Sugarloaf, May 5


pinxter azalea in all its glory



Went back to Sugarloaf Mountain on May 5 and spent all morning hunting for lady slipper orchids. I didn’t find any, but I did find some other things that I haven’t seen before (more about those in the next few days). The list of plants in bloom:

  • sweet cicely
  • dwarf cinquefoil
  • Indian cucumber root
  • flowering dogwood
  • common fleabane
  • mountain laurel (just two buds open)
  • pinxter azalea
  • Rubus species (unknown which, probably a dewberry or blackberry)
  • rue anemone
  • Gray’s sedge
  • wild sarsaparilla
  • false Solomon’s seal (buds not quite open)
  • marsh blue violet
  • ovate-leaved violet
  • spotted wintergreen (buds)

Also I saw great stands of royal fern and cinnamon fern, and some nice specimens of scrub pine (Pinus virginiana) and white pine (Pinus strobus).

Most trees seem to be fully leafed out but the leaves are still small and pale; on that gloomy, misty morning the pinxters stood out like beacons in the forest. Mountain laurel buds are swollen, and by the time this post is published they should be opening. Since mountain laurel is one of the dominant understory plants at Sugarloaf, it will be a fabulous show.


mountain laurel about to pop

Rachel Carson Conservation Park


flowering dogwood (Cornus florida, Cornaceae)
stands out among other trees

Along the banks of the Hawlings River in northeastern Montgomery County lies a 650-acre area called the Rachel Carson Conservation Park. The park has no facilities, just a few interpretive signs and about six miles of natural-surface trails through the rolling woods and meadows.



wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), often heard in deep woods but seldom seen



Among local native plant enthusiasts this park is known primarily for its pinxter flower azaleas, and that was reason enough for me to go. But I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the area is. By “nice” I mean not full of people and trash, and not over-used. I found some wonderful flowers and plants other than the azaleas, including two species that I had never seen before. This always makes for a great day but one of the species was an orchid, which catapults Rachel Carson Conservation Park to the top of my favorite places list.

Animal viewing was good, too. There was a wild turkey that I couldn’t get pictures of; I was making notes at the time and those birds move fast! There were lots of spicebush swallowtails but they didn’t sit still for more than a second.



northern green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) [I think]





see the pink shrub peeking out?





More about the plants in the next several days.