11 August 2018 – Cactus in Elkridge

On the way home from Glen Arm, Maryland this morning, I stopped off at a location here in Elkridge where someone planted some prickly pear cactus evidentally many years ago.  The plants key out to Opuntia humifusa sensu stricto.

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11 August 2018 – Cactus on Factory Road

This morning I attempted re-visit a site where Clyde Reed collected some cactus in 1981 which has been determined by Opuntia expert Lucas Majure to be Opuntia cespitosa. The site was on Factory Road in Glen Arm, Maryland (Click here for Reed’s record.). The voucher label described the site as an stone outcrop.

Although I am not absolutely certain that I found the population from which Reed obtained his voucher specimen, it could be. The cactus I spotted was growing along a stone retaining wall. The morphology of these plants seems to conform with Opuntia cespitosa. I talked with the landowner Ken, and he told that his wife planted them many years ago. He believed that the original stock for the plants may have come from the nearby woods, but he was not certain.  So, the plants I spotted should be considered to be cultivated.  But the question of whether or not this species is native to Maryland is still unclear because we do not know if Reed collected his voucher from the cultivated plants I spotted this morning or if he collected his voucher from naturally occurring plants which may have been growing in the nearby woods.

Another re-visit to this site is planned for next May or June to look at the coloration of the flowers and to obtain more information about the possible native occurrence of this species in the nearby woods.

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21 July – Foraying at Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, Jug Bay

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Despite some rain, heavy at times, had a awesome time today meeting up with Joe Metzger and Karyn Molines to foray the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, Jug Bay. We hiked about one mile to an area called the “Sand Barrens” … Continue reading

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14 July 2018 – Cactus at Milt’s Sand Pit

Today Sam Droege showed me a location where some Opuntia was growing along the east side of the Patuxent River along Sands Road in Davidsonville, MD in Anne Arundel County. There were scattered patches of cactus growing along the access road at the site, but the bonanza was about ⅓ of a mile from where we parked the car on Sands Road. Cactus was all over the place. We did not have an accurate way to measure the area, but estimated the cactus covered at least 5 or 6 acres. The habitat was an old field type in clearings with sandy soil. The area was an old sand borrow pit with evidence of sand having been moved around around in the past.

The plants seem to key out to Opuntia mesacantha because the cladodes were spineless and there were three or four (not five) areoles per diagonal row. Closer examination of the plants in this population is needed and a trip to investigate the flowers is planned for next spring.

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22 September 2017 – Hidden Bog – A New Discovery

Dave standing next to a patch of sphagnum moss


Dave Anderson and I spent some time this afternoon locating a previously undocumented Magnolia seepage bog that was recently discovered by the Patuxent Research Refuge supervisory wildlife biologist Sandy Spencer and biologist John Bourne on the Refuge’s North Tract.

The area was very pristine with no noticeable infestation of exotic plant species. We estimated that the bog covered an area of about 1 or 2 acres (a more accurate measurement will be done later.)

This is a fine example of the numerous seepage bogs found on the refuge.



The following species of plants were sighted:

Clethra alnifolia
Magnolia virginiana
Nyssa sylvatica
Liquidambar styraciflua
Ilex opaca
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum
Osmunda regalis
Anchistea virginica
Carex ssp.
Quercus palustris
Pinus virginiana
Smilax glauca

A more complete inventory will be done later.  (Scroll down to see more photos of the bog.)

Sweet Bay Magnoila

Sweet Bay Magnoila

Clethra alnifolia

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6 May 2016 – Newly Discovered Plant Species for Maryland

(Click on image for larger and fuller view.)

Today, I went out to the southern border of the Refuge to checkout the area around the old USDA Beltsville Landing Strip. There were several species of weeds hanging around.  To my surprise, one of them ended up being a plant species that had not been documented for Maryland.  It is called Krigia cespitosa (Raf.) K.L. Chambers or Weedy Dwarf Dandelion.

