VIRGINIA IS FOR RIVERS

SANGUINE ROOT VISITS JAMES RIVER AT JAMES RIVER STATE PARK

The James River - Virginia
The James River - Virginia

The last stretch of our 2000 mile southern sojourn took us to the James River.  We had been seeing streams, creeks and rivers the whole drive and we wanted to visit one in Virginia.  We couldn’t have picked a better one. This spot is right between the Appalachians and the Piedmont.

Christmas Fern hanging off the river banks - James River State Park, Virginia
Christmas Fern hanging off the river banks - James River State Park, Virginia

We wanted to see a riverbank ecosystem that was as undisturbed as possible.  The James River State Park provided a section of the James River that wound right up against a steep hillside.  This area was most likely not used for human consumption.  There was no way agriculture could have been practiced here, no room for roads or buildings. There was barely room for a narrow, hardly used pathway between the river and the rocky cliffs and steep slopes. This section of the park contained a beautiful assortment of ferns, shrubs and trees. Just a few weeks time would most likely showcase an assortment of spring ephemeral wildflowers.  We found Dicentra leaves barely poking out of the leaf litter.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

Platanus occidentalis

On our roadtrip we noticed how the Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) trees are always found along streams, creeks, and rivers.  Often they are leaning towards the water, where the most light is available.  They grow so close to the water’s edge, they are often undermined to the point of collapse.  Their white, tan and brown mottled bark stands out.  We found some beautiful specimens of Sycamore  on our field trip to the James River.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

We found last year’s Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) on the slopes.  There are quite large colonies of this fern on the hillside.  The spring and summer must be a great time to visit this spot.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

Some of the Sycamore trees have a lot of personality.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

There was a huge rainstorm threatening to start at anytime.  There was a floodwatch in effect for the State of Virginia.  We had about an hour before the rains would start. Even with all of this, the river was moving swiftly and audibly.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

We found evidence of Beaver activity.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

There was an open area adjacent to our off-the -beaten path, where former farmland was being transformed into meadows in a serious effort at environmental restoration.  Many different types of native wildflowers were being planted, such as tall coneflowers and Bee-balm.  The initiative reminded us of  the successful meadow implemented in Cobbs Creek Park in Philadelphia near the Cobbs Creek Environmental Center.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

Creating a meadow from former agricultural land is not easy.  The invasives are everywhere.  Garlic mustard, Japanese stiltgrass and Japanese Honeysuckle were all over. Sometimes we wonder if these invasives will ever be controlled or eliminated.

Acer Saccharinum
The blooming flowers of Silver Maple. Beautiful.  This specimen had lots of character. The Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is another tree that inhabits riverbanks and floodplains.  We had never seen the flowers of this flood-tolerant Maple tree before.  Its low hanging branches gave us a unique opportunity for viewing.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

 

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

Traveling has so many benefits.  We can see other habitats, how they survive, what grows where, and how much, as well as answers to a whole host of questions about our piedmont flora.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

 

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

The Sycamore tree has quite a presence in our lives. It has been cultivated and hybridized with its European counterpart (Platanus orientalis) to create the urban street tree of the twentieth century.  The London Plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia).   Planted throughout Philadelphia, the Hybrid Plane tree dominated the city’s street tree landscape. It was a monoculture that became diseased and many of them are still dying off, leaving many Philadelphia blocks treeless and barren.  They are hardy and adaptable, great to look at and require little maintenance (until they become diseased).  There are still many Philadelphia streets graced with great rows of the London Plane tree.  The London Plane Tree can be differentiated from the pure Native Sycamore by the fruit, which hangs off the branches in a ball form.  The Plane tree has a cluster of two fruit balls, while the Sycamore has just one.  The following picture of a native Sycamore clearly displays the one fruit ball.  The photo was difficult to take, because it was getting dark and there was no tripod available. The tree was growing so close to the James River, it was hard to get to close.  The camera was held as steady as possible, with a deep breath and a relaxed moment, the image was captured: the single fruit of the Sycamore; a truly native specimen still holding its seed.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

Virginia is for Rivers.  A colony of Sycamores grows along the banks of the majestic James River along the foothills of the Appalachians. Note how the white bark makes the trees stand out among the others.

