23 June 2015 – Eastern Box Turtle in Distress

DSC00989This male Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina (L.) Bell ssp. carolina) was trying to get across the hot pavement, but he was running around in circles. It was hard taking these pictures, it was like he didn’t know which way to go. The air temperature was about 95 degrees and I am sure the pavement was even warmer. After I took some quick snaps, I helped him find his way.

DSC00987They are a hinged-shell turtle, meaning that front and back of the plastron (bottom shell) are hinged and close up when they sense they are in danger. The plastron on males are concave to make facilitate mounting a female when mating. Also, the eyes of males are red-orange while the female’s eyes are brownish. This one was obviously male because of his eyes.

DSC00985They range in the USA from Maine to Florida on the east, and the Great Lakes to Texas on the West. They are a true land turtle spending virtually all of their time on land. They can live over 100 years in the wild.

DSC00988Their populations are dwindling mainly due to loss of habitat, the pet trade, and road kill. This little guy was obviously in distress, presumably because of the heat. I feel good about helping him cross the road.

They are a fun critter and are probably the most commonly seen turtle on the roads on the refuge.

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20 June 2015 – Duvall Bridge

(Photo above: new planking on the bridge)

Plaque on the bridge

Plaque on the bridge



A bridge has existed at this location since the early 1800’s. The current structure was built in 1907 and was closed to traffic in 2009 due to its deteriorating condition. Renovation began in 2013 and it was re-opened in early 2015.


On bridge looking downstream

On bridge looking downstream




The bridge ties the North Tract and Central Tract together, and with its re-opening travel time between the two tracts will be cut by up to 45 minutes.

Bridge - looking north from south side

Bridge – looking north from south side

The historic road that is carried by this bridge is called Telegraph Road (It is also called Duvall Bridge Road near the bridge.) Telegraph Road is famous for being the road along which the wire between Baltimore and Washington, DC which carried Samuel Morse’s first telegraphic message in 1844.

Paw Paw patch next to bridge

Paw Paw patch next to bridge



For even more detailed information about this historic bridge, you can refer to the Jan-Mar 2015 edition of the Friends of Patuxent Newsletter, page 4

On bridge looking upstream

On bridge looking upstream

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20 June 2015 – Milkweed Meadow



This meadow on the Central Tract is located along Beech Forest Drive near where the powerlines cross MD 197 and as far as I can determine is the largest field of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) on the refuge.



I am not sure of the meadow’s maintenance history, but it is has developed into an ideal location for Milkweed. You can bet that this is probably an ideal place to look for the Monarch Butterfly. The size of the meadow is truly impressive.



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20 June 2015 – Worm Plots

DSC00968The worm plots are historically significant because of the role they played in DDT research. In the 1960’s, researchers at the USGS’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center conducted research on the effect that certain pesticides had on raptors. Rachel Carson in her 1962 book suggested that these pesticides were causing serious harm to the environment and to humans. The research conducted here seemed to confirm her suggestion. One of the areas researched by the USGS researchers was on the uptake of DDT by earthworms which are eaten by birds such as robins.  The research found that even after 45 years in 2011, the residue of DDT could still be found in the soil at these worm plots.

For more information, see the article written in the Friends of Patuxent Newsletter of January-March 2012 – http://friendsofpatuxent.org/images/JanMar12v23n1.pdf

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20 June 2015 – Whooping Crane Observatory

(Above photo: Two whooping Cranes at Patuxent Research Refuge.)

The Patuxent Research Refuge is home to the USGS’s (United States Geological Survey’s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. One of the on-going projects conducted by the USGS there is the Whooping Crane Captive Breeding Program.
DSC00924This actual area where the program is being conducted is not open to the general public. However, the Whooping Crane Observatory is open to visitors by permission and only on special occasions. The cranes involved with the breeding program are kept away from human contact, even from the many of the staff because they are very sensitive to human disturbance. It is my understanding that the two cranes on display and pictured here have been habituated to humans.


Since I only had my macro lens with me, I could not get a clear shot of the cranes. A good telephoto lens would have made the job easier.  Maybe another time.



Reference: Wildlife Festival marks opening of crane observatory at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Click on link for full article that appeared in the Baltimore Sun.)

