Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers’

Throwback Thursday: Flowers for Father’s Day

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Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
wildflowers

Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis) © Jungle Pete

Throwback Thursday: Flowers for Father’s Day by Jungle Pete

Originally Posted June 18th, 2012

The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is a nine-mile long, third of a mile wide, linear strand of forest in Fort Myers, Florida. I assume the name “Nine Mile Cypress Slough Preserve” had already been taken. The 2500-acre preserve is home to a remarkable diversity of plants and wildlife, many of which can be seen on a two and half mile boardwalk.

My dad and I came out here years ago and while others were quick to speed around the circuit we stopped and sat on a bench. We watched Green Anoles flaring their dewlaps in a reptilian show of dominance. We watched a Yellow Rat Snake glide between cypress knees. We spotted a female Northern Cardinal flitting from branch to branch and we listened to a Carolina Wren belt out an unimaginably loud call for such a small bird. A couple of people walked by at a brisk pace and dejectedly remarked that there was nothing to see here. I’ve heard this complaint repeated many times through the years no matter where I go. I’m hoping they’re referring to the wildlife and not me.

I spent Father’s Day at the Six Mile Cypress this year. The rains have yet to fill the swamp and I found myself saying how little there was to see. Thinking about my visit with my father, my wife and baby stopped and took it all in.

wildflowers

Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis) © Jungle Pete

Clinging to a Pop Ash, about ten feet off the dry swamp floor was a beautiful Florida Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis). This bee pollinated epiphyte (a plant that grows on another plant) gets its name from the way the flowers dance in the wind like butterflies. The relatively common orchid blooms from May through August from central Florida south through the Everglades. The plant is not parasitic but does get support from the tree and nutrients and water from its heightened position.

We spotted five different flowers in the preserve today which is five more than I’ve seen before here. It helped to have beautiful yellow flowers cast about in the breeze but I might have missed them had I not stopped to look up and around.

I couldn’t be with my father today but here are some flowers for Father’s Day.

wildflowers

Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis) © Jungle Pete

Spring Wildflowers

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Monday, May 6th, 2013

Spring Wildflowers

What I’m looking forward to this spring…

On my two acre wooded lot in Woodstock, Vermont, the spring time treats me to three of my favorite wildflowers – Purple Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and Wild Columbine.  The Wild Columbine is distinct from the Red Columbine of the west and prefers rocky, wooded, or open slopes and parts of my woods is perfect habitat.  Jack-in-the Pulpit prefers damp woods and grows in two spots.  Purple Trillium has a special place in my heart.  My dad transplanted several plants from the Adirondack Mountains in our backyard and they bloomed every spring for as long as my parents lived in the house (over 50 years) and I imagine that they are still blooming 20 years later in memory of my parents and brother.  I also love the regional names we have for this flower in the northeast, Wakerobin and Stinking-Benjamin.  I wonder who Benjamin was and why he was honored, having his name associated with this lovely wildflower. (Or was it his smell.)

Purple Trillium

Purple Trillium © Charlie Rattigan

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit © Charlie Rattigan

Wild Columbine

Wild Columbine © Charlie Rattigan

Throwback: Resolution

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Monday, December 31st, 2012

Originally Posted by Jungle Pete December 2011. Here’s to 2013! Happy New Year!

The way I see it, I started 2011 off a bit unfocused. The blurry sonogram image of my unborn son promised an exciting future with fatherhood mere weeks away. I certainly knew that the year would be unlike any I had enjoyed before, but my vision of what to expect was still a bit cloudy. Twelve months later I find myself scrolling through over 10,000 pictures from 2011 (I have a hard time deleting even the blurry pictures of my boy). The photos are all well organized with the nature stuff all mixed with the family stuff, just as it should be. Despite my fear that the early stages of fatherhood might impinge on my time outdoors, I look back now was resolute glee at the incredible adventures our family embarked upon even with an infant.

The result is fantastic color wheel of fruits, bibs, berries, diapers, birds, strollers, sunrises, flowers, teething rings and butterflies. Here’s to 2012. More adventure awaits!

