3.14.2011

Swamp Paddle

Last week was crazy busy in the ranger world. It started with two hundred third graders and ended with three interpretive hikes on Saturday. In between there were presentations to peers and numerous spontaneous programs for park visitors. After a week like that it was nice to have a beautiful Sunday off. We got up dark and early (thanks to the hated Daylight Saving Time) and headed to the millpond. A couple of friends from Raleigh had asked Treebeard to guide them up through the swamp to the virgin cypress. You might think that after a week full of interpretation the last thing I would want to do would be to go along -- but you'd be wrong ;)

 
A bit of shore line in the morning sun. 
The day was warm with a mix of sun and clouds.  It was a tad breezy, but not too bad.
See that reddish color on the water right along the shore?

 
It was a patch of mosquito fern dotted with green duckweed.
Mosquito fern, Azolla caroliniana, is a native aquatic fern. I've written about it before on this blog, but I'm too lazy to go back and create a link for you.  Blame the time change.


Throughout the pond and swamp one finds a little green fern making itself at home on tree trunks and along branches.  It is known as resurrection fern, Pleopeltis polypodioides ssp. michauxiana.
 
When conditions are dry, the fronds curl up and turn brown.

 
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When humidity levels are acceptable, fronds unfurl and green up.

 
The "polypodioides" portion of the name refers to the "many-footed" creeping nature of the plant's growth habit.


I took one quick shot of Treebread showing Bill, Stephanie, and the intrepid Silva (the little dog that you can barely see) one of the big trees in the swamp.  I've written about this tree numerous times.  It is a baldcypress that is over 1000 years old.  We measured it a few years back and it had a circumference of 28 ft 3 in.  It is still growing and producing cones.
 
This picture doesn't do the tree justice.  You really need to see it and touch it to fully appreciate it.


We stopped for lunch around mid-day.  There is a little island in the swamp that provides the perfect spot for a picnic.  While we were eating lunch we had a visit from an island native...
 
This rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta, was quite calm -- the picture above is not a zoom shot.

 
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The island is also home to a small population of the only trillium that grows in our area, the Virginia Least Trillium (Trillium pusillum var. virginianum)
 
The flowers are small and can be difficult to find among the leaf litter, but it's worth the time it takes to locate them.

When we headed back out onto the pond we saw this little fellow in the transition zone.  It's a small brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota) hanging out among the wicked thorns of a swamp rose (Rosa palustris).  It's still a little cool for the water snakes to be very active.  In another couple of weeks these guys will be everywhere.
 


After about seven hours of paddling it was time for our friends to pack up and head out.  Treebeard and I headed home too, but we weren't ready to go inside.  Instead, we wandered around our property to see what we could see.
 
We found violets (Viola sp.) and johnny-jump-ups (Viola bicolor) blooming...

 
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leaves of may apples (Podophyllum peltatum) making their way out...
 
male flowers on musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) waiting for the female flowers to appear...
 

buds on the sassafras (Sassafras albidum) ready to burst...
 

and black cherry (Prunus serotina var. serotina) leaves and flower buds getting bigger.


Yes, it was a very good day.


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10 comments:

Ellen Rathbone said...

LOVE the new header photo!

Spring spring spring! Spring days bring busy days for those of us in the nature field. Life is good.

Kat said...

THANK you, THANK you, THANK you!

swamp4me said...

Thanks, Ellen. I really liked that snake ;)

Kat,
You are most welcome. Hang in there - I have confidence that things will improve for you. You will make it through this difficult time.

Floridacracker said...

That was an excellent day.

swamp4me said...

FC,
It was that! And thanks for the pepper seeds :)

Ontario Wanderer said...

Lovely to see all the green, the flowers, the snakes. The warmer weather should soon arrive here in Ontario. Most of the snow is gone now but we seem to get a new snowfall every few days so I guess its not gone for good.

KaHolly said...

I would imagine, if you are anything like me, and it seems you are, that a day of paddling through spring's delights would be very restorative after a long hard week!! What an excellent adventure. That little trillium is sweet, and trilliums being one of my favorite spring ephemerals, I'm glad in Maine we have a couple of different varieties to feast our eyes upon. That's like, as you say, we've hunted them down. Scouring the forest floor is one of the best parts of enjoying spring ephemerals!! This was a wonderful post, full of things I wouldn't ordinarily see. ~karen

Sybil said...

I only need to wait a month or two to see these same marvellous sights ... minus the snakes. They seem to be shier here in Nova Scotia.

Beautiful, informative Post.

Sybil
Eastern Passage, NS

knapperbill said...

Looks like a great place to paddle! I'd say that rat snake had his eye on you! Great photos all the way around and looks like a great trip.

Bill

swamp4me said...

Hi Bill,
The millpond is a great place to paddle. There is always something new to see -- even after 31 years of paddling there.