James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

We had to leave James River State Park as quickly as we had arrived. We had another 300 miles to go and there was a monstrous weather system right behind us. The whole way back to Philly, this system was at our heels, with winds and rains just behind our tail. If we stopped, it would start to rain heavily. Back in the car, up to speed, we were in front of it with dry roadways. Everytime we slowed down, the storm overtook us, and we had to keep moving fast if we wanted a dry roadway.

Earlier on in the day, as illustrated by the next photo, the road to the James River State Park was very picturesque.

Our ride to James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia
Our ride to James River State Park - Gladstone, Virginia

CAROLINA DREAMIN’

 

Trout Lily blooms in South Carolina's Sumter National Forest
Trout Lily blooms in South Carolina's Sumter National Forest

A four mile hike is difficult to plan right in the middle of a 500+ mile day’s drive, but it was accomplished by an hour of planning the night before. Sumter National Forest somehow just fell into the 250 mile point of the trip.  This trail winds along a creek valley that is part of the Savannah River watershed. We had no idea what to expect.  We were immediately greeted by a colony of blooming Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum).

Trout Lily Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Trout Lily, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina

We have whole colonies in Morris Park, which we admire every year.  It was great to find them early, 800 miles away from Philadelphia.  Here they were blooming a month before the time they bloom in Morris Park.

We noticed that the hillside where they were growing is next to a creek, just like in Morris Park, Pennypack Park, and West and East Fairmount Park.

Trout Lily Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Trout Lily, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina

What a joy to behold after sitting in the car for six hours.

Trout Lily Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Trout Lily, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina

Below are beeches and oaks: a scene familiar to us in Morris Park.

 Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina

As we made our way further down the hill, Rue anemone started to make an appearance.  These flowers seem to float above the leaf layer in elegant drifts.

  Rue-Anemone, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Rue Anemone, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina

We found some white ones and some pink-purples ones.

Rue-Anemone, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Rue-Anemone, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina

The delicate folded leaves await the moment to open and gather sunlight.

Rue-Anemone, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Rue Anemone, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina

All the flower and the leaves are created from the energy stores in their root system, which was entirely gathered from last year’s photosynthesis.

Note the long and delicate stem:

Rue-Anemone, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Rue Anemone, Sumter National Forest near Edgefield South Carolina
Trillium emerges from the earth - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
Trillium emerges from the earth - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

We don’t know what species it was, except that it was a sessile trillium.  Our best guess is Trillium reliquum, according to the book Trilliums by Frederick W. Case, Jr. and Roberta B. Case.

Podophyllum peltatum emerging from the earth - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
Podophyllum peltatum emerging from the earth - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

We only saw two specimens of Mayapple in our four mile walk.  Still, definitely a delight.

Geranium maculatum - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
Geranium maculatum - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

We see the wild geranium grow in Morris Park amongst Mayapple and Bloodroot.

Sanguinaria canadensis blooming - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
Sanguinaria canadensis blooming - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

This is our first blooming bloodroot of the year 2011.  In Florida, it had already bloomed.  Of course it hasn’t even poked out of the leaf layer in Pennsylvania yet.  Our trip has been like a space and time machine, giving us a early peek at spring.

What a joy it is to see a blooming Sanguinaria canadensis!

Isabelle Dijols overjoyed to see a bloodroot flower for the first time in 2011 - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
Isabelle Dijols overjoyed to see a bloodroot flower for the first time in 2011 - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
Bloodroot makes its way through the dense leaf litter - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
Bloodroot makes its way through the dense leaf litter - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

The trail had mile markers, which helped us gauge how far to walk before we should turn around, being that we had another 250 miles to cover that day.