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20 June 2015 – Mallard Pond


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20 June 2015 – Snowden Pond




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20 June 2015 – Knowles Marsh 3



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20 June 2015 – Knowles Marsh 2


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20 June 2015 – Knowles Marsh 1


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20 June 2015 – Little American Toad






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20 June 2015 – Gerronema strombodes

DSC00904Spotted this interesting mushroom along Mill Race Road just past the swamp. They were growing all over the woods from the humus soil. I can’t seem to find a common name for it, but its scientific name is Gerronema strombodes. In some references, it has been called Chrysomphalina strombodes, Omphalia strombodes and Clitocybe strombodes.



It is saprobic, meaning that it feeds on the deadwood of hardwoods and conifers. Its gills run down the stem.




It is found in the Southeastern USA.

This mushroom’s edibility is uncertain, but at least one states that it is edible. Depending on the person, it has a mild or bitter taste, and its odor is mild or faintly sweet.


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19 June 2015 – This evening’s visitors to our porch

Snout moth - possibly Double-banded Grass Veneer

Snout moth – possibly Double-banded Grass Veneer


Dolichomia olinalis. Yellow-Fringed Dolichomia

Dolichomia olinalis. Yellow-Fringed Dolichomia

Dolichomia olinalis. Yellow-Fringed Dolichomia

Dolichomia olinalis. Yellow-Fringed Dolichomia

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19 June 2015 -Common Pug – a Type of Inch Worm


As I was driving away today at the refuge, I spotted an inch worm on my arm. So I decided to take a few photos of it. It is apparently called a common pug (Eupithecia miserulata), a moth of the family Geometridae.








Inch worms are the larvae of moths of the family Geometridae. There are over 1,200 species of inch worms native to North America. I have no idea which species this one is.

They have six legs on the front end, and four grasping appendages on the rear end. Since they don’t have appendages in the middle of their body, they move around by their characteristic inching gait.

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19 June 2015 – Great Spangled Fritillary

DSC00850Several individuals of this beautiful butterfly, called the Great Spangled Fritillary, were flying around the North Tract Contact Station this afternoon. They were feeding on the nectar of the Common Milkweed growing in the flower beds around the building.



Its scientific name is Speyeria cybele. It ranges from Southern Canada and Northern California on the west to the Atlantic Coast on the east. It prefers woodland edges and moist meadows. Its larval host plant includes various species of Violets (Viola), which are common on the refuge. There are several accepted sub-species of Great Spangled Fritillary. I am not sure which one this is.

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18 June 2015 – Spotted Wintergreen – Chimaphila maculata

Image1Spent 1.5 hours on the refuge today. Drove out to Lake Allen and spotted some white-colored flowers off in the pine woods on the east side of the lake. I got out of the Jeep to investigate and discovered it was a fairly good-sized patch of Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata (L.) Pursh).



It likes oak-pine woods, sandy woods, well-drained upland forests and other mesic habitats. It is tolerant of acidic soil. It is frequently found in these types of habitats on the refuge.

The Spotted Wintergreen is native to eastern North America and Central America, from southern Quebec west to Illinois, and south to Florida and Panama. There are four populations in Ontario and one small extant population in Quebec. It is secure in Maryland.




Its scientific name and its frequently seen common name Spotted Wintergreen are misnomers. Species epithet “maculata” means spotted, but as you can see from the photo above, the leaves are striped, not spotted. Believe it or not, it is sometimes called Striped Wintergreen and Striped Prince’s Pine.




Seed capsule - picture taken on 30 July 2010

Seed capsule – picture taken on 30 July 2010

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17 June 2015 – Chicken- of-the-Woods – Laetiporus sulphureus



Found some Chicken-of-the-Woods growing on a rotting oak log today. Its scientific name is Laetiporus sulphureus. It is a polypore shelf mushroom.

DSC00835The Chicken-of-the-Woods is edible, although some people may be allergic to it. It is said to taste like chicken to some people with a lemony flavor. Others claim it tastes like crab or lobster. It makes a good substitute for meat. One should eat a small amount first to make sure they do not get a reaction to it before eating a lot of it.



The Chicken is a saprophyte, meaning that it feeds on dead trees and also sometimes a parasite, meaning that it feeds on live trees as well.



From what I understand, there are six known species of Chicken in North America, and twelve known species worldwide. This species, Laetiporus sulphureus, is found in Eastern North America.

