Welcome to the North Tract Plant Inventory Project
Plant collection is not new to the Patuxent Research Refuge. Neil Hotchkiss and Robert Stewart conducted a preliminary survey between 1936 and 1946. In 1940, Hotchkiss published the Flora of the Patuxent Research Refuge, Maryland. In July 1947, Hotchkiss and Stewart published the results of their survey in “The American Midland Naturalist” in an article titled Vegetation of the Patuxent Refuge, Maryland.
At the time, the refuge consisted of some 4000 acres in what is now called the “Central and the South Tracts.”
Plants were collected and placed into the refuge’s herbarium. Many scientists contributed their specimens to the herbarium, with Neil Hotchkiss and Fran Uhler contributing the most number.
In 1979, William Stickel published an addendum to the 1947 list in a booklet called “Vegetation and vertebrates of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: outline of ecology and annotated lists.” This publication added several species of plants new to the refuge. The herbarium was put into a caretaker status and was maintained herbarium by Matt Perry of the USGS until about 2010.
In the early 1990’s, under the Base Relocation Act of 1990, about 8,100 acres of the then-Fort Meade was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service. This parcel of land is now known as the North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge. At the same time, the South and Central Tracts received their names. A comprehensive survey of the North Tract, like the one conducted by Hotchkiss and Stewart in the 1930’s and 1940’s and later by Stickel et al. had not been done before this project.During the summer of 2010, I started photographing plants on the North Tract just for the fun of it. By the fall, I had gotten to know the staff on the North Tract fairly well. At the same time, I wanted more access to the North Tract (non-public) and found out that would require a Special Use Permit (SUP). In the meantime, I found out about the old herbarium cabinet on the Central Tract. After talking with Matt Perry and others, I then got the idea of cataloging the plants on the North Tract since that had never been done in a systematic way.
I finally got the SUP on 1 November 2010, and I have been busy since then collecting and photographing the plants on the North Tract. After going through the original Patuxent lists, I discovered that there were numerous nomenclature issues. So, I got the idea of making a master list for the whole refuge.
This will likely be a several-year project before I draw up a final product covering the whole refuge. In the meantime, I will make a list of the ones collected on the North Tract first and go from there.
As of January 2015, we have collected over 2,200 specimens, taken over 30,000 photographs, and have identified at almost 1000 species, including about 200 new records for the refuge. My total tally for the whole refuge, which includes the original Patuxent list, is over 1200 species. We are now comparing the plants we have collected on the North Tract with those which we collected by Niel Hotchkiss, et al. In April 2015, we added a second herbarium cabinet to accommodate the additional specimens.
The refuge has been very supportive so far. They have given me volunteers to help with mounting and herbarium maintenance, and will be advertising for an intern to help within the next year. They also sprung for a new herbarium cabinet and all the supplies for collecting and mounting.
Believe it or not this is not my vocation. I have a BS degree in botany, but my career took a different direction. However, over the years, I have tried to keep up my interest in botany. I do not consider myself to be fully competent with the local flora, but I am learning. I am actually more familiar with the flora in my hometown Spokane Washington than I am with the plants around here, but that was over 40 years ago. I appreciate your offers of assistance.