Journal archives for July 2018

July 21, 2018

Ferns and Lycophytes of Muddy Run

After finishing work with Morgan on the morning of the 15th, I decided to turn northward along the Susquehanna to look for a different set of ferns. The mica-schist ranges of the River Hills provide dry, acid rock crevices, judiciously fed by seepage permeating through the outcrops, which favor Asplenium montanum and its allopolyploid descendants A. bradleyi and A. pinnatifidum. In the early 20th century, the hybrid A. × gravesii (A. bradleyi × pinnatifidum) was several times reported, but A. bradleyi itself is pretty hard to find these days. I know of some good spleenwort sites on local preserves, such as Kelly's Run and Tucquan Glen, but I also wanted to seek out some less-visited areas that might still harbor undiscovered treasures.

First, I checked on a known locality on the York County side of the river; a fallen tree made it tricky to access part of the site, but A. pinnatifidum and its backcross with A. montanum, A. × trudellii, were still occupying their familiar ledges, together with the usual tufts of A. montanum tucked into dry ledges and an A. platyneuron above in the woods.

From there, I headed up the river to visit the Muddy Run Wildlife Management Area. Muddy Run, a historic locality for spleenworts, has been dammed to form a pumped storage reservoir. However, the valley below the reservoir is not only preserved, but publicly accessible.

My initial foray down-valley seemed disappointing. Unlike the narrow gorges at Tucquan Glen or Benton Hollow, there didn't seem to be much outcrop in the hillsides. Ferns were the pretty standard woodland ones of the area; I didn't find marginal wood fern, a common haunter of rocky hillsides, until much further downvalley, testifying to the deeper soils.

As I bushwhacked around on the steep slopes downvalley, trying to avoid bouncing several hundred feet downhill onto the Port Road, outcrops and a xeric, acid forest began to reveal themselves. The reptiles were out in force, a box turtle and garter snake making their appearance. After photographing a chestnut stump sprout near a large outcropping, I tracked down some A. montanum in its crevices. There wasn't much else around...until I found a smaller outcrop nearby that was hosting a nice small colony of A. pinnatifidum. Dutifully crossing a valley and inspecting some more outcrops, I finally found the real prize of the day: a new station for A. bradleyi. It was probably known to the old-timers, but not reported anytime recently. Sadly, I didn't see any little plantlets around it; just an evergreen tuft clinging to its little niche in the schist. Still, it's always thrilling to be able to report another example of this rare fern.

Posted on July 21, 2018 23:16 by choess choess | 23 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 22, 2018

Field and fen at Franklin Parker

Having been blessed with an excess of energy at the beginning of the summer, I went out in the field again on June 16 on a trip organized by the Mt Cuba Center, and led by Emily Tinalli and Renee Kemmerer, to see some typical New Jersey Pine Barrens flora at the Franklin Parker Preserve.

We started off outside the preserve, examining a roadside patch of candyroot (orange milkwort). A wet ditch nearby held a variety of other interesting plants, including bog clubmoss and bushy bluestem. Entering the preserve, we followed a sand road across the old CNJ Southern Division, picking up typical dry-habitat species like bearberry, pine barren sandwort, and goat's rue. Thanks to directions (and transport) from Mark Szutarski, we got to examine a field nearby which held a spectacular specimen of clasping milkweed.

A wetland below one of the former cranberry bogs held a nice example of Sparganium americanum (bur-reed), with its distinctive infructescences. Our path led us through typical pitch pine-scrub oak forest, with a varied and mostly ericaceous understory, to a fen on the branch that drains the eastern portion of the old bogs into the West Branch of the Wading. A few rose pogonias were still blooming, and the bladderworts are in flower. Encouraged to explore the fen, we cautiously brachiated from white-cedar to white-cedar, finding Sabatia difformis blooming and Lophiola aurea under way. Perhaps the best find was a single Narthecium americanum, the yellow asphodel--extirpated from the rest of its range (where it never seems to have had more than a tenuous footing in historical times), its beautiful yellow spikes are no longer to be seen except in the watersheds of a few Pine Barrens rivers.

The herps were also on hand: I spotted a carpenter frog happily bobbing in the cedar water, and a green frog sheltering near some sundews at water's edge. (Sadly, no picture of the king snake that swam up to join the action shortly after Emily plunged into the fen.) The hot trek back along the old bog edges did reveal a Nuttallanthus canadensis popping up in the dry sand.

I went over to Webb's Mill afterwards and shot a few pictures I haven't logged yet, but by then I was out of water and ready to go home. Still, a good day, and an interesting return to the Pine Barrens after several years away.

Posted on July 22, 2018 03:07 by choess choess | 26 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment