26 June 2015 – Indian Cucumber – Medeola virginiana

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Today, I spotted some Indian cucumber (Medeola virginiana L.) at Chestnut Oak Bog growing on a sphagnum moss hummock. One of the plants (pictured here) was blooming and was setting seed. This interesting looking member of the family Liliaceae is found in Eastern North America from Ontario and Quebec in the North, and Minnesota to Louisiana on the West. It grows up to 1 to 1.5 feet tall and has one or two whorls of leaves on the stem.

 

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Each plant has one stem. When it blooms, there are between 3 to 9 flowers at the summit of the stem with a whorl of leaves directly under. There is usually one more whorl of leaves further down the stem. The blooming period is in late spring to early summer and lasts about one month. The pedicels bearing the flowers become erect and develop purple-colored berries. Each berry contains several seeds.  The plant can also propagate into  colonies from rhizomes.

The plant like light to medium sun, and thrives in loamy soil containing decaying organic matter. The plant is named after its cucumber-like tasting root.

 

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26 June 2015 – Chestnut Oak – Mountain Laurel Forest

DSC01197Today when foraying around the Chestnut Oak Bog AKA Welchs Bog I checked out the Chestnut Oak – Mountain Laurel Forest (CEGL006299) plant community that surrounds a good part of the bog. This plant community is found in the Mid-Atlantic States and is quite common in the drier areas on the North Tract. The area seen here is just north of the Savanna area on the Northwest side of the North Tract.

Chestnut Oak

Chestnut Oak

 

 

The dominate overstory tree is the Chestnut Oak and other oak species can be found in smaller numbers. The other oak species included Black Oak, Southern Red Oak, Willow Oak, White Oak and Scarlett Oak. Red Maple, Sweet Gum, and Black Gum were also spotted. A couple specimens of possible hybrid oaks were seen on the edge of this area where it met the “Savanna.”

 

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A fair number of shrubs and sub-shrubs were also spotted. They include the Mountain Laurel, Paw Paw, huckleberry and blueberries. Green Brier and Bracken Fern was also present.

 

A windstorm had gone through two days previously and knocked some leaves to the ground. This facilitated taking some close up shots. (Click on the thumbnails for full views of the photos.)

White Oak

White Oak

Willow oak

Willow oak

Black Oak - upper side

Black Oak – upper side

Black Oak - back side

Black Oak – lower side

Scarlett Oak

Scarlett Oak

Bracken Fern

Bracken Fern

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24 June 2015 – Hyssop Loosestrife – New refuge record

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This little weedy plant keys out to Lythrum hyssopifolia L. (Hyssop Loosestrife). It was found on the South Tract on Telegraph Road near the old Beltsville Airport in a wet area next to the road. The Hyssop Loosestrife is in the same genus as the more notoriously invasive Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria L.)

 

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The Hyssop Loosestrife is a biennial or an annual growing between 10 to 60 cm (4 to 24 inches) high. The flowers are borne in the leaf axils.

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It is native to Europe, but has become naturalized on the East and West Coasts of the USA, and in Australia. It prefers temporary wet marshy habitats, like where it was found on the refuge. This is a new record for the refuge.

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According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this species is classed as Endangered (A2c) in the UK and Critically Endangered in Switzerland and is under regional protection in France: in Alsace and Rhône-Alpes.

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23 June 2015 – Allegheny Mound Ant

Mound - 1 June 2013

Mound – 1 June 2013

 

The Allegheny mound ant (Formica exsectoides Forel) is a field ant that found on the refuge. It ranges along the Atlantic Coast of North America from Nova Scotia to Georgia. Although they are not highly regarded by some people, they are a fascinating and even arguably beneficial species.

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23 June 2015

 

Unlike most field ants, they can have multiple queens. Their tunnels can reach three feet below ground level and their mounds reach up to four feet high. The tunnels can be complex and may link several mounds.

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23 June 2015

 

They are noted for killing woody vegetation up to about 40 feet away from their mounds. They do this by injecting formic acid into the plants. But, according to the Maine State Extension