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

APPALACHIAN TRAILS

SANGUINE ROOT STAFF HIKES APPALACHIAN TRAIL IN BEAUTIFUL HAMLET OF WEVERTON MARYLAND.

Weaverton, Maryland.  The Appalachian trail takes us up to a magnificent view of the mountain south of the Potomac river
Weverton, Maryland. The Appalachian trail takes us up to a magnificent view of the mountain south of the Potomac river

 

 

A welcome adventure in what feels like a far away land from Morris Park, the Sanguine Root staff has left the piedmont region. The Appalachian Mountains offer a different tableau of species and geology. There are present a wide variety of things we are used to in Morris Park, such as heavily folded metamorphic rock, hiking trails with waterbars, and upland trees such as Beech and Oak. This location is 1.5 miles from Harper’s Ferry West Virginia.

Isabelle eagerly awaits the hike on the internationally renowned Appalachian Trail
Isabelle eagerly awaits the hike on the internationally renowned Appalachian Trail

There was a sign at the beginning of the trail that outlined rules, laws, warnings, and etiquette, with maps included in the mix, a bit of history and tips. Also noted was the many volunteer groups that maintain the trail system.  This trail is spectacular.  We also noted how much the town of Weverton Maryland, population 500, takes pride in the trail and cares for it.

Sean Solomon with Kalmia Latifolia. Mountain Laurel is a magnificent native shrub that has stunning flowers and an elaborate and intriguing trunk that twists and winds
Sean Solomon with Kalmia latifolia. Mountain Laurel is a magnificent native shrub that has stunning flowers and an elaborate and intriguing trunk that twists and winds

There were many oak trees present along the trail.  We found a great Beech Tree (Fagus grandifolia) with much personality.

Fagus grandifolia, American Beech, Weverton Maryland
Fagus grandifolia, American Beech, Weverton Maryland

Driving on the I-70 west into Fredericksburg Maryland, we could see the Appalachian Mountain province in the distance. Seeing this mass of upturned rocks was a great reminder of our position on the piedmont. Nothing like a geographical reminder of ones landmass than a mountain range or a lack thereof.

A boulder of Quartzite showing intense folding. In a colluvial pile of other boulders, and rocks near the bottom of the mountain. Most likely broken off from the Weverton Formation
A boulder of Quartzite showing intense folding. In a colluvial pile of other boulders, and rocks near the bottom of the mountain. Most likely broken off from the Weverton Formation

Mountains have a way of reminding us of our geological past.  We are intrigued by them and the more we learn about them, we are astounded by the age of the earth. Try to comprehend 550 million years ago. Back then, this actual rock was a sandy beach.  Then it was covered with more layers of sediment, and weighed down by each successive layer, becoming compressed and heated until  the grains of sand cemented together and it officially became a rock we know of as sandstone.  Then the continents of Africa and North America collided and this pushed sideways on all of the layers of the rocks, much like what happens to that annoying throw rug that gets caught under the bathroom door.  The rug folds and bunches up.  The folds can be neater like that of a pleated curtain, or the folds can meet up, like the plastic liner of the kitchen trash, or that rug on the bathroom floor.

Then the folds, which by this time, are very tall mountains, on the order of the present day Swiss Alps become eroded by rain. 300 or so million years eroded the Appalachians down to mere stubs of the up-ended sandstone layers.  Because Sandstone is harder than the neighboring  shale layers (which is clay from river deposits transformed into rock) the upended sandstone formations end up being the mountains that we see. Of course, there are many more complicated factors and complex foldings that occur along the way, which make it a much more interesting story.  The fact that these layers of deposited sand were buried so deep during the mountain-building process that they heated up and partially melted changes the simplified explanation of folding described.  However that would explain the bands of white Quartz seen in the above picture.

Sand is composed mainly of silicone, which is the what glass is made of. Glass is an amorphous form of this element.  Glass is sand that is heated up to the point of melting, and cooled so quickly, it has no time to arrange itself in any specific order, which is something elements like to do.  Sand is actually the element silicone (often with other elements) cooled slow enough in a volcanic setting to have a structure.  Then the cooled volcanic mass is eroded like all the other types of mountains to small bits we like our beaches to be and will never ever leave the carpeting in the car- no matter how much we vacuum.

In the process of metamorphic rock formation, the sandstone, partially melts and this melted sand cools very very slowly, giving the silicone enough time to arrange itself in a structured way, forming crystals.  These are the white quartz bands on the rock seen above.  All the while, these bands were then being folded in the continental collision.  This was going on very deep in the earth.  Then when the mountain eroded, all that weight above it was lifted off and the rock sprung up in an uplifting process.  The rock pictured above went through all of this stuff over a span of 550 million years.  What is really neat is that there it is, in its spot on the earth, right where it all happened, here in Weverton Maryland, right before our eyes. All of this generalized history can be read just by looking at the rock.

One last thing: sometimes the folding structures found on the cross-section of a rock mimick the larger picture. These interesting folds occur on a macro scale as well, and this helps us interpret complicated geological structures.

A long hike to Georgia on the Appalachian Trail
A long hike to Georgia on the Appalachian Trail

This old sign has most likely guided many a weary hiker up yet another rocky hillside with a complex geological story to tell.

The upland Oak-Beech forest in Weverton Maryland
The upland Oak-Beech forest in Weverton Maryland

This next tree we have never seen before, but we think it may be a Honey-Locust.  Anyone recognize this tree?

Tree with spines Weverton Maryland
Tree with spines Weverton Maryland
another angle of the tree with spines.  The branches
Another angle of the tree with spines. The branches

Its not Alaria, we know that much!

A FLOWER BLOOMS

WHERE ARE THE BLOOMIN FLOWERS?

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) blooms along the East Branch of Indian Creek.  Morris Park Philadelphia
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) blooms along the East Branch of Indian Creek. Morris Park Philadelphia

SYMPLOCARPUS FOETIDUS. The mottled purple and green spathes of skunk cabbage poke out of the swampy floodplain of Indian Creek.  The pointed Spathes enclose the inflorescence, a red spadix.

The flower is enclosed by a hood.  The spadix is enclosed by the spathe.  Morris Park, Philadelphia
The flower is enclosed by a hood. The spadix is enclosed by the spathe. Morris Park, Philadelphia

Not a bad shot eh?    Done while holding Keeba’s leash as she pulled to get her own view of whatever has her attention. The yellow spots on the spadix are the actual flowers.

Symplocarpus foetidus , Morris Park Philadelphia
Symplocarpus foetidus , Morris Park Philadelphia

Consequently, there was not much time to be spent studying this spectacular and unique flower.

Skunk cabbage with Lesser Celendine, (Ranunculus ficaria) an exotic invasive
Skunk cabbage with Lesser Celandine, (Ranunculus ficaria) an exotic invasive

Of course there has to be an annoying invasive to stall the moment.  This one, Lesser Celandine (Runuculus ficaria) is quite troublesome, especially along moist stream banks and floodplains. Later on this; for now we will enjoy the beautiful flower.

Skunk Cabbage, Morris Park, Philadelphia
Skunk Cabbage, Morris Park, Philadelphia

 

Other facts:  The plant generates its own heat.  It does have a skunk-like odor in the leaves.  The large leaves emerge after flowering. The immature leaves can be seen between the flower spathes.  They are pointy and wrapped up tight, not ready for the cold. One of them looks like it has suffered a bit on the tip.