Three Views

The weather is finally getting warmer and the soft springtime green of new leaves is everywhere.  The river is running high, not quite flood stage, but close.

Don’t forget to go to the Three Views page to see the same views over the past four months.  The progression is nifty.

April 29, 2015 
49 degrees F (later 70), perfectly clear


7:57 am EDT  18mm  f/9.0  1/200sec  ISO 200

Billy Goat B trail, east end, looking southeast across a narrow channel toward Vaso Island


8:46 am EDT  18mm  f/8.0  1/6400 sec  ISO 200

Billy Goat B, mid-way between trailheads, looking upstream (more or less northwest) with Hermit Island on the left.



9:40 am EDT  18mm  f/8.0  1/6400 sec  ISO 200

boat launch ramp near Old Angers Inn, looking downstream and more or less south

Variations on a Theme: Toadshade


Trillium sessile; Liliaceae

Toadshade, like so many red-brown flowering plants, is pollinated by flies and beetles.  The flower is stalkless (hence “sessile”) and the three petals remain mostly closed. It’s a low-growing, clump forming plant that loves deep shade, and shows the trilateral symmetry so often seen in monocots:


It ranges from New York (where it’s endangered) and Michigan (where it’s threatened) in the north to North Carolina in the south and west as far as Oklahoma.

A somewhat rare yellow variety can be found near Carderock.  Native plant enthusiasts all seem to know where the clump is and always go pay it a visit.


I love this plant beyond reason.  I can’t explain it other than to say that the common name makes me laugh.


Belmont and Patapsco Valley

domestic apple (Malus sylvestris), – an alien, but not invasive




I’m conducting a survey of wildflowers at Belmont Manor and Historic Park and nearby parts of Patapsco Valley State Park for my Maryland Master Naturalist certification.  For the first few weeks, it was a little disappointing.  I’d found plenty of invasives, but the trails are heavily used, and the woods seem impoverished.

Nonetheless I went out there again last Friday and realized things were not so bleak. For one thing, that area is about one week behind the Potomac Gorge (it’s about 30 miles northeast).  For another thing, I didn’t have to go far at all before finding some really lovely plants.  And, I’m pleased that I recognized so many plants when they’re still weeks away from flowering.

The (natives) list so far:

avens, white
bellwort, perfoliate
bellwort, sessile
buttercup, kidney-leaved
cherry, unknown species, could be alien
chickweed, star
cranefly orchid
dogwood, flowering
hepatica, round-lobed

20150424-20150424-_DSC0013 jack-in-the-pulpit

miterwort, twoleaf
mountain laurel







skunk cabbage
Solomon’s seal, false
Solomon’s seal, smooth
spring beauty
toothwort, cut-leaved
toothwort, slender
trout lily
violet, common blue
violet, smooth yellow
waterleaf, Virginia


Flower of the Day: Early Meadow Rue

Thalictrum dioicum; Ranunculaceae


This year I finally got out at the right time to spot this delicate plant in flower.  And then I was confused, because nearby was what appeared to be the same plant, only a little taller, with a distinctly different flower. Looked somewhat like tall meadow rue, but that plant blooms much later in the season.

The guidebooks weren’t much help at first, but then I read in Clemants and Gracie that in this species, male and female flowers are on separate plants.  So off to the internets to fact-check.  Sure enough, the other plant was sporting the female flowers.

above right, closeup of male flowers

below, plant with female flowers


right, an overhead view of male flowers, showing the sepals; there are no petals

belowone small part of a very complicated leaf, showing leaflets


Early meadow rue is wind pollinated, and for that reason it’s hard to get a good photo of it: the slightest breeze will set the whole plant moving about.  Using a tripod helped, but the autofocus feature was no good at all – all the plant parts are so insubstantial (and prone to moving) that the camera couldn’t find a way to focus.  I had to go full manual.  And it was shady, so even with a wide open aperture, I had to keep the shutter speed fairly slow.  These  pictures were the best I could do, on two different days.  The next day there’s dead calm, the plant will likely be done blooming.

Anyway, more about the plant: it’s yet another one that likes moist, rich woodlands, growing on rocky slopes and cliffs.  It is one of six Thalictrum species that can be found in Maryland, ranging from Quebec to Georgia and west into the Great Plains.