Six-Lined Racerunner

Six-Lined Racerunner and Green-Fringed Orchid, Chicamuxen / Indian Head, Charles County, MD

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Tomorrow is the first day of summer, having the longest daytime light of the year.  I was in the field along the Chicamuxen, Mattawoman and Potomac River in Indian Head.  While walking through a forested marsh, I observed several fresh crayfish chimney mounds.  I remember once when doing a wetland delineation for the creation of Arundel Mills Mall, I dug down 3-feet with a sharpshooter spade, to finally reach the crayfish, so I know many a hole occurs below the groundwater table.

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Many portions of the forested marsh had pockets of lizard’s tail (Saururus cernuus), looking as though they were near or at peak bloom.

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Along a sandy, dry, open point I observed a male six-lined racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus), also known as the whiptail lizard.  Uncommon in Maryland, the word sexlineatus means ‘six-lines’ in Latin.

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The racerunner is aptly named, as it can run up to a blazing 18-miles per hour.  Males have pale blue bellies and green throats.  An adult measures about 9-inches.  In June/July females lay 4 to 6 eggs, which then hatch in August.

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Racerunners hunt during the heat of the day and love hot weather.  They feed on crickets, spiders, ants and other soft-bodied insects.  They prefer uninhabited coastal dunes, sand spits and open woodlands.

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So here is the highlight of the day.  I observed 35 green-fringed orchids (Platanthera lacera), also known as ragged orchid, due to the ragged/tattered appearance of the delicate flowers.  Most all orchids are significant, rare, threatened and/or endangered in Maryland, but the green-fringed orchid is considered occasional and not rare.

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The green-white flower is divided into three-lobes, and is about 1/2 to 3/4-inches long.  The deep, thread-like fringe gives the flowers their ragged/tattered appearance.

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I’d say that the first day of summer represents the phenology of peak flowering.  The plant grows from about 8 to 24-inches tall, and is easily overlooked.

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This plant is found in bogs, marshes, swamps and wet meadows.  Like most all orchids, this species requires endomycorrhizal fungus to sustain itself.  The flowers are pollinated by moths and the flowers will emit fragrance at night to attract moths.  I did not notice any fragrance, and was not willing to wait until sundown and darkness, which occurs today at 9:30 PM!

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Walking back out from the woods, to my truck, I came across an eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum).  Mudders can be found in both fresh and brackish water, and are poor swimmers.  Instead, they usually walk underwater and are bottom crawlers, much like Nancy Pelosi.  They occur in the southeast, from Maryland south to Florida, and west to Texas.

Great day in the field!

 

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