Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring Is In The Air: Fort Yargo State Park, Section B To The Dam, April 5th

April 5th. When I visited Fort Yargo State Park in mid-February, there were few signs of Spring. The only wildflower plants that were obvious were the leaves of Cranefly Orchids (Tipularia discolor) that I found in many places. On my previous walk on March 29th, trees were starting to leaf out but there wasn’t any sign of wildflowers. 

The route… I’ve described it here, here, here, and here. This walk doesn’t have the variety of wildflowers as my other walk from the Group A Shelter to the Old Fort but it does have some gems.

It’s useful, sometimes, to be able to lean against trees to steady oneself while taking photographs but now vines were leafing out and it was becoming more important to check out what you were going to brace against. In this instance, it would have been Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans); three leaves. Not a good idea. 

Just down the trail Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), with five leaves, wouldn’t be a problem. 

More Christmas Ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) were sending up fiddleheads.

Green growth was more obvious in the understory along the trail. 

Some Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) seedlings had popped up. Some were still wearing their seed coats.  

The Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), that only had one small leaf emerging a week previously, now had developed three leaves.

The Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) plants were thriving, almost double the size from the previous week. 

Deciduous trees along the shoreline were leafing out and the pollen had been blown form a thick scum in places. 

My favorite tree…

Now this was a surprise. A Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) plant in bloom. I’ve never seen one of these along this trail before. 

More Perfoliate Bellwort plants. I found about a dozen scattered in the woods behind the plant in bloom. A little further along the trail I found a large cluster of 30 to 40 plants. 

While I was looking at the Perfoliate Bellworts, I heard a soft tapping on a tree trunk. I tracked it down to this snag. 

It was a Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla) working on a hold in the tree trunk. 

A closer view. 

And finally, what I had actually been looking for. A Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) poking its leaves up out the leaf litter. I had remembered that there were about 20 plants on this hillside. I photographed them originally late one afternoon in 2011. I could never remember exactly where they were, other than that they were on a hillside. 

I wandered around and found more plants, and then… 

there’s always one precocious plant. And here it was. It had already set a bud. 

Another cute Loblolly Pine seedling with its seed coat still attached. There were a lot of these, as well as seedlings that had already popped the seed coat. 

The trail back down ‘The Hill.’ 

There were just a few Common Blue (Viola sororia) Violets were blooming near the bottom of The Hill. 

The Cranefly Orchid leaves were still visible but harder to find now that plants were growing up around them. 

More Christmas Fern fiddleheads. 

I've been watching these Cranefly Orchid leaves because they are easy to find. They are looking less healthy every time I see them. Soon they’ll be gone. 

On my way back over the bridge to the parking lot, I caught a glimpse of pink along the shore west of the bridge. A rhododendron in bloom. 

I’ve always identified these as the Mountain Azalea (Rhododendron canescens), also called the Piedmont Azalea or Florida Pinxter Azalea. There’s another rhododendron, the Pink Azalea, also called the Pinxter Flower (Rhododendron periclymenoides). I’ve never really been sure which is which. According to the folks at the Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York, South Carolina, these species may be differentiated by whether the flower tube is sticky (R. canescens) or not (R. periclymenoides). They describe R. periclymenoides as having a light fragrance. R. canescens is described by Floridata as being fragrant. Since the flowers on this shrub were hanging out over the water, I was going to have to wait until some of the plants along the trails flowered before I could satisfy my curiosity about this identification.

All in all, this was a rewarding walk; the discovery of a Perfoliate Bellwort on this trail as well as the impending blooming of the Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchids.

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