DSC00854There is a National Geographic television program (Flithy Riches?) which focused on mushroom hunters who made their living off of collecting mushrooms. The Chicken was one of the featured mushrooms.

DSC00855WARNING: Remember to get permission from the land owner before collecting mushrooms, and be absolutely certain of the type of mushroom before eating it.








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13 June 2015 – Memorial Rose – Rosa wichuraiana

DSC00722About 15 years ago, I spotted two colonies of white roses across the street from our house. They were not the Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) which had already mostly finished because blooming, and this rose was in its prime.





It keys it out to Memorial Rose (Rosa wichuraiana) Crép. It is native to East Asia, and has a natural sprawling, but not climbing, habit which makes it attractive as a ground cover. These two colonies could be considered persistent/established and spreading.

DSC00738These are some photos I took of this simple but elegant flower. There are some cultivar forms of this species including one with pink tinged petals and a double petal form.




In the fall, it produces small red hips. It is named after the German botanist Max Ernst Wichura. Its scientific name is synonymous with Rosa luciae Franch. & Rochebr., which is sometimes seen in literature.


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13 June 2015 – Common Winterberry – Ilex verticillata

(Photo above: flower cluster)

Branch with leaves and flowers

Branch with leaves and flowers

I found some Common Winterberry that was in full bloom today along the Little Patuxent Trail. The scientific name for this member of the holly family (Aquifoliaceae) is Ilex verticillata (L.) A. Gray. Its native range covers Eastern North America from Newfoundland to Alabama on the East, Ontario on the North, to Minnesota and Louisiana on the west.

Leaf in full view

Leaf in full view


Common winterberry is dioecious, meaning that male flowers (staminate) and female flowers (pistillate) are found on separate plants. So means that male and female plants both need to be present for pollination to occur. The specimen pictured here is staminate.

Common winterberry in fruit. Photo taken on 27 September 2012

Common winterberry in fruit. Photo taken on 27 September 2012




Its fruits are red and clustered around the branches, and persist through the winter. The fruits are a favorite to birds.

Branch with leaves and flowers

Branch with leaves and flowers



Common winterberry can be found in wet to dry habitats, but seems to do best in moist soil and full sun.



Ciliate sepals

Ciliate sepals

The sepals of the Common Winterberry are ciliate (have hairs which extend from the margins.) This distinguishes it from the closely related Smooth Winterberry (Ilex laevigata (Pursh) A. Gray), which have no margin hairs on the sepals.

Branch with leaves and flowers

Branch with leaves and flowers





It goes by numerous other common names including Possumhaw, Swamp Holly, Virginian Winterberry, Winterberry Holly, Black Alder Winterberry, Brook Alder, Canada Holly, Fever Bush, Inkberry, Michigan Holly, Coralberry, Deciduous Holly, Deciduous Winterberry, and False Alder.

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11 June 2015 – Devil’s Tongue – Opuntia humifusa

DSC00712This afternoon, I took a quick jaunt out to Lake Allen to take some pictures of the Devil’s Tongue, a type of prickly pear that is found on the Refuge. Devil’s Tongue’s is also known as Eastern Prickly Pear and its scientific name is Opuntia humifusa (Raf.) Raf. Its natural range is the eastern US from Massachusetts to Florida on the East and New Mexico to Minnesota on the West, with some outlying populations in Montana. It is also found in Ontario, Canada, and is the only cactus that is native to Maryland.

DSC00711The population on the refuge is rather large, covering several acres. It could be one of the largest populations in Maryland. On the refuge, it thrives in the sandy soils of the northeastern part of the North Tract by Lake Allen and by the firing ranges.

Allegheny Mound Ant mound in the upper left hand corner

Allegheny Mound Ant mound in the upper left hand corner



It is shade intolerant and thrives in full sun, and needs well-drained soil.

DSC00695The fruit of the Devil’s Tongue is edible, and can stay on the plant until the next spring. Here on the refuge, it blooms from late May to mid-June.

DSC00694In a couple of the shots I had to deal with the the pesky Allegheny Mound Ants (Formica exsectoides). Without looking, I plopped down on a swarm of them, and within a minute or so they were crawling all over me. I even had to take one off of my forehead. They are an interesting critter and merit a separate blog entry. You can see a couple of their mounds in the pictures on this page. (More about them in future blog entry)





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