A) Dad and Theo enjoy the Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve, North Fort Myers, FL.
B) Wedelia (Sphagneticola trilobata) over Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto) frond
C) Theo reaches for a Hibiscus
D) Theo the fearless with a fake Southern Florida Green Swamp Snake
E) An abandoned alligator farm in the Everglades
F) Reflections on the sawgrass prairie
G) A call for quiet at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, FL
H) Late afternoon light on Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii) and Saw Palmettos (Serenoa repens)
I) Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) draped Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) in Clermont, FL
J) Waving goodbye to 2011 over a Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia sp.) choked canal at the CREW Land Trust’s Bird Rookery Trail in Naples, FL

A Cabbage by Any Other Name (Would Still Stink)

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Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage © Michael M. Smith/View Two Plus

A Cabbage by Any Other Name (Would Still Stink) by Julie Craves

The edge of the wet woods on our property marks the border of an extensive plot of Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). If you’re out and about in late winter in a forested area with perpetually mucky soil, you are probably familiar with this unusual plant. Their large, mottled, maroon, hooded spathes cradle the inflorescence, and show themselves through the snow like the caps of crouching sylvan gnomes. When the small flowers bloom, they stink like carrion to attract the earliest pollinators on the wing, mostly small flies and gnats. These not only find the stench appealing, but are also attracted to the heat generated by the flower spike. The warmth is thought to protect the flowers from freezing, provide a warm micro-environment for pollinators, and aids in broadcasting the floral odor by taking advantage of the spiral construction of the spathe and thermal air currents.

After the spathe withers, the very large leaves unfurl from a patient neighboring shoot. The dramatic leaves might be over two feet long, but die off by mid-summer, melting into the wetland as they decompose. A number of fly larvae have been found to feed on rotting Skunk Cabbage vegetation.

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage © Rob & Ann Simpson

Fewer of us are likely to see the fruiting bodies – not only is Skunk Cabbage habitat likely to be mosquito-infested and squishy in summer, but the fruits themselves tend to be hard to spot. They look like solitary hand grenades, or maybe small stalked pineapples, mired in the mud. They’ll soon fall apart, with the seeds falling on the wet ground. The fibrous roots of young Skunk Cabbages are often exposed in humps on the soil surface, and reflect the shallow germination. As the perennial plants age, the roots become deeper and voluminous, anchoring plants and pulling them deeper and deeper into the earth.

Still later in the season, when insects have died and the ground is starting to freeze, you might come across the tips of new leaf spikes poking through the leaf litter, gaining a head-start on the next growing season. As steward of such a large colony, I look forward to seeing these fascinating plants rise from the snow next year.

Nature Stories: Rare Alpine Butterflies in White Mountains, NH

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Sunday, October 21st, 2012

White Mountain Fritillary (Boloria titania montinus) 14 August 2003, Mt. Washington © Kent McFarland

Nature Stories: Rare Alpine Butterflies in White Mountains, NH by Kent McFarland

Perched atop the Presidential Range in the unique alpine tundra vegetation are two butterfly species that exist no where else in the world. Their closest relatives live over 850 miles north in the arctic tundra. The White Mountain Arctic (Oeneis melissa semidea) and the White Mountain Fritillary (Boloria titania montinus) have not been in contact with their relatives for nearly 9,000 years, when tundra covered much of the region. But as the climate warmed and forests began to cover much of the land, the summits of the Presidential Range provided just the right climate for tundra vegetation and a small population of these butterflies to live, while their relatives slowly moved northward with the receding tundra.

White Mountain Arctic (Oeneis melissa semidea) 12 July 2002, Mt. Washington © Kent McFarland

It is hard to imagine butterflies with wing spans of one and a half inches surviving the fierce weather of Mount Washington, but they are specially adapted. It takes two short summers of nocturnal dining on Bigelow’s Sedge for the White Mountain Arctic caterpillars to mature and then pupate the third summer under moss or a rock. The butterflies emerge, mate and lay eggs for only a few weeks in late June to mid-July and then their life is over. White Mountain Fritillary caterpillars hatch and mature over a summer while eating violets and willows. The following summer they pupate and during the first two weeks of August the adults mate and feed on the nectar of Alpine Goldenrod.

Although these two species may seem secure on the wild and protected summits, there may be several threats to their future viability such as global climate change, atmospheric pollution, and recreation.

Remarkable Nature Places: Beidler Forest

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Thursday, October 11th, 2012
Beidler Forest

Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Remarkable Nature Places: Beidler Forest

The National Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest, located in Four Holes Swamp, SC – less than an hour from Charleston – contains within its 16,000+ acres the largest remaining stand of virgin Bald Cypress and Tupelo Gum swamp forest left anywhere in the world. Here, 1,000-year-old trees and native wildlife abound in a pristine sanctuary that has been untouched for millennia.

