Botanizing I-95 from Pennsylvania to Georgia at 70 mph

I 95 just south of Richmond Virginia. A dramatic interchange above The non native and invasive blooming Callery Pear.

A long 930 mile two day trip, with carefully planned stops to take care of the most basic needs. I curated the trip going from antique mall to antique mall to experience the cleanest bathrooms spanning the breadth of the East Coast of the United States Of America. Pounding America’s finest pavements, I often relax into the journey by botanizing and delving into the beautiful natural world that I 95 relentlessly plows through. For much of the almost 1000 mile trip, the grinding and exhausting interstate highway is just feet away from exquisitely beautiful natural surroundings, all of which are fully appreciated here on the Sanguine Root.

Fayetteville, North Carolina: Cercis canadensis The Redbud tree in cultivation at my mid-trip hotel accommodations, Tuesday morning March 7, 2023. Alongside the highway, the Redbud trees started to show their blooms in Richmond. By the time I got to Thomasville Georgia, the Redbud trees were shaking off most of the blooms and were leafing out.

Through Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and DC there were plenty of blooming Japanese Cherry trees. As I got into northern Virginia, blooming red maples were the stars of the show. Once I crossed the East Coast epic James River, the Botanical landscape changed. Running right through Richmond Virginia, the James River is a notable crossroads into a different botanical environment. At this time, the Redbuds are blooming! Driving south in early March is so interesting in this respect, in that real differences in blooming trees can be viewed in an immediate time reference!

The long road ahead

South of Florence, South Carolina I started to see Carolina Jasmine, Jessamine sempervirens, growing alongside the highway. This plant is an astoundingly beautiful flowering vine that will leave you mesmerized from its beauty and you will just keep thinking about it after your initial experience with it. When you first see Carolina Jasmine, it it is your personal re-entry into spring and the end of winter. I never got a chance to get a picture and stay tuned for that one! Also in South Carolina I saw Saw Palmetto Serenoa repens growing in the woods just adjacent to I 95!

In South Carolina driving over a beautiful natural landscape

We do this drive often, working on two rundown houses, one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the other in Thomasville Georgia. We have gotten to know the natural world in between. That whole world has been scientifically delineated by plant range maps, notably available at the U.S. Geological Survey. Upon my arrival in Thomasville Georgia, I was greeted by my already bloomed and gone to seed cultivated Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis.

Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve 2021

Due to the logistical complications SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic, our yearly visit in 2020 was canceled and 2021 was much later than usual. Adjusting my photographic aspirations accordingly, I sought to portray a Trillium that visually summed up our altered reality. Many great changes have occurred in our absence! The Lancaster Conservancy has done some amazing work bringing the wildflower preserve into the future.

The road leading to the preserve has been improved greatly and a fine parking area has been added in a location that was used for parking but was somewhat chaotic. Now it is lined with neat fencing and there is a signage kiosk explaining the preserve and providing a map. I photographed the map on my phone to be used to navigate the preserve. The road that used to lead along the railroad tracks to the trail head has been turned into a trail itself which is an amazing transformation because it is now pleasant to walk along the hillside without worrying about cars driving by.

The old parking area in front of the old trail head was a chaotic mess for years. It was very awkward to park there and it was visually problematic. The new trail adds a whole new dimension to enjoying the preserve. Walking along the railroad tracks to the left is the hillside covered with Mertensia and there is a wonderful display of Columbine on a rocky outcrop just before the original trail head. No more crazy piling of automobiles at the bottom of the original trail head! We look forward to seeing what the Conservancy does with that area there is so much potential!

The original trail is pretty much as it was minus the Porta potty which has been located next to the parking lot. (improvement) I did notice that there was a lot of garlic mustard removal that had taken place over the years because there was very little noticeable on the trail itself. It didn’t seem as if there was less stomping on the plants than in years past although there was some spots where over eager photographers would stomp on the flowers in order to get a photograph of a flower further up the hill side. It would be nice to figure out a way to discourage this behavior. A maidenhair fern that had been stomped on many years ago and was not to be found in the years past after the initial stomping was found albeit in a diminutive state. Hopefully it will come back fully! Every year we have looked for this fern without any luck until now.
Isabelle made photos using a Lumix LX 7 and I used a Lumix DMZ-FZ200 and an IPhone XR.

The Lancaster Conservancy is doing a great job in the preservation of Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve!

May 1, 2021

Sean and Isabelle

Susquehanna Trillium advancing into seed production

Columbine blooming in cultivation. Our backyard!

A few years back we collected Columbine seeds in a zip lock bag and tossed them about the backyard Philadelphia rowhouse garden, the crevices of the concrete alleyway and about the local urban landscape.

Having observed Columbine for sometime we have noticed that it likes to grow in rocky areas. Out of cracks. In Marianna Florida, we saw it growing out of a limestone outcrop, signaling its affinity with alkaline environments. Its spindly stems and compact leaves suggests a degree of drought tolerance as well. All of these things indicate that Aquilegia canadensis is well suited for urban environments.

This is perfect for our situation where we are trying to create a hummingbird friendly environment that is not dependent on feeders. The plants are now growing and thriving in the alley and have adapted well to the concrete crevasses and nooks. The Columbine also provides beauty to the landscape. Complementing the Hummingbird friendly Columbine in our block is the Coral honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens (major wheeler) and the straight species Campsis radicans, the trumpet vine.

Lastly, it is notable how majestically the red flowers contrast with the grey concrete blocks of West Philly!