Holly Shelter Hike

Holly Shelter Game Land, Pender County, NC

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Mark and I took a morning hike along the fresh-tidal Cape Fear River, between Topsail and Wilmington.  The river occurs within the 87,000-acre Holly Shelter Game Land, which is a remote, massive swamp and longleaf pine – wiregrass community that contains the endangered cockaded woodpecker and pygmy rattlesnake.  I have previously been in this forest type in Georgia, near the Florida line.

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The river is lined with water and laurel oak, black and sweetgum and bald cypress.  It is black tannic acid in color, with about a 3-foot tidal range.  Today is the only time that Mark and I wore long parts all week during vacation, and yes the site has ticks and poison ivy.

Nuphar sagittifolia

The river has patches of lance-leaved spatterdock (Nuphar lutea spp. sagittifolia), which only occurs in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Clematis crispa

We saw an obligate (OBL) evening primrose species at peak bloom, as a common plant in the bald cypress swamps, but the find of the day was Swamp Leatherflower (Clematis crispa), in flower (in the photo above).

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Swamp leatherflower leaves look like Maryland’s marsh clematis species, and even the seed heads are similar, but have an entirely different and unusual flower.

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Mark and I took a cutting from one of the several vines (now pressed) and later read that all parts of the plant can cause a dermatitis rash.  The plant is uncommon in North Carolina and an S3 watchlist species in Maryland.  This is a plant that I have never seen before.

Polygala lutea

The ditches in Topsail have frequent aggregates of the native Orange Milkwort (Polygala lutea).  I first recorded this plant years back when doing wetland delineation work on the lower eastern shore of Maryland, and which has a distinct, bright orange color.

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A five-lined skink scampers across the trail, stopping for the photo-op.

Spanish Moss

It was great to see all of the Spanish Moss growing from the laurel oak.  Nice morning walk.

 

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