The Weedy Dwarf Dandelion is found throughout Southeast USA, including the neighboring states of Virginia and West Virginia, so its appearance in Maryland is not surprising.  Since this plant was located at an airport historically associated with the USDA, it is very possible that it could have been introduced by an aircraft from another area. It would not be surprising if other as-of-yet-not-known species are at this site which were introduced by the same method. Another plant species new to Maryland, Lythrum hyssopifolia L. or Hyssop Loosestrife, was found near this location in June 2015.

There are three other species from the genus Krigia in Maryland – K. biflora, K. dandelion, and K. virginica. The lack of pappus in the flowering head is one of the traits which distinguishes K. cespitosa from the other three.

My original determination of this plant species has been verified by Rod Simmons and Wes Knapp.

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25 April 2017 – Forget-me-not or not – Part 2 – SUCCESS!

Last time we attempted to identify a Forget-Me-Not that was found growing in Oldtown Elkridge. (Click here to see the first part of the story.)

After looking at the key, we narrowed the possibilities down to three species – Myosotis arvensis, Myosotis discolor, and Myosotis stricta, the last three species on the key.

So today I went out to the station where we first found the plant. Of course, the flowering stems had elongated and there were more fruits. The fruiting pedicels were all shorter than the calyces. The plants were floriferous (with flowers) well below the middle of the flowering stems.  I did not see any styles extending beyond the mericarps. After running this through the key in the first blog entry, we come up with Myosotis stricta  Link ex Roem. & Schult. or Strict Forget-me-not.

CONCLUSION: sometimes you have to look at a plant at different stages to be sure of an identification.


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16 April 2017 – Mollusks Galore

Old Erie Canal (Clinton’s Ditch) on left
and the “New” Erie Canal on the right

This time we diverge from looking at plants. On our hike on the Butterfly Trail at Lock # 30, Erie Canal, Macedon, New York, we found at least four mollusks. In the first picture, you can see the “beach” where we found them. It was mostly made up of the remains of shells. We would like to know what are the exact species. If you know or can verify the exact species of these mollusks please let us know.

Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)

The first shells that we are looking at are Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). They are an aggressive invasive species throughout a large portion of North America. They were first detected inNorth America in the Detroit-Windsor area in 1988. They are considered a serious pest.

Asian Clam (Corbicula fluminea)



This one is believed to be the bivalve mollusk called the Asian Clam (Corbicula fluminea).






I have no idea what this is. For this article I am calling it a Striped Snail. This little guy was alive when we found it.




I am calling this one a Cone Snail. They are similar to some snails that we used raised in aquariums when I was younger.

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14 April 2017 – Poet’s Daffodil – Narcissus poeticus L. –

Today, I went on a botanical foray in Oldtown Elkridge concentrating on the area around the Thomas Viaduct and found several interesting exotics and even a few natives.

Pictured here is the Poet’s Daffodil – Narcissus poeticus L.  It is native to south and central Europe and had become naturalized in other parts of the world including Maryland. At this location, there were several dozen plants.

Its short yellow reddish rimmed corona is a distinctive characteristic of this species.

The origin of the name Poet’s Narcissus is not clear, but one version states that the poet Virgil wrote about a Narcissus which matched the description of this plant in his fifth Eclogue. Theosphratus (371 – c. 287 BCE), in his botanical writings wrote about a spring blooming narcissus which subsequent writers consider to be this species.


Bourne, Stephen Eugene; W. L. Foster (1903). The Book of the Daffodil. J. Lane. p. 3.

Linnaeus, Carl von. 1753. Species Plantarum 1: 289, Narcissus poeticus


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14 April 2014 – Oldtown Elkridge and Thomas Viaduct

This gallery contains 11 photos.

The venue for today’s foray took place in Oldtown Elkridge and in area of the nearby Thomas Viaduct (the world’s oldest multiple arched stone railway viaduct still in use from the early 19th century). Below, you can see some of … Continue reading

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14 April 2017 – Forget-me-not or not – Part 1

Let’s have some fun here.  This time, we will focus on the difficulty in identifying the species of plants. I found a large patch of plants next to a parking area in “Oldtown” Elkridge. It was obvious to me that they were forget-me-nots (Myosotis sp.) But I was not sure of which species it was.