Last but not least, we loved the sign they had at the trail head.  Enjoy:

Demonstrating Critters: Sign at Trail Head - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
Demonstrating Critters: Sign at Trail Head - Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

EARLY SPRING IN FLORIDA’S UPLAND HARDWOOD HAMMOCKS

Trillium maculatum with Rue-anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)  Marianna, Florida

Trillium maculatum with False Rue-anemone (Enemion biternatum) Marianna, Florida

THE SANGUINE ROOT  VISITS RARE AND ENDANGERED TORREYA TREE AS WELL AS  THE STUNNING BEAUTIES TRILLIUM MACULATUM,  TRILLIUM DECIPIENS AND TRILLIUM UNDERWOODII IN THEIR NATIVE HABITATS.

Isabelle Dijols and Sean Solomon visit the Torreya tree, Torreya State Park, near Bristol Florida in the central panhandle
Isabelle Dijols and Sean Solomon visit the Torreya tree, Torreya State Park, near Bristol Florida in the central panhandle

TORREYA TAXIFOLIA

Along the limestone bluffs on the east banks of the Apalachicola River, the Federally endangered and rare Torreya taxifolia greeted us with a magnificent plaque.

Torreya taxifolia, along the east banks of the Apalachicola River, Florida


Torreya taxifolia, along the east banks of the Apalachicola River, Florida

Torreya Taxifolia, Turreya State Park, near Bristol Florida
Torreya Taxifolia, Turreya State Park, near Bristol Florida

Situated on the high limestone bluffs above the beautiful Apalachicola River, this cultivated specimen welcomes visitors to the park. There was one specimen growing in the wild off in the woods behind the plaque.

The Apalachicola river below the happy visitors of Torreya State Park.  Photo by Mark Daniel
The Apalachicola river below the happy visitors of Torreya State Park. Photo by Mark Daniel

As our native Floridian hosts Mark Daniel and Cathy Smith led us down the steep and winding path of the calcareous  slopes we continued to look for the rare and endangered Torreya tree but were distracted by the many other species we are not used to seeing. Among them, Needle Palm, Southern Magnolia and Oakleaf Hydrangea.

Trillium underwoodii, Torreya State Park Florida. A welcome sight after spending a long snowy winter in Philadelphia Pennsylvania removing noxious invasive Multiflora-Rose from Morris Park
Trillium underwoodii, Torreya State Park Florida. A welcome sight after spending a long snowy winter in Philadelphia Pennsylvania removing noxious invasive Multiflora-Rose from Morris Park

While we were marveling at the spectacle of an actual Trillium before our eyes, Isabelle spotted a piece of trash sitting right next to Trillium underwoodii! This Sessile Trillium is notable for its short stature during flowering. Often its mottled leaves touch the ground at their tips.

Isabelle removes trash from the ground where it sat amidst Trillium underwoodii.  Apalachicola River in backround along with Southern Magnolia
Isabelle removes trash from the ground where it sat amidst Trillium underwoodii. Apalachicola River in backround along with Southern Magnolia

The river’s edge featured grand Sycamore trees, some of them being eroded at the roots by its constant directional flow. The Park is located on the outer edge of a curve where the water rushes against the banks, cutting into the sides and undermining the trees.  On the inner side of the river’s curve, sand and silt is deposited, growing the bank’s size.

A Sycamore tree holds on, growing through its former grand trunk as the Appalachicola River rounds a wide bend on its way into the Gulf Of Mexico
A Sycamore tree holds on, growing through its former grand trunk as the Appalachicola River rounds a wide bend on its way into the Gulf Of Mexico

Our Local tour guide and host Mark Daniel next took us to Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna Florida.  We had no idea what to expect there, however we knew that it was full of limestone bluffs and that it was within the range of at least two Trillium species.  These two factors can be important in the calculation that Trilliums can be found in a target area.  We were right on because within 50 feet of the parking lot we were greeted with a host of spring wildflowers, including three species of Trillium.

Trillium maculatum in full bloom. This flower has a stunning rich maroon color that contrasts nicely with its mottled green leaves.  Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, Florida
Trillium maculatum in full bloom. This flower has a stunning rich maroon color that contrasts nicely with its mottled green leaves. Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, Florida

We were pleased to see False Rue anemone (which we initially confused with Rue Anenome), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Mayapple (Podophyllum  peltatum), Blue Phlox, and Columbine.

