Round-Lobed Hepatica

I’m working on an upcoming presentation for the Nature Conservancy and an energy company, where we are considering particularly sensitive ecological restoration practices when installing utilities through natural areas.

I’ve managed two similar jobs with a sanitary trunk line through a stream valley within Black Hills Regional Park (1.3-miles) and a gas line through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Patuxent Wildlife Refuge (4.6-miles), both in Maryland.

I went back to these completed projects to evaluate post-construction success of what approaches we used in specific situations.  This is helping me prepare my talking points for the upcoming presentation.  Important considerations include promoting rapid canopy closure, prevent the invasion of non-native disturbance species and to sustain subterranean hydrology in support of down-slope wetland seeps.  I therefore spent the day on a Piedmont and coastal plain site, enjoying the warmth of a sunny day, while getting in some early spring botanizing.

This is one of several seeps that has a relatively persistent pool of groundwater, and which supports herpetological breeding.  A series of these vernal pools occur immediately down-slope of the installed sanitary trunk line, and during excavation, each time we intercepted groundwater, I called for anti-seep collars and subterranean fabric-wrapped gravel weeps to sustain the original flow paths of the groundwater.  If we did not address these issues, groundwater may have a tendency to move laterally along the excavated trench and find new subterranean flow paths, possibly damaging the hydrology of very long-standing and imprinted herp ponds.

In this particular pool I found Spotted Salamander, (Ambystoma maculatum), egg masses.  There is a smooth outer gelatinous membrane surrounding the egg aggregation, which gives egg masses a halo appearance surrounding the dark embryos.  Spotted salamander egg masses can come in three coloration’s – milky white, clear and intermediate.  The larva grow and metamorphose within 2-4 months.  So, between May and July I should be able to find some young salamanders walking out of this particular pool.

Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus). 

American Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides) occurs in dry upland woods and rocky glades.  The most remarkable thing about this plant is the very strong mint scent of the foliage, even in the winter.  I crushed some carcass stems in my hands, and for the rest of the day every time I lifted my camera to take a photograph, I could smell the pennyroyal on my hands.  Wonderful.  I remember my first exposure to the plant and when I keyed-it out, as I was doing a wetland delineation in Virginia, and walked through colonies of the plant and crushed the scent under my feet.

Old beaver stumpage.

Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor). 

Round-Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana) is one of the earliest wildflowers to come into bloom, and adorn otherwise barren woodlands before more familiar spring wildflowers.  This sighting was my highlight of the day!

The stems and buds of hepatica are covered with hairs, which serve as a fur coat during cool days and cold nights in the early spring.  The early appearance of its first blossoms illustrate hepatica’s ability to tolerate cool temperatures.  Not many other photosynthetic souls are strong enough to brave the potentially cold days and frigid nights of early to mid-March, and those that try include skunk cabbage, bloodroot and spring beauty.

Hepatica leaves are evergreen, which gives them the most time possible to make food for the plant and enables it to flower very early in the spring.  Their leaves live for an entire year, making and storing food in the plants roots, thereby providing it with plenty of energy with which to blossom early the following spring.  Year-old leaves turn brownish and die after the plant flowers have withered, at which time new, green leaves replace the dead ones.

What a great day in the field.  Thank you Jim and Jackson.

Round-Lobed Hepatica Article:  Round-lobed Hepatica