Beidler Forest

1,000 year old tree Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

A 1.75-mile self-guided tour along the boardwalk trail allows visitors the chance to safely venture deep into the heart of the swamp… to experience the peace and serenity that have characterized the area for centuries… to hear the sounds of bird and bug and breeze that have echoed through the trees for ages… to take a relaxing and informative walk back into time… to see a swamp the way nature intended.

A swamp is a flooded forest. There are many different types of swamps, but one thing they all have in common is trees in the water, for at least part of the year.

Beidler Forest

Swamp Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Bald Cypress

Largest in U.S. — 17 feet in diameter, Cat Island, LA

Largest at Beidler Forest — 10 feet in diameter

Oldest Known — 1600 yrs, Black River Swamp, NC

Oldest Known at Beidler Forest — 1500 yrs (2nd oldest in the world)

Beidler Forest

Hollow Tree Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Tupelo Gum

Largest in the U.S.  8 feet in diameter, Kinder, LA

Largest at Beidler Forest 5 feet in diameter

Oldest Known at Beidler Forest?? Most over 18’’ are hollow

Beidler Forest

Goodsen Lake Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Cypress Knees

Despite much research, cypress knee function remains a mystery. One thing is certain – knees grow in response to the presence and depth of water. A Bald Cypress growing on dry ground will have only a few small knees, if any. One in deeper water will have taller knees. Generally, the trend we find is the older the tree, the more gnarly the knee.

Beidler Forest

Cottonmouth Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Beidler Forest

American Alligator Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

NO turtle can leave its shell.

NO venomous lizards exist in South Carolina.

NO venomous snakes with lengthwise stripes in South Carolina.

NO such thing as a Hoop Snake or Pilot Rattlesnake.

NOT all snakes in the water are venomous.

• Milk snakes do NOT milk other animals.

• Coachwhip snakes do NOT chase and whip people.

• Copperheads are NOT female rattlesnakes.

• Of 38 snake species in South Carolina, ONLY 6 are venomous!

• Glass Snakes are legless lizards and should be called Glass Lizards

Beidler Forest

Deer fawn Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

How would you have described a swamp BEFORE your visit here? Look around. Smell the air. Notice the lack of bugs? Is the swamp what you expected?

MYTH:

             FACT:
“Buggy” Mosquitoes prefer not to lay eggs in flowing water.
“Snakey” Most snakes prefer to sit still on a log, and of all the water snakes, only the cottonmouth is venomous.
“Gatory” Alligators prefer deeper water and sunshine, not the shallow and shadowy channels in a swamp.
“Smelly” Abundant plant life acts as an air filter. Plus, periodic floods help to flush decaying material.
“Muddy” The swamp floor is mostly hard-packed sand.
“Polluted” The water that flows through Beidler Forest is some of the cleanest in South Carolina due to miles of filtration and percolation.
“Evil” Walking through a swamp is a peaceful and relaxing activity.
“Spooky” No monsters or mythical creatures have been reported…yet.
Beidler Forest

Prothonotary Warbler Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Since 1979, Breeding Bird Censuses have been conducted on two 20-acre plots on the sanctuary. One is located in the old-growth stand, the other in woods cut in the 1960’s. Routinely, the old-growth plot has been found to contain some of the highest densities of nesting songbirds per acre for forested habitats in the eastern U.S.

The diversity of tree species, the variety of tree ages, and the multi-layered structure of the forest cover found in the old-growth stand all work together to provide spectacular habitat for birds of many species.

Beidler Forest

White Ibis Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, despite their nesting success here, many species are in decline due to habitat loss in their summer breeding grounds, along their migratory routes, and in their Central and South American wintering grounds.

Beidler Forest

Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

• Canoe and Kayak Tours - Accompanied by one of our trained guides, let us take you through the heart of the swamp on a peaceful paddle for either a 2- or 4-hour trip. Bring the whole family to experience close encounters with wildlife. It’s a wonderful trip for great photography!

• Night Walks - See the forest under a new light. The swamp is particularly active when the sun goes down. Walking beneath a moonlit sky guided by an Audubon naturalist, we listen to the music of the night and search for nocturnal animals.

• Other Walks and Events - Scattered throughout the season we have a slew of great activities including bird walks, swamp stomps, flower walks, and social events. Ask the staff at the visitor center for more information.

