Patuxent Wildlife Refuge

The early spring ephemeral wildflowers of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, North Tract – Patuxent Wildlife Refuge, in Laurel, MD.  It was a cold Saturday, where we had spitting snow in the morning, then cold and windy, with occasional breaking sunlight.

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The first two-weeks of April are the peak of the bluebell displays, and I’d say that today, Saturday, April 9, 2016 represents the beginning of the peak, which may persist through next weekend.

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I walked a portion of the Little Patuxent River, near the Route 198, Fort Meade Laurel Road entrance to the North Tract of the FWS Patuxent Wildlife Refuge.

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Unfurling fern fiddle-head.

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Smooth Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens).

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The non-native Ground Ivy, also known as Gill-over-the-Ground (Glechoma hederacea).  This plant has a square stem and is a member of the mint family.  I have this weed in my fields, and when I cut this plant, I can smell the fragrance from my tractor seat.

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Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis flavula). 

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Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

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Bluebells are highly ephemeral (seasonally short-lived).  They emerge, flower, go to seed, and wilt away into dormancy, all within a two-month period.

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The plant can form large colonies in forested floodplains, and this portion of the Patuxent River has grand displays of massive aggregates, acres and acres of bluebells.  It’s enough to make you want to break out in song, “the hills are alive with the sound of music.” 

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Thomas Jefferson maintained a diary, which had a specific comment that he observed massive sweeps of bluebells on April 16, 1766.  He went on to comment that he would do a collection and bring plantings back to his Monticello Gardens, and did exactly that.

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This picture does not do justice to the size and extent of the bluebell beds observed.

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I noticed a gypsy moth egg mass on a black cheery tree.

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Passing a vernal pool, looking for egg masses, I saw tadpoles of some species of frog, possibly wood frog?

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The floodplain floor had patches of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) at peak flower.

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This is not the ginger that we can eat, but does have an aroma of ginger if you break-up the roots, and hence the name.

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The reddish brown (meat-colored) blooms of wild ginger attract flies as their pollinator.

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Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum), was only just beginning to flower, although seeing thousands of their herbaceous leaves.

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Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria).  The white flowers droop upside down from their pedicels, like a pair of pants (britches) hanging on the line.

A pleasant but cold walk, and the ground was very wet.  We are on the front-end of a profusion of spring ephemeral wildflowers to come into display.  The next two months always present the quandary to either fish on the weekends or go botanizing, mixed in with the required gardening and yard work.  I love weekends in the spring!

 

 

 

 

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