Sunday, April 23, 2017

Road Trip 2017 - Part 2

Leaving Kansas City we made our way east toward St. Louis then drive south along the Mississippi toward Snake Road in Shawnee National Forest.  We arrived late morning and the first thing that struck me was the lack of herper-types there...we had the place to ourselves.  This turned out to not be ideal as 2 sets of eyes spotting snakes is not nearly as effective as the perhaps 15 sets of eyes I had imagined.

Larue Road, otherwise known as Snake Road
Ken Burrell had mentioned I should listen for Louisiana Waterthrush, and moments after stepping out of the vehicle...

 This Red-bellied Snake was the first snake we spotted, no Timber Rattlesnake, but hey.

Cave Salamader was a new one for me, these little guys can be found in the crevices of damp caves.  They tended to be a little camera shy, receding back into the cracks when spotted.

The odonates, including this Common Baskettail were out in modest numbers.

I bounded down the road after this Zebra Swallowtail, a lifer and a nice looking butterfly.

It seemed like Fringed Phacelia (Phacelia fimbriata), the white flowers in this photo, was the plant getting all the pollinator attention that day.

Phlox and Phacelia
Try as I might to find Harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa) in bloom, I could only spot a few vegetative plants.  The spiky brown fruit in this photo belongs to American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), imagine stepping on one of those in your lawn!

Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor)

Walking Fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum) on the face of the bluff.

Wild Hops (Humulus lupulus)
 It became clear to me within 5 minutes of arriving that although being at a spot known for snakes, I was going to spend a lot of time looking at the plant life.  This picture shows a nice rocky embankment of Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)...not too shabby!

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) in flower.  Large clonal populations grow along the roadside.
 I think the highlight of the day for me was spotting this budding flower which I recognized as Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) from my time spent on Pelee Island each May.

The plants on Pelee Island in May are typically clumps of basal leaves just beginning to send up a flowering stem.  I had never seen this species in flower before, so I was pretty excited to look up a slope and find a couple hundred of these!

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