So, what shall we do to figure out what species this is? For this we will consult the Myosotis key in Alan Weakley’s Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States, 2015. There are other keys avaialble, but for the purpose of this article, we will stick with this one. (See bottom of the page of the excerpt of the key).

The first choice in the key deals with the pubescence on the calyx:

1 Calyx strigose, the hairs neither spreading nor uncinate.
1 Calyx with some loose or spreading, uncinate hairs.

Okay, strigose means short and appressed, the hairs of which on our Myosotis are not. Furthermore, at least some of the calyx hairs seem to be uncinate, meaning they are like hooks. So we will go with the second one in the pair.

The next choice is as follows:

3 Corolla limb 5-8 mm wide; perennial
– OR –
3 Corolla limb 1-4 mm wide; annual or biennial.

Our plants are not perennial and the corolla limb was measured to be less than than 5 mm.  So the second one of this pair fits better.

Going down the key, this is the next choice:

4 Calyx lobes unequal, 3 lobes shorter than the other 2; corolla white; [native, of dry or moist habitats].
– OR –
4 Calyx lobes equal, all 5 the same size; corolla blue (occasionally yellow or white); [alien, mostly of dry disturbed habitats].

Right off, the corolla lobes are equal and the same size, the corolla is blue, and the habitat is disturbed. So we have to go with the second one of the pair.

Here is the next choice.

6 Fruiting pedicels equaling or generally longer than the calyx
– OR –
6 Fruiting pedicels distinctly shorter than the calyx.

Okay, this is a bit problematic. That is because the plants are in an early stage of blooming and there are not many fruiting pedicels to look at. The ones that are visible seem to be shorter than that the calyces, but the pedicels could end up being longer than the calyces as the plants mature. Identifying the plants at this point would be not much more than a guess. (There are three possibilities based on this key – Myosotis arvensis, Myosotis discolor, and Myosotis stricta.)

So for now, let’s wait for a week or two and go back to this location to see if the pedicels will be longer. (They are not going anywhere.) Then we can look at the key again. There are three possible species left in the key, and after we figure out if the pedicels stay shorter than the calyces or not, we will be able to be more confident about determining which species this is.

(Continued in Part 2)

The key for Myosotis from Weakley’s Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States, 2015.

(Used with permission of author.)

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11 April 2017 – Cerastium



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A Harbinger of Spring – Draba verna

This tiny plant called Draba verna L. is a true harbinger of spring. It is always one of the first flowers to makes its presence known each year.  In Maryland, it can usually be seen blooming as early as February, and even in January, if temperatures are warm enough like this year (2017).


This member of the Brassicaceae family has several different “common” names. The one I usually hear it called is Whitlow Grass. The name- Erophila verna – is sometimes seen as a synonym in scientific literature.


It is native to Eurasia, and most literature I have seen says it has been introduced to North America. However, Wikipedia, without quoting a source, says it is now considered to be a native to North America. I have not found a source that validates this. If you know of such a source please let me know. At the very least, it is naturalized to North America.

It is found on the refuge in disturbed areas like the edge of parking lots, roads, and other open areas where there is bare soil. It is a highly variable species generally growing from about 1 inch to 3 inches tall. I have seen it attaining heights of over 6 inches in favorable conditions.




It is a hardy little guy that can truly be called a harbinger of spring.

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8 April 2017 – Spring Wildflower Walk

Little Patuxent River from the River Trail

Today, the Little Patuxent River Trail located on the North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge was the scene for a spring wildflower walk sponsored by the Refuge.

Virginia Bluebells among Lesser Celandine

We identified a total of 32 species of plants and one species of lichen. (See list below). The bluebells put on an especially nice display. We did notice that the invasive Lesser Celandine took over more of the area compared to last year.

