Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) by the pool at the creek on January 10th. At first I mistook them for Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) although the rosette of this plant is distinctly different.

These plants led a hard life. They were submerged under a couple of inches of water for a couple of days in two successive rounds of flooding. In this photograph, you can see plants just starting to bloom (white spots).

The plants maintained their rosette shape for some time. At first a single flower spike develops.

Then they send up several flower spikes and the plant loses its distinct rosette shape and becomes more ‘bushy.’

The flower petals open up for a short time.

More often the flower petals appear to ‘close’ as seedpods develop. The leaves on the flower stalks are quite different from the rosette leaves.

Ultimately the plants appear to be a cluster of bare stems. The flowers are almost invisible among the forest of stems.

Hairy Bittercress was introduced from Europe and is considered a weed, distribibuted throughout the Unites States and Canada, and difficult to eradicate. I’m not sure that I mind. In addition to finding it at home, I have found them on the lake side of the dam as well as on the plateau between the pedestrian bridge and the gas line in Fort Yargo State Park.

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Identification resources:

- Shedi de botanica: Cardamine hirsuta – Hairy Bittercress
- Shedi de botanica: Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepherd’s Purse

- Cardamine hirsuta

Related posts:

- Whitehall Lake: Wildflowers