Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trip Report: What's Up on the Northwest Branch?

It's times like these that I really appreciate keeping a nature journal. Months ago, Matt scheduled a hike for the Maryland Native plant society to look at our favorite patch of mountain laurels. And this Saturday, when a big crowd showed up for hike, the bushes were in peak bloom, just as we had hoped. It doesn't always work this way -- a lot of spring flowers were a couple weeks early with all the warm weather we had. But it's views like this -- and the looks on a bunch of seasoned naturalists' faces as they entered a hillside just bursting with flowers -- that make me really appreciate trying to keep track of nature's cycles.

looking at the mountain laurels along the Northwest Branch
Cindy and Elizabeth in the mountain laurels

We were on the trail I described last Tuesday as our favorite spot to see mountain laurel. Going at our typical "naturalist's shuffle," we covered less than a mile of the trail, but in that mile we went through a variety of habitats, from river banks to high, dry slopes, and moist woods in between. Here's the list of plants we stopped to look at -- or at least, the ones I managed to write down. (Links are to previous posts on the Natural Capital. )

huckleberry - gaylussacia
Huckleberries growing under the mountain laurels

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Cucumber root (Medeola virginiana)
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)
Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)
Venus' pride (Houstonia purpurea)
Blackberry (Rubus sp.)

With seeds or fruit
Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)
Huckleberry (Gaylussacia sp.)
Black willow (Salix nigra)
Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)
Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata)
Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

Poison ivy
Poison ivy in flower. Remember: Leaves of three, leave them be!!

Also noted (most will bloom later this summer)
Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
Jewelweed (Impatiens sp.)
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Dogbane (Apocynum sp.)
False nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica)
Horse balm (Collinsonia canadensis)
Maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)
Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa)
Dock (Rumex sp.)
Greenbrier (Smilax glauca)

More photos from the walk are on the MNPS Meetup page.

What have you been noticing on the trail lately?

Indian cucumber root by Ken-Ichi (my photos didn't come out!)
Mountain laurel - Kalmia latifolia
Mountain laurel