Looking at a Spicebush.

After the walk along the River Trail, we drove down to the Chickasaw Plum grove. In addition to the Chickasaw Plum we saw some Devil’s Tongue Cactus (Opuntia humifusa.)

A good time was had by all.


Flowers/Plants identified.

  1. Acer negundo L. – Boxelder
  2. Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. – Mouseear Cress
  3. Cardamine hirsuta L. – Hairy Bittercress
  4. Carpinus caroliniana Walter – American Hornbeam
  5. Cerastium sp. – Mouse-ear Chickweed
  6. Cercis canadensis L. – Eastern Redbud
  7. Claytonia virginica L. – Virginia Spring Beauty
  8. Corydalis flavula (Raf.) DC. – Yellow Fumewort
  9. Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh. – Dutchman’s Breeches
  10. Draba verna L. – Whitlow Grass
  11. Erythronium americanum Ker Gawl. – Dogtooth Violet
  12. Ficaria verna Huds. – Lesser Celandine
  13. Floerkea proserpinacoides Willd. – False Mermaidweed
  14. Glechoma hederacea L. – Ground Ivy
  15. Hydrophyllum virginianum L. – Eastern Waterleaf
  16. Lamium purpureum L. – Purple Deadnettle
  17. Lindera benzoin (L.) Blume – Northern Spicebush
  18. Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link – Virginia Bluebells
  19. Micranthes virginiensis (Michaux) Small – Early Saxifrage
  20. Opuntia humifusa (Raf.) Raf. – Devil’s Tongue
  21. Packera aurea (L.) Á. Löve & D. Löve – Golden Ragweed
  22. Poa annua L. – Annual Blue Grass
  23. Polystichum acrostichoides (Michx.) Schott – Christmas Fern
  24. Prunus angustifolia Marshall – Chickasaw Plum
  25. Prunus cf. americana Marshall – American Plum
  26. Symplocarpus foetidus (L.) Salisb. ex W.P.C. Barton – Skunk Cabbage
  27. Taraxacum officinale F.H. Wigg. – Common Dandelion
  28. Veronica hederifolia L. – Ivyleaf Speedwell
  29. Veronica persica Poir. – Birdeye Speedwell
  30. Viola bicolor Pursh – American Field Pansy
  31. Viola eriocarpon (Nutt.) Schwein. – Downy Yellow Violet
  32. Viola sororia Willd. – Common Blue Violet

Cladonia cristatella Tuck. – British Soldiers

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8 April 2017 – American Field Pansy – Viola bicolor

The American Field Pansy (Viola bicolor Pursh) is found throughout the eastern part of North America with a small number of outlying populations reported from the west. It is commonly found on the Refuge on all three tracts in open disturbed areas like the old firing ranges and powerline right-of-ways.

This species, with its dainty little flower, is distinguished from another annual Viola species found in Maryland (Viola arvensis Murray) by its petals which well surpassing its sepals. The flower’s five petals are usually white to a pale purple with darker stripes radiating from the flowers center, and are all the same color. The American Field Pansy is similar to Johnny Jump-ups (Viola tricolor.) The petals on that species are variously colored commonly with the lower three petals cream-white and upper two purple-black.

As is the case with other species, past controversy surrounds this one. The debate was over whether or not it was introduced from the Old World as a variety of Viola kitabeliana. Currently most botanists accept this as a separate species native to North America. A synonym for this plant is Viola rafinesquei Greene.

It is in full bloom in Maryland right now. See if you can find it.


  1. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 20+ vols. New York and Oxford.
  2. Viola bicolor“. NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Accessed 8 April 2017.
  3. Weakley, A.S. 2012. Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. UNC Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 1225 pp.
  4. Weakley, Ludwig, and Townsend. 2012. The Flora of Virginia.
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7 April 2017 – Azure Bluets – Houstonia caerulea

Found a sizable patch of  Azure Bluets (Houstonia caerulea L.) in full bloom on the Central Tract today, 7 April. It is differentiated from the similar looking Tiny Bluets (Houstonia pusilia) by its basally disposed leaves. Tiny bluets’s flowering stems are more branched and the leaves are less basally disposed. There are also some subtle differences in the measurements of the floral structures.

