American holly (Ilex opaca) on the Cabin John Trail
After two weeks battling a sinus infection, I finally felt well enough to go for a hike. Well, more of a walk. As I’ve written before, the Cabin John Trail is treacherous: an over-used trail with poor footing in many places. But, I almost always find something worthwhile, if I take the time to poke around and really look at things.
And so it was yesterday. I knew I’d find a lot of Christmas fern, but went with the goal of finding something else – and I did, after scrambling about in a dryish seasonal watercourse. Look for a post about that fern in another few days.
After that I went to a section I call Erica Alley. It’s a very rocky slope with a high concentration of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), and big stands of rock polypody. There I found several small stands of spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata, another ericaceous plant), which thrills me because I failed to find it near Carderock this year. And then, poking about, I found something completely new. And something old that required re-inspection.
I don’t carry ID books with me. Whenever I have a book, I end up plopping my butt down and reading for 20 minutes. I’m too easily distracted by “dictionary syndrome”. So I take pictures, but often fail to get the right pictures for a definitive ID. At least I’ve narrowed them down to the correct genus. Perhaps if the weather’s good today I’ll go out again, this time with the ID books, dammit.
If you see a middle-aged woman reading a book on the Cabin John Trail, say hi.
Common or rock polypody, American wall fern, rockcap fern
a small stand on the Cabin John trail
This little fern is no less charming for being incredibly common. It’s found throughout most of the eastern US and Canada except for parts of the deep south. Although short (the fronds are usually about twelve inches long), the rhizomes will form massive colonies in suitable habitat, which consists of all sorts of rock outcroppings and rocky soils in moist shade.
an itty-bitty specimen at Carderock; it doesn’t have much soil to grow in!
It’s also an easy fern to identify, especially at this time of year, since it’s evergreen.
new fronds in late April along the Cabin John trail
In the Potomac Gorge, in January? The answer, of course, is nothing. But some plants are still displaying old seedheads or pods: wingstem, asters, goldenrods, a few grasses, American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia). The wind rustles the beech tree leaves, which will stay on the trees for a few more months. A faint green blush signals the presence of invasive exotics.
partridgeberry, rock polypody, oak leaf; December 31, 2014
Looking ’round you can see green on a few native plants: wild ginger (Asarum canadense), round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var obtusa), and the succulent leaves of wild stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) hanging on; a few broad-leaved waterleaf (Hydrophyllum canadense) and alumroot (Heuchera americana); evergreen leaves of partridgeberry (Mitchella repens); the new leaves of puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale) and cranefly (Tipularia discolor); Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and polypody (Polypodium virginianum). And of course the evergreen shrubs and trees: American holly (Ilex opaca), eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).
Depending on the weather, the first new blossoms of 2015 will be out in two or three months.
Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) budding up
March 21, 2014