Not Quite a Drought


the narrow channel between Billy Goat B and Offutt Island; the river is really low – all the land in this picture should be underwater

After three weeks’ absence I eagerly hit the Billy Goat B trail yesterday, expecting to find a lot of asters and goldenrods.  What I actually found was a whole lot of nothing.


that is one sad looking maple

OK, not really nothing, of course.  And although we are not yet officially in a drought, we are abnormally dry here.  As a result, the wildflower show is really muted.  Plants are going dormant early, their leaves wilted or brown (at least, I hope they’re going dormant, and not dying).  Many trees have lost their leaves already, and others’ leaves are turning brown


this black walnut isn’t too happy, either

I saw plenty of white snakeroot, which is dominant at this time of year regardless of weather, a fair amount of wingstem, several different species of goldenrod, a few silverrods budding up, a few scattered asters, one plant in the genus Bidens, and that’s about it.


look at all the brown plants behind this smooth aster


that’s a sorry looking wingstem, but the bumblebee doesn’t seem to mind


riverbank goldenrod says “what is drought?”


calyces on bugleweed

Wolf Foot


Virginia bugleweed, aka Virignia water-horehound (and a host of other common names)
Lycopus virginicus

The last photo in yesterday’s post showed most of a single boneset, with a few other plants to its left – plants with small white flowers.  They didn’t really register the day I took that photo. It was my first time out in a kayak with a camera (an ancient point-and-shoot with very low resolution), and I wasn’t able to maneuver close to the plants, and anyway I was totally focused on the boneset leaves.

So much for excuses.  I was looking at the picture on the computer and thought “what in the world…?”  So I went back with a better camera (cleverly though cumbersomely packed to keep it dry) and got better pictures.


But not great pictures.  I was still unable to maneuver close to the plants, and the water was choppy, making it exceptionally difficult to keep the camera still.

It was quick work to get to the genus Lycopus, but I’m still not sure the species is correct.  With help from the Maryland Biodiversity website I narrowed it down to three.  Cross-checking with the excellent, detailed dichotomous key at didn’t help much, because I didn’t have enough or the right details in the pictures.   And the Illinois Wildflowers site, one of my go-to resources, offered some contradictory information.

One thing I did learn: this is considered a tricky genus.

At any rate, the bugleweeds/water horehounds are wet soil lovers (as is everything I’ve found growing in the lower Potomac Gorge).  This one ranges from the Atlantic coast as far west as Texas and Minnesota. It’s threatened in Michigan.

Why “Lycopus“?  Beats me.  The lower leaves of some of the species are sharply lobed (more so than this one).  Perhaps someone thought they looked like a wolf’s foot.  Common names tell us more about the name-givers than about the plants.


UPDATE 12/30/16: I am virtually certain, after much study, that I got it wrong. This one is northern bugleweed, Lycopus uniflorus.