Azure Bluets are native in Eastern North America from Ontario and Newfoundland in the North, and from Louisiana and Florida in the south.  There are scattered populations as far west as Oklahoma.  They are fairly common in well-drained open fields and disturbed areas throughout the Refuge.


Weakley, A.S.2015. Flora of the Southern and Mid–Atlantic States. Working draft of 21 May 2015. Univ. of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU), Chapel Hill. <http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm>


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5 April 2017 – How to Identify Erythronium americanum

Petals with ears at the base, style, and dimple-less ovary

Today, I went to the refuge’s North Tract to look for some Yellow Dogtooth Violets or Trout Lilies (Erythronium) to take some pictures of the inner floral parts for identification purposes. According to the available literature, Erythronium americanum has two “ears” (or auricles) at the base of the petals (inner three tepals) and the ovary is dimple-less. The detail on these photos fit that description. For the record, although I did not take a photo of the anthers, they contained yellow pollen.

Another yellow Erythronium that is reportedly found in Maryland (Erythronium umbilicatum) does not have “ears” (or auricles) at the base of the petals and the ovary/seed capsule has a dimple at the apex. Who will be the first one to find this species in Maryland?


The auricles (“ears”) at the base of the petals is clearly visible in the blue box. This means the plant is Erythronium americanum.

As of 7 April, I have examined over 30 Erythonium plants on the Refuge’s North Tract and Central Tract. They all had auricles, meaning they are all Erythronium americanum.



  1. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 20+ vols. New York and Oxford.
  2. Weakley, A.S. 2012. Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. UNC Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 1225 pp.
  3. Weakley, Ludwig, and Townsend. 2012. The Flora of Virginia.
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4 April 2017 – Tiny Pants on Tiny Plants

Dutchman’s Breeches – Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh. is favorite of those who are familiar with spring ephemeral wildflowers because if one uses their imagination, little man in pants hanging upside down can be envisioned when looking at the flowers. No wonder the forest is the setting for many a fairy tale.



Dutchman’s Breeches are found in Eastern North America and believe it or not, in isolated naturally occurring populations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. They grow best in bottomland forests and adjacent areas. On the Refuge, they are common along both the Patuxent River and the Little Patuxent River.



The plant is similar to Squirrel Corn – Dicentra canadensis (L.) Bernh. The flower spurs on Dutchman’s Breeches are more pointed that the ones on Squirrel Corn. The leaves on Squirrel Corn are generally more finely dissected. In both species, the “down” end of the flowers contain the reproductive parts.

Native Americans used the plant for medicinal purposes.



  1. “Dicentra cucullaria”. Flora of North America (FNA). Missouri Botanical Garden – via eFloras.org. Accessed 8 April 2017
  2.  “Dicentra cucullaria”. NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Accessed 8 April 2017.
  3. Weakley, A.S.2015. Flora of the Southern and Mid–Atlantic States. Working draft of 21 May 2015. Univ. of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU), Chapel Hill. <http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm>
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4 April 2017 – Yellow Fumewort

Yellow Fumewort – Corydalis flavula (Raf.) DC. – is another spring bloomer that is a denizen of bottomland woods and adjacent areas and is commonly found in parts of Eastern North America. As typical of a member of the Papaveraceae family (poppy) it contains a large number of alkaloids. It ranges from Ontario in the north, the Eastern Seaboard on the east, the Gulf Coast on the south, and Nebraska and Kansas on the West. It is conspicuously absent from New England except for a small number of populations in Connecticut.

Yellow fumewort’s flowers are bilaterally oriented and its leaves are finely dissected. The seed pod is pendant and contains several seeds.

It is found in the Refuge’s bottomland woods.

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3 April 2017 – Chickasaw Plum – How to Identify

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