Trillium maculatum about to bloom. Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, Florida
Trillium maculatum about to bloom. Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, Florida

A trio of Trilliums.  This is what we signed up for!

Trillium maculatum on a calcareous bluff, Marianna Florida
Trillium maculatum on a calcareous bluff, Marianna Florida

The low limestone cliffs dropped down suddenly into a broad floodplain.  The limestone was soft and caverns formed below the ground.

Trillium maculatum, Marianna, Florida
Trillium maculatum, Marianna, Florida
Limestone cliffs make a short drop to a broad floodplain with Cypress trees
Limestone cliffs make a short drop to a broad floodplain with Cypress trees

Wanting to find and then actually finding and identifying these Trilliums was made possible by the book Trilliums, by Frederick W. Case Jr. and Roberta B. Case.  This book has opened up the world of Trilliums to us. Our volume comes on site wherever we go looking for Trilliums.

Many, many thanks to Frederick W. Case and Roberta B. Case for enlightening us about Trilliums, and showing us a world we had no idea existed. Here we discover for the first time, Trillium decipiens
Many, many thanks to Frederick W. Case and Roberta B. Case for enlightening us about Trilliums, and showing us a world we had no idea existed. Here we discover for the first time, Trillium decipiens
Trillium decipiens with Bloodroot, (Sanguinaria canadensis), Marianna, Florida
Trillium decipiens with Bloodroot, (Sanguinaria canadensis), Marianna, Florida

We needed to identify the three different species of Trilliums, which is easier with a botanical key on site.

   The on-site key, provided by the book trilliums by Frederick W. Case and Roberta B. Case was helpful in identifying this specimen of Trillium decipiens. Photo by our host Mark Daniel
The on-site key, provided by the book trilliums by Frederick W. Case and Roberta B. Case was helpful in identifying this specimen of Trillium decipiens. Photo by our host Mark Daniel

We found a great local website about the flowers in the area later that night.  It turns out the Caverns State Park was the ticket. We did not have time to visit the caves.  The flowers engaged all of our time and kept us very busy identifying and documenting.  We had heard that Mayapples(Podophyllum peltatum) were rare in Florida, and were at the bottom of their range. It turns out according to this website that they only exist in the Caverns State Park and in the immediate area around it. We never in our wildest imaginations expected to find Mayapples in Florida.

Podophyllum peltatum, Marianna, Florida.
Podophyllum peltatum, Marianna, Florida.

The very bottom of its range.

Podophyllum peltatum with Trillium decipiens. Just growing there as they always have been in the wild.  Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, Florida
Podophyllum peltatum with Trillium decipiens. Just growing there as they always have been in the wild. Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna, Florida

It cannot get better than this. Also False Rue Anenome, which was everywhere, floating gracefully above the leaf litter.

Podophyllum peltatum preparing to flower. Photo by Mark Daniel
Podophyllum peltatum preparing to flower. Photo by Mark Daniel

Isabelle found this jewel growing out of a large limestone boulder:

Aquilegia canadensis,  Marianna, Florida
Aquilegia canadensis, Marianna, Florida

Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). After spending hours with the flowers. (We wanted to photograph them all really) we climbed down the limestone bluffs to the Cypress Trees.

Isabelle Dijols inspects the Cypress Trees. Marianna, Florida
Isabelle Dijols inspects the Cypress Trees. Marianna, Florida

There has been a serious drought in Florida, as can be seen in this picture.  Cypress trees like wet feet.  There is so much to learn from the day’s adventure. The ecosystems we encountered require so much thought and data to process, so many questions. This is what travel is about: we can compare Mayapples to Mayapples and Beeches to Beeches. Contrast a Cypress wetland to one where Skunk Cabbage grows.   We were just happy to  be out of the snow and cold, and not in the car staring at endless swaths of asphalt. This was one fine magical afternoon in the northern Florida panhandle!

This Post was made possible with the careful tour planning of our keen local guides Mark Daniel and Cathy Smith.  Thank you both for showing the staff of the Sanguine Root a beautiful ecosystem in Florida’s panhandle.

Rue anenome, Marianna, Florida
False Rue anemone, Marianna, Florida