Fishing was Cold, Botany was Hot

The Headwaters of the Mattawoman.

After watching some of the Bassmaster Classic on ESPN, with last week’s fishing tournament on the Potomac River, and up into the Nanjemoy, we had to go fishing.  These pro’s made it look easy, catching lunker after lunker on the falling tide, from SAV grass mats, primarily using blue-colored, soft plastic crayfish, on weighted hooks.


Mark and I caught three bass on the day, but had several good strikes.  I lost a bigger fish in spatterdock.  I was using a Senko worm and Mark was using a Berkley Gulp batwing frog.


Mark and I paddled into flooded timber of a beaver swamp that was dominated by open water, mixed with buttonbush and occasional willow, black gum and red maple.  Some of the buttonbush was still in flower, but most were already going to seed.


This portion of swamp was at least 10-acres in size and had literally tens of thousands of creeping bladderwort, also known as two-flowered or humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba, with a synonym name of U. biflora).

This bladderwort is Maryland highly state rare (S1), critically imperiled in the State because of extreme rarity.  We hit the motherload!  All of the matted, yellowish emergent vegetation you see in this picture is the bladderwort in bloom.


The plant was hard to get a photo of, because its multi-layering, and the difficulty to get into focus.  It naturally occurs in sluggish swamps, bogs and fens.  This portion of the Mattawoman is dark tannic-colored, and averaged two-feet deep.


Here is a close-up of the flowers, which stand about two-inches high, and are about half the size of a dime.


This particular clump was growing from a hollow knot of a fallen tree in the water.


We have a cup holder on the top of our cooler, and I tried to spread the bladderwort so that we could better see its floating root system.  The black dots in the photo are underwater bladders, which make the plant a carnivore.  When swimming prey such as aquatic insects touch the trigger hairs surrounding the mouth of the bladder, a trapdoor-like flap of tissue swings open and the bladder quickly expands (inhales), sucking the tiny critter inside.  Enzymes are secreted to dissolve the prey into nutrition for the plant.  How cool!


Another flower along the banks that was at peak bloom was the pink wild bean (Strophostyles umbellata).  It is a southeastern U.S. native legume (nitrogen fixer) of sandy soil, and flowers from August and into September.


A close-up of pink wild bean.


This plant is marsh St. Johnswort (Triadenum virginicum).  It occurs in bogs and swamps and is also a southeast native, and flowers from August through October.

This is the only species of several St. Johnswort’s that is pink and not yellow.