Monday, April 23, 2012

Swamp Slogging With Evelyn

After such a busy nature week as I'd had, I'd planned to maybe sleep late on Sunday and wake to the Sunday papers and a lapful of cuddly cats.  But then I got the invitation from Evelyn Greene to come explore "her" cedar swamp up in North Creek.  Well, I never can resist when adventures with Evelyn beckon.  So off I went, rubber boots on my feet and well bundled against the damp cold day.

 I just have to trust that Evelyn knows where she's going when she leads me into such trackless swamps as the one she took me to.  At first glance, I sure didn't see any way to penetrate this gnarly wet mess.

But Evelyn did, since she'd been working to lop crowding limbs and lay branches across mucky areas so that we could make our way deep into the heart of the swamp.

It's in mineral-rich swamps such as this that we're more likely to find certain orchids and other rare flowers, although we will have to come back later when the weather is warmer to look for such flowering plants.  For the present, we could satisfy our botanical cravings with a marvelous diversity of mosses and liverworts.  Let's see if I can remember the names of some of the ones we found.

This pretty, ferny-looking stuff is Hypnum imponens, which Evelyn told me is also called Brocade Moss.

Evelyn told me that this ruffly tree-loving moss is Neckera, although she wasn't sure of the species name.

Here's one that has a most appropriate common name, Shaggy Moss.  But I'd love to learn the Latin name for this one, because it's so much fun to say it: Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus.  There!  Now, you try it.

Then there were liverworts, such as this Bazzania trilobata nestled into a clump of Dicranum moss.  On one website dealing with such bryophytes, I found this species called Millipede Liverwort, which I thought was a very descriptive common name.

Another liverwort, which looked like tiny cedar boughs, was growing on the trunk of a tree.  This is one of the Porella species, I couldn't determine which one.

In the midst of all that mossy green, this vivid orange polypore (species unknown) sure stood out.

Update:  One of my blog readers, the author and wildflower expert Carol Gracie, has written to tell me that this is the aptly named Red-belted Polypore (Fomitopsis pinicola), found year-round on many species of dead trees.

We made it through the cedar swamp to higher dryer ground that was home to an amazing number of Dutchman's Breeches plants, more than I had ever seen in one place.

We also found an abundant patch of tiny pale purple violets.  We almost passed them off as nothing more interesting than Common Blue Violets, but then we noticed the remarkable bulging spur on the back of the flower.  Hmmmm,  what species could this violet be?  I knew it couldn't be Long-spurred Violet, since that's a stemmed violet with a very skinny long spur, so might this be the one called Great-spurred Violet?

A closer look inside the flower revealed no sign of hairs on any of the petals,  one of the diagnostic details for Great-spurred Violets, also called Selkirk's Violet (Viola selkirkii).

We took one of the plants back to the house where we could examine it in better light, and there we confirmed that this was indeed V. selkirkii.  Other diagnostic details include the deep notch where the stem meets the leaf, and the fine hairs on the tops of the leaves.

It's always fun to play plant detective, to parse a plant until you can determine its species, and I felt an extra pique of pleasure, since this was a new flower for my life list.  I have also since learned that there is no record of this plant growing in Warren County, where we found it.  I shall have to ask Evelyn to go back and obtain a fresh specimen to press and dry for the state herbarium.  I'd do it myself, but I'm not sure I could find my way back through that cedar swamp.  But Evelyn knows the way.


Anonymous said...

why did you kill it? :(

Woodswalker said...

You ask a fair question, Anonymous, and one I've agonized over myself. Because of state herbarium policies, in order for a species of plant to be included in the atlas for each county, actual specimens must be provided. If this were a rare plant and only one or a few were found, we would not have collected it, herbarium be damned. But there were dozens of these violets carpeting the woods, so removing one presented no danger to the population.

Timothy said...

Lovely blog!