Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rock and Shoals Outcrop Natural Area: Plants Along The Stream

The Rock and Shoals Outcrop Natural Area trail is less than one-half mile in length, round trip. The walk can be divided into two sections: the woods along the stream and the walk up the hill to the stone outcrop. We took this walk just to check out the area for future reference. We didn’t expect to see much in the way of plants or flowers on this walk, ‘The Book’ said that there weren’t many flowers in the woods. But the trail along the creek turned out to be a gem for plants, even at this time of year. These are the ones that caught my eye.

A Cutleaf Fern (Botrychium dissectum) otherwise known as the Dissected Grapefern. Almost the first thing I saw as we started out. A good omen. We saw several of these along the trail.

Fiddle heads. I don’t know what fern they are but they provided interesting accents with their unusual shapes.

Wild Ginger or Little Brown Jug (Hexastylis arifolia). I didn’t poke around in the leaves. It’s too early. But these may bloom in late April. The flowers may stay hidden in the leaves and you have to carefully move the leaves aside to see the blooms.

Pipsissewa or Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata). The characteristic leaves are a dead giveaway. I wonder if these will bloom. They have the most exquisite flowers. One of my absolute favorites. Well worth stalking.

Cankerweed (Prenanthes serpentaria), I believe. They are just starting to develop their characteristic leaf shape. I have a love-hate relationship with Cankerweed. At Fort Yargo State Park, I stalked a big patch of them at one site all year hoping to identify them, and they didn’t bloom well at all. I found a few plants in another area that bloomed beautifully. I wonder if these will bloom.

A nicely shaped stand of Switchcane or Rivercane (Arundinaria gigantea). These plants are seen in moist gullies and along creeks. It’s a little unusual to see a clump like this.

This fern has unfurled along the stream bank. It’s probably the same fern as above but I don’t know what it is. I’m not very good at ferns.

A close up of a leaf of the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens). This is another plant that’s easy to recognize by its leaf. I only know of one other plant, at Fort Yargo State Park. I haven’t seen it bloom yet but now I have two plants I can stalk in August when it might bloom.

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) plants. ‘The book’ said there was a colony of Mayapples beside the creek. I’ve never seen them before but recognized them from photographs. I was excited to find them and I’ll be back to photograph the flowers in a month or so.

What is this? ‘The book’ says that the understory in the woods is dominated by Eastern Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana). This was the dominant plant in the understory. So I’ll be back to check these out and hope to see it in flower.

Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor) plants were betrayed by their leaves. We saw these repeatedly along the trail through the woods. It’ll be interesting to see if these bloom. Of course the leaves will have died back by then. But, given how many plants we saw, it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot the orchids.

More about the plants on the hill in the next post.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Botrychium dissectum (Cutleaf Grapefern)

- Southeastern Plants: Wild Ginger or Little Brown Jug (Hexastylis arifolia)

- Southeastern Plants: Pipsissewa or Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)

- Southeastern Plants: Cankerweed (Prenanthes serpentaria)

- Southeastern Plants: Switchcane or Rivercane (Arundinaria gigantea)

- Southeastern Plants: Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens)
Southeastern Plants: Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)
- Southeastern Plants: Eastern Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)

- Southeastern Plants: Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor)

- Hugh and Carol Nourse. Favorite Wildflower Walks in Georgia. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia

Related post:

- Rock and Shoals Outcrop Natural Area; Part 1, Blue Trail

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