Barred Owls Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Beidler Forest

The boardwalk Photo courtesy of Mark Musselman, Audubon South Carolina

Did You Know: Petrified Forest National Park

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Thursday, October 11th, 2012
Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park

34.910147° N 109.807377° W

Petrified Forest National Park, located on the Colorado Plateau in northeastern Arizona, is known for its Late Triassic fossils. Here you’ll find native Arizona grassland, mesas, buttes, rivers, springs, and wildflowers. Over 13,000 years of human history and culture can be found here. Best known for globally significant Late Triassic fossils, the park attracts many researchers. Geologists study the multi-hued Chinle Formation. Archeologists research over 13,000 years of history. Biologists explore one of the best remnants of native Arizona grassland. Air quality is an ongoing study in the park. Discover your own passion at Petrified Forest!

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park

1 Park Road
P.O. Box 2217
Petrified Forest, AZ 86028

(928) 524-6228

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Did you know? Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park has one of the most diverse collections of prehistoric pottery fragments in the Southwest.

The ecosystem at Petrified Forest National Park is not a desert. It’s one of the largest areas of intact grassland in the Southwest.

Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park unit to protect a section of Historic Route 66!

In addition to the world-class fossil record at Petrified Forest National Park, archeological resources are so abundant and so significant that they could stand alone within their own park!

On clear days in the Southwest, especially on crisp, cold winter days, you can see landscape features almost 100 miles away!

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Nature

Birds:

A bird list can be found here.

Petrified Forest National Park

Pronghorn Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Mammals:

Coyote, Gray Fox, Swift Fox, Bobcat, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Ringtail, Raccoon, Badger, Striped Skunk, Western Spotted Skunk, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Desert Cottontail, Desert Shrew, Pallid Bat, Townsend’s Big-eared Bat, California Myotis, Fringed Myotis, Yuma Myotis, Canyon Bat, Porcupine, Gunnison’s Prairie Dog, White-tailed Antelope Squirrel, Spotted Ground Squirrel, Rock Squirrel, Botta’s Pocket Gopher, White-throated Woodrat, Stephens’ Woodrat, Ord’s Kangaroo Rat, Silky Pocket Mouse, Northern Grasshopper Mouse, Brush Mouse, Canyon Mouse, White-footed Mouse, Deer Mouse, Pinon Mouse, Western Harvest Mouse, House Mouse

Eastern Collard Lizard

Eastern Collard Lizard © Rod Planck, Photo Researchers, Inc.

Reptiles and Amphibians:

Tiger Salamander, Great Plains Toad, Red-spotted Toad, Woodhouse’s Toad, Couch’s Spadefoot, Mexican Spadefoot, Plains Spadefoot. Reptiles are Plateau Striped Whiptail, Eastern Collared Lizard, Common Lesser Earless Lizard, Greater Short-horned lizard, Sagebrush Lizard, Plateau Lizard, Common Side-blotched Lizard, Ornate Box Turtle, Glossy Snake, Rattlesnake, Nightsnake, Common Kingsnake, Milksnake, Pai Striped Whiptail, New Mexico Whiptail, Striped Whipsnake, Gophersnake, Black-necked Gartersnake

Colorado Pinyon Pine

Colorado Pinyon Pine © Lance Beeny

Trees:

Two needle Pinyon/Pinyon Pine, One Seed Juniper, Little Utah Juniper, James Narrow Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Narrow Leaf Willow, Coyote Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Russian Olive, Tamarisk, Nevada Jointfir, Torrey’s Jointfir, Siberian Elm

Wildflowers:

A wildflower list can be found here.

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

 

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Throw Back Thursday: Fragrant Water-Lily

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Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
Fragrant Water-lily

Fragrant Water-lily by Lisa Densmore

Throw Back Thursday: Fragrant Water-Lily by Lisa Densmore originally posted September 22, 2011

Location: Lake Clear, Adirondack Park, NY

I’ve never sniffed a Fragrant Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata), though I’ve seen many of them just beyond sniffing distance, a mere foot above their brilliant white or pink blooms. When I paddle my kayak in shallow water, I often see their large leaves, sometimes up to a foot in diameter, floating on the surface. They are a common aquatic plant throughout most of the Lower 48 states.

