Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mammoth Botany in Kentucky

I thought I should post photos from the Kentucky portion of my trip (back in April), before things get too busy.

In order to break up the drive down to the Smoky Mountains, and to enjoy the food and drink offerings of Kentucky, Alyssa and I stayed a few nights in Louisville.  We had a blast, a really fun, mid-size city with alot going on.

On our second day we decided to drive about an hour south towards Nashville to check out Mammoth Cave National Park.  It's known to be the longest cave system in the world, our park guide told us there were about 25 known entrances to the cave, about half of which had been created with dynamite.  There's so much history in the caves, I can't go into detail here, but I will say if you're in the area, the park is a must see.

Here are a few shots of the cave:

So we enjoyed the cave tour, it was a warm day and it was nice to descend into the earth and relax in the cool, damp air.

What I didn't know, was that a stroll we would take afterwards on a 2km loop trail would turn out to be some the best botanizing I've ever experienced!  I guess it's all relative, what's common to Kentucky versus Ontario, but the stuff we were seeing every few steps, holy mackerel!

 Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)

I'm a sucker for Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)

The main entrance to Mammoth Cave, down at the mouth of the cave the air was probably 10°C and a notable breeze exiting the cave. 

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) in full bloom, some sections of trail were just lined with flowering stems.  I've always found it interesting that it flowers almost completely before leaf-out.

Broad Beech Fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera)
 My first wild Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)

The orchid-like flower of Ohio Buckeye.  Niiice.

Walking Fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum), a neat fern which sets root from the tips of the fronds, thus "walking" over rock faces.

Alyssa: "Hey what's this yellow flower over here?"
Me: "Oh $#!+"

Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum).  In Ontario there are 3 known populations in and around London and Ilderton, a couple years back I counted maybe 400 at one of the populations.  Very cool to stumble upon it here. 

 Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera)

Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne). 

River Cane (Arundinaria gigantea)  A native bamboo was definitely not on my radar when we started this hike!  There are 2 other species found in the southeastern US, predominantly the in the Carolinas.
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), I bounded through a tonne of muddy Sycamore floodplain chasing this one down before it finally stopped briefly.

Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) wasn't yet in flower but I grabbed a photo of the distinctive stems.

Sure, why not through in some Harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa).  This member of the carrot family is uncommon in Ontario and one of the first blooms come spring.  I sometimes wonder if it's just under-reported, being 5-10cm tall and blooming when very few people are out looking at wildflowers.

Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)

Virginia Iris (Iris virginica)

The muddy waters of the Green River.

Hey what other Ontario rarities have we not seen yet today?
Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor) Bam!

Fire Pink (Silene virginica) was an eye catcher, especially perched on rock faces like this one.  I have Royal Catchfly (Silene regia) in my garden that is loving the rain we're getting right now.

Another one not on my radar at all, American Columbo (Frasera caroliniensis).  This Ontario rarity is found in and around Hamilton and Brantford area.  There are about a dozen species of Frasera, this is the only one occurring in eastern North America.

We lucked out and found a flowering stalk.  I know for many of the populations in Ontario you see very few basal rosettes go to flower each year, form one population I visit annually you might expect 5% to bloom.  I believe the plants live/bloom in a cycle that runs about 7 years.

Carolina Vetch (Vicia caroliniana)

And we can't forget the Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) which dappled the slopes in white.  With this song in mind, I don't know how many times I sang "Pickin' me a boo-kay a dogwood flowers". 

A Luna Moth (Actias luna) I spotted basking on a wall.

A few photos of a side trip we made to the Woodford Reserve bourbon distillery.  The limestone buildings were beautifully constructed, and the bourbon wasn't half bad either!

Fermenter tanks made of Kentucky's state tree, Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).

Barrels stored in one of the rack houses.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Looking for Licorice, no dice.

Back in March I wrote a post about a historic plant record that I planned to follow up on this year.  The plant, Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) was known from a 1902 record on an island in the Grand River near the border of Waterloo and Brant Counties, "4 miles below Galt" to be exact.

Alyssa and I packed a lunch, donned chest waders, forded the Grand and spent a couple of hours searching the island.  As this post title suggests, we didn't have any luck.  That's not to say that it no longer occurs on the island, but in a spot subject to seasonal inundation, ice scour and, as it turns out, a tonne of Garlic Mustard, Bouncing Bet and a couple of well-fed deer, I don't have much hope that it's still there.

Break [need to dispose of this dog tick crawling up my leg]
Crossing the river, gonna put my brand new butterfly net to work.

A nice view southward toward Glen Morris from the southern tip of the island.  A couple of Spotted Sandpiper were foraging on the island spit to the left, Warbling Vireo, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Baltimore Oriole provided the soundtrack for the morning.

The open areas were dominated by Bouncing Bet, Late Goldenrod and American Stinging Nettle. 

Beneath a canopy of Sycamore, mostly Garlic Mustard and more nettle.

This area, probably totaling 0.1ha in size, seemed to me the most likely place for Wild Licorice, I spent a good while here looking for the vetch-like, deep green leaves or the bur-like seed heads from last year, but came up empty-handed.  Assuming the topography/form of the island hasn't changed too much since 1902, I would hazard a guess that the licorice would have occurred in this high-and-dry opening.

Oh well, it was worth a shot.

There were a few locally interesting species including Moonseed (Menispermum canadense).  A vine with bluntly lobed leaves; you can often find this along rivers or in wet thickets.

 Tonnes of Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). 

Carpenter's Square (Scrophularia marilandica) grows in among the Sycamore, the second photo shows the 90 degree square stems which give the plant it's common name.

 White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima).  Which always brings this song to mind.

Silvery Cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea) grows along the active banks of the island and thrives on disturbed soils.

 A couple of isolated pools were chock full of tadpoles.

I bought a few glass vials with my butterfly net; as it turns out the glare on glass makes for crap photos so here I try to lure the duskywing out and back into the net.
   Based on my resources I'm going with Juvenal's Duskywing but if anyone thinks otherwise feel free to leave a comment.  I'm new to this.

Alyssa and I headed down to Paris for an ice cream cone at Chocolate Sensations then hiked another trail for a couple of hours.  This trail follows the last couple of kilometers of the Nith River before it meets the Grand.  When we finally got to the good stuff, rich deciduous forest slopes, bluffs, and limestone flats, it was looking like rain and we were starting to feel a bit tired.  For another time.