Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, Atlanta Tract: Mil Road and Railroad Road

November 19, 2011. The Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area is ‘divided’ into four tracts from south to north: City of Atlanta, Goethe, Amicalola, Wildcat Creek, and Burnt Mountain Tracts. We spent most of our time in the City of Atlanta Tract. We drove south from Dawsonville on GA-9 and then west on Dawson forest Road West and entered the WMA from the southeast. Like the Blanton Creek WMA, roads in this WMA are clearly labeled.

This area has a history. Some of this area was the site of the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory which housed an effort to develop a nuclear-powered aircraft. A map of the area and diagrams of the reactor are here. Most of the buildings, a railroad and bridges have been dismantled although you can see the foundations of some of the outer buildings at the trailhead and parking area for the equestrian and mountain bike trails near the southeast entrance to the WMA. Photographs taken in the area can be found here.
Some of the land was owned by the Atlanta Hartfield Airport (now Hartsfield International Airport) as a prospective site for an airport.

The sign at the south entrance to the City of Atlanta Tract

Looking south from the entrance along one of the power line rights of way that cross the WMA.

We drove out on Clark Road and then turned on Mill Rd

Mill Road starts out across a relatively level area before…

it began its descent down to the ledge above the Etowah River. At first the descent is fairly gentle and then…

more steeply. It was at this point that we started to see more mosses and lichens. Here they are visible at the top of the embankment beside the road.

It was along this section, we caught sight of a flash of purple. A few Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata) plants in bloom.

A closer view of an individual flower. These flowers were darker than the flower I found in Alabama and lacked the dark stripes on the lower petal. I read somewhere that flowers of this species exhibit a wide variety of colors and shapes.

We saw just a few plants of Miscanthus sinensis (Chinese Silvergrass) here although they lined the road further north in the Amicalola Tract. Seeds are clearly visible in the seed heads. This plant is not documented as occurring in many counties in Georgia but we saw large areas of these in Greene County in the summer when they were just starting to fruit.

We found a few patches of Cladonia sobolescens (Peg Lichens) just starting to fruit. This was the largest patch we saw.

A closer view of a few fruiting bodies; these fruiting bodies are light in color now but will darken as they mature. These fruiting bodies are similar to the Cladonia cristatella (British Soldier) lichens which have red fruiting bodies. I call these ‘Chocolate Soldiers’

Nearby, we saw a couple of Cladonia chlorophaea (?) (Mealy Pixie Cup) lichen fruiting bodies. These are just starting to fruit.

As we descended further, we noticed a lot of plants of Hexastylis sp, probably H. arifolia (Wild Ginger or Littlebrownjug). We’ll have to wait until next Spring to confirm the species. I’ve never seen these growing on the side of such a steep embankment before.

A closer view of the leaves

The descent became much steeper. We’d descend quite steeply for a short distance to meet a ‘berm’ we couldn’t see over to know how steep the next section would be. Looking up one of these sections as we climbed back up the road.

The ledge above the Etowah River was flat and rather forlorn in the cloudy weather. It will be interesting to see what develops in the warmer weather.

On the way back up the road, an unusual leaf shape on an embankment caught my eye. There are several plants in this photo.

A closer view. Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa (Round-lobed Hepatica or Round-lobed Liverleaf). These are easy to identify from the leaf shape. They should bloom in March so it will be fun to come back to see the flowers then.

When we returned to the junction of Clark Road, we drove down Railroad Rd. We saw several patches – some quite large – of Lycopodium digitatum (Fan Clubmoss, Common Running-cedar, Fan Ground-pine, Common Running-pine). I never cease to be fascinated by these plants

A few plants were beginning to fruit.

From here, we drove up Shoal Creek Road to complete our visit to the City of Atlanta Tract of the Dawson Forest WMA.

Click on an image to view a larger image


United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database:

- Viola pedata (Birdsfoot Viola): [United States
] [Georgia]
- Miscanthus sinensis (Chinese Silvergrass): [United States
] [Georgia]
- Hexastylis arifolia (Littlebrownjug)
: [United States] [Georgia]
- Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa (Roundlobe Hepatica)
: [United States]
- Lycopodium digitatum (Fan Clubmoss)
: [United States]

University of North Carolina Herbarium:
- Viola pedata
- Miscanthus sinensis
- Hexastylis arifolia var. arifolia
- Hepatica nobilis
var. obtusa
- Lycopodium digitatum

Identification resources:

Southeastern Flora:
- Viola pedata (Bird-foot violet)
- Hexastylis arifolia
(Wild ginger, Little brown jug)

Natural and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia:
- Viola pedata (Bird's-foot Violet)
- Miscanthus sinensis
(Chinese Silvergrass)
- Hexastylis arifolia var. arifolia (Little Brown Jug, Arrowleaf Heartleaf)
- Hepatica nobilis
var. obtusa (Round-lobed Hepatica, Round-lobed Liverleaf)
- Lycopodium digitatum (Common Running-cedar, Fan Ground-pine, Common Running-pine)

Related posts:
- Viola pedata (Birdfoot violet)

- Wild Ginger (Hexastylis arifolia)
- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower – Wildflower Index

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