The flowers of the fragrant water lily reach the air on separate straw-like stalks from its leaves, opening in the morning sun then closing in the afternoon shade. Unlike land-based plants, its stomata, the tiny openings on the leaf through which it absorbs carbon dioxide, are on the upper, shiny side of the leave rather than the underside.

I was surprised to see several fragrant water lilies still blooming on Lake Clear, Adirondack Park in New York on September 14th. By mid-September in the Adirondacks, most water based flowers have faded and broadcast their seeds. Fragrant water lilies propagate by seed, too, and by sending out shoots from rhizomes on the bottom of the lake or river.

Apparently fragrant water lilies not only smell good, but taste good too, at least to some creatures. Common Muskrat, American Beavers, waterfowl and deer dine on them. Like other aquatic plants, they also provide shelter for invertebrates, which are in turn eaten by fish, amphibians, water fowl and other water-loving birds and mammals. While water lilies don’t look appetizing to me, and I’m not likely to risk tipping over to smell one, I’m happy to have them brighten up many a shoreline and backwater where I paddle.

Elephant Face Off

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Thursday, September 6th, 2012
Elephant's Head wildflowers

Elephant’s Head © Lisa Densmore

Elephant Face Off by Lisa Densmore

Location: Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana

Have you ever faced down two dozen elephant’s with a single stare? I did, and I wasn’t on an African safari. I was backpacking in the Beartooth Mountains in the expansive alpine area near Moon Lake. Among the garden of alpine gentian, buttercups and laurel, I found a wildflower that looked like short, pink lupine from afar. Upon closer inspection, I found a stalk of miniature elephants looking back at me. It was sure obvious why this pretty alpine flower is called Elephant’s head! Each flower bears an uncanny resemblance to the head of an alert pachyderm with its trunk raised and its ears flared.

Elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica) is a type of lousewort which is part of the figwort family. While “groenlandica” in its scientific name refers to Greenland, the plant is not native there. Scientists believe it was first discovered in Labrador. Today, it can be found in the damp alpine, subalpine and montane regions of western North America.

Elephant’s Head likes wild, wet meadows. Though mid-summer and during a severe drought in Montana, the area where I hiked was above 10,000 feet. Huge patches of snow still melted into the small tarns that dotted the area. True to form, the Elephant’s Head was amidst other alpine wildflowers as it is partially parasitic on the roots of its neighbors. If you tried to transplant it, it would likely die.

Elephant’s Head has fern-like leaves that grow in a clump at the base of its stem and then sporadically to the flower. It can reach 20 inches tall in the right conditions, though the more severe the environment, the shorter it grows. The tallest ones I saw in the Beartooths poked a mere four inches above the earth.

Have you seen any wildflowers that resemble something else? This is the first one for me.

The Defensive California Barrel Cactus

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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

The Defensive California Barrel Cactus by Lisa Densmore

California Barrel Cactus wildflowers

California Barrel Cactus © Lisa Densmore

Location: Grand Canyon

Once or twice each day during my six-day float down the Grand Canyon we beached the raft to check out an interesting side canyon. During these forays, the unusual assortment of desert-adapted flora fascinated me, particularly the barrel cactus that bulge their thorny bulk from the impossibly dry rocky soil.

I saw two types of barrel cactus in the canyon, Candy Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni) and California Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus). While both had similar 4-inch arching spines that immediately drew blood if one accidentally bumped against them, the California variety, also called miner’s compass and compass cactus because they lean to the south as they age, intrigued me more with its faint reddish hue.

A protected plant in Arizona and Nevada, this slow-growing, long-living perennial is relatively rare, occurring mainly in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts though they can be found from southern California to Utah and south to Mexico at elevations up to about 4,500 feet. They thrived in the Grand Canyon.

Though the ribbed, unbranched stem can grow up to five feet tall and 16 inches wide, the largest barrel cactus I saw was about three feet tall and about 12 inches wide. Upon close but not super-close inspection, I noticed barrel cacti have two sets of spines. After doing a little research, I found out the smaller ones prevent water loss and scorching by reflecting the intense rays of the sun whereas the larger spines deter thirsty desert animals. Humans, too.

I tried to imagine cutting into a barrel cactus if I were stranded in a desert without water, but getting past those ubiquitous curing barbs would be a challenge. Apparently the liquid is bitter anyway, though I suppose it would keep you alive if the effort to tap it didn’t kill you first.

I’ve also heard that some people cultivate California Cactus as an ornamental landscaping plant. It might be a challenge weeding around it.