Journal archives for June 2018

June 17, 2018

State Line Adiantum, Day 2

June 13 was humid and cloudy. Morgan and I started at Nottingham County Park, where a logging operation is underway to remove pitch pine snags from the "front country". Fortunately, the Feldspar and Buck Trails remained open, giving us a path to maidenhair country.

We started by wading up Black Run from the Feldspar Trail to examine some small streamside colonies. Then we backtracked, went up the Feldspar Trail, and after a brief detour to examine the Mystery Hole, cut across Firebreak 10 and the serpentine seep to reach a streamside site on the Buck Trail. While Morgan was doing site assessment and soil samples, I explored down the length of Victory Run and documented a number of Adiantum pedatum colonies. The species is more abundant in the park than I had realized; perhaps it's less visible because there are fewer trails along drainages when compared to Goat Hill. The streamside was otherwise not especially interesting, except for a few rattlesnake ferns (Botrypus virginianus). A Chamaelirium luteum turned up near the site; I haven't yet found a site of high local density for these as at Goat Hill.

After a brief lunch, we ran southwest for Pilot Barrens, examining the perimeter of the two openings on the site, particularly the western one. Maidenhair was reasonably common in shaded areas; we had a false start near the entrance, and then found a larger and more interesting patch an an area of grassland reverting to greenbrier and brush. Here, there was essentially no canopy, and the maidenhairs growing on the side of a small gully had rotated their ultimate segments out of the plane of the blade, presumably a response to reduce sun exposure. Some daytime moths and odonates were present on the site; in addition to the usual skimmers, etc., I found a clubtail (ID'd by @scottking as a black-shouldered spinyleg) in a stiltgrass meadow near the Conowingo Creek. A small box turtle turned up in the brushy area.

One of the trees in the savanna forming the eastern opening appears to be a tupelo; not unknown on the barrens, but a little surprising to me in a savanna. On closer examination, the slopes around the eastern opening also proved to be rich in maidenhair ferns, disclosing one patch so large we decided to return for it on another day.

Posted on June 17, 2018 19:35 by choess choess | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

State Line Adiantum, Day 1

My long-standing obsession with Adiantum pedatum on the State Line serpentine barrens has, in a sense, paid off. Morgan Southgate at UVM, who has been studying the entire A. pedatum complex on and around serpentine in Vermont, came south this week to survey and sample maidenhair from various sites on the barrens. I came along to point out some of the more interesting sites and identify local flora.

Our first day in the field was June 12, which we spent at Goat Hill Barrens. The first site surveyed was not far from the Rose Trail, on the upper waters of Pine Run. This is fairly typical habitat for Adiantum in the barrens; streamside in thicker alluvial soils, in a pine-red maple-catbrier or oak-red maple-catbrier forest where serpentine character is relatively limited. Saw the caterpillar of a definite tussock moth (Orgyia definita) near the site; common, but new for me, and carrying the interesting bristles characteristic of the genus.

We took a long loop through some of the forests and grasslands to the northwest of the powerline cut to see some of the characteristic serpentine flora, including quill-leaved fameflower (Phemeranthus teretifolius), which seems to be having a good year this year on various barrens (not yet blooming, though). Our path crossed a valley between two grasslands which abounds in fairy-wand (Chamaelirium luteum), now in spectacular bloom, and also contains some A. pedatum crawling some distance up the slopes in the forest. We emerged at the old magnesite quarry, where a population of maidenhair growing on the near-vertical slope of the mine dump was chosen for Site 2. A monarch butterfly was seen alighting nearby.

After carrying out the floral survey for Site 2, we backtracked towards a property corner below grassland 86, where a canopy gap near the stream shed light on a large, dense patch of maidenhair. (We also saw a nice Ophioglossum vulgatum site, discovered by Janet Novak in 2015, in the vicinity.) This was chosen as Site 3, and Morgan worked on surveying it as I left the field to go teach.

Posted on June 17, 2018 17:35 by choess choess | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 19, 2018

State Line Adiantum, Day 3

June 14 was warmer and sunny, but less humid than the preceding day, with a bit of a breeze. Our destination today was the Cliffs of the Octoraro, where the maidenhairs join the other flora described by Pennell on the steep, rather stiltgrass-infested slopes above the creek. On the way, I was pleased to see that a mystery I noticed last year had broken into flower: it proved to be fly poison, Amianthium muscaetoxicum.

The setting at the cliffs is very interesting: a fairly rich forest with basswood growing in the soil brought down by the Octoraro, at the foot of the serpentine slope. Walking fern grows on mossy boulders of serpentine, and I saw foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) growing at the edge of the creek. While inspecting the spleenworts (I'm still hopeful that a Scott's spleenwort will someday appear), I found an ebony spleenwort with an unusually shaped pinnae, perhaps damaged during growth.

After finishing the site assessment, we retraced our steps and proceeded to the magnesite quarry, where Morgan finished the assessment of the mine dump site while I made my way home by way of the powerline cut.

Posted on June 19, 2018 04:35 by choess choess | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

State Line Adiantum, Day 4

My last day in the field with Morgan was Friday, June 15. We returned to Pilot Barrens to capture an enormous patch of maidenhair fern in the shade at the edge of a grassland. Pilot is regularly fire-maintained, and has a beautiful, diverse array of serpentine grassland species, including some large, dense patches of few-flowered nutrush (Scleria pauciflora). I captured a few of them in observations: the ragwort and lobelia are just going out now but still make a lovely yellow-and-pale blue display. Fameflower is present on some exposed sites, but does not yet seem to be blooming.

The visit captured some interesting species. I found a shrub that may be shrubby St. John's wort (Hypericum proliferum) and a meadow spikemoss (Selaginella apoda or S. eclipes). I saw the latter on a barrens for the first time last month at Chrome. Maybe I've just been overlooking it, but it's interesting to see a lycophyte on the barrens. Normally we only see ground-cedar (Diphasiastrum digitatum) in piny woods over serpentine. Finally, and most interestingly, I found what seemed to be 3 stalks of wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum), which I see on occasion at Nottingham. This turns out to be SH for Maryland! I'll be going back to get better pictures and a more extensive survey.

All in all, a highly productive (7 sites in 3.5 days) visit which I hope will extend our knowledge of maidenhair fern ecology.

Posted on June 19, 2018 18:13 by choess choess | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment