Three Views

The pictures from early June were taken after 4 days of rain.  The pictures for the end of June were taken two days after record-setting rainfalls (1-4 inches) across all the Potomac River watershed upstream of Great Falls.  National Airport got 2.75 inches.  So far, this has been the second-wettest June on record.

The place were I stand to take the Billy Goat B mid-way picture was underwater, and the place where I stand at the boat launch ramp was mere inches away from the water.

Remember to visit the Three Views page to see the same views in from earlier this year.

June 29, 2015 
68 F at 8:47 am; clear


9:08 am EDT  18mm  f/8.0  1/125sec  ISO 200

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


9:39 am EDT  18mm  f/8.0  1/400 sec  ISO 200

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


10:48 am EDT  18mm  f/8.0  1/250 sec  ISO 200

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

Flower of the Day: Climbing Dogbane


Thyrsanthella difformis
Trachelospermum difforme



There are places within my regular hunting grounds where I’m reluctant to go.  Down rock scrambles that were easier before my knees got bad, before I started schlepping around a daypack stuffed with photography equipment… areas covered in poison ivy, part-time islands…  But the effort can be rewarding (see my recent post about blue false indigo).  So it was last week when I went to check on culver’s root (still there, not yet blooming).  Slick wet rocks, poison ivy everywhere, some invasive aliens, nothing terribly interesting… hey, what’s this?


This is climbing dogbane, a low-growing vine of the southeastern US that is rare in Illinois and endangered in Maryland.  Not only endangered, but listed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as S1, which is defined:

“Critically imperiled in Maryland because of extreme rarity (typically 5 or fewer estimated occurrences or very few remaining individuals or acres in the State) or because of some factor(s) making it especially vulnerable to extirpation. Species with this rank are actively tracked by the Wildlife and Heritage Service.”

There’s not a lot to say about it.  It isn’t particularly beautiful.  There’s almost no useful or interesting information on the internet about it, except at  It isn’t in any of my books; someone in an internet plant group identified it for me.

And I don’t have very good pictures, because I slipped on wet rocks climbing down there, my knees were aching, I was precariously balanced on more wet rocks with no place to set the tripod, and oh, guess what the climbing dogbane was climbing on?

Poison ivy.


Nonetheless, I am going back there in a few days to try to locate it again.  This time I’ll geotag it and report the find to the DNR.


On the Asclepias Buffet

20150623-20150623-_DSC0134The milkweeds sure do attract visitors.  Pleased to discover a very small stand of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in an easily accessible area, I decided to stay awhile to see who came by. Here are some of the insects I saw on it.


This is a pearl crescent butterfly, Phyciodes tharos, a member of the brushfoot family (Nymphalidae).  20150623-20150623-_DSC0105

See the blurry orange thing in the foreground?


That’s an assassin bug (species unknown, family Reduviidae). They sometimes hide in flowers, but more often actively hunt their prey*.  They use their rostrums to inject prey with salvia, which then liquefies the victim’s insides so that the bug can suck them out.

I have a sudden, strange urge to watch Starship Troopers again.

In less gruesome news, the milkweeds were also attracting the bees.


I have no way to identify the species of this bumblebee (family Bombidae).

[edited to add: see comments]

*Encyclopedia of Life

Flower of the Day: Lesser Daisy Fleabane


Erigeron strigosus





Four species* of fleabane can be found along the Potomac River in the Piedmont. They’re all pretty similar looking – terminal clusters of many-rayed (50-100) composite flowers, with yellow discs; the rays can be white, pinkish, or purplish. The plants can be distinguished by leaves – how they’re shaped, whether or not they’re toothed – and by a few other characteristics.  They range from a foot tall (Robin’s plantain) to five feet tall (lesser daisy fleabane).

Sadly, I don’t have photos to illustrate all this.  Maybe next year I’ll get some. Mostly I just wanted an excuse to publish the above photo, because I really like it.



*Erigeron annuus, E. philadelphicus, E. pulchellus, E. strigosus

Flower of the Day: Enchanter’s Nightshade


Circaea lutetiana
aka Circaea quadrisulcata


Standing one to three feet tall, this woodland forb has tiny, white, two-petaled flowers. The petals are so deeply cleft that you’d think there are four.


Enchanter’s nightshade’s native range is from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic, north into Canada, and all the way south (except Florida).

The USDA Plants database shows two other species of Circaea in North America; one (C. alpina) is a much shorter plant found throughout much of the US (not the southern Mid-West or deep South) that is endangered or extirpated in several states; the other (C. x intermedia) is a naturally-occurring cross between C. lutetiana and C. alpina.

I spent awhile surfing the internet looking for some interesting facts or trivia about this plant, and came up with nothing, other than confirmation of my observation that summer-flowering woodland plants tend to have very small white flowers.  Enchanter’s nightshade isn’t going to knock your socks off with its beauty, unless you pause long enough to get a good, close look at the flowers.


I actually do find it enchanting.

ps – look closely at the upper sepal in the top photo; see the aphids?

Butterflies and Bumblebees

Sometimes you can’t photograph flowers without photographing insects. Last week at Belmont I found a huge stand of Canada thistle (I think), covered in butterflies and bumblebees.



clouded sulphur
Colias philodice




great spangled fritillary
Speyeria cybele






cabbage white
Pieris rapae






red-spotted purple (I think) on white clover
Limenitis arthemis





bumblebee on indianhemp
family Apidae



and this, too:


European mantis (I think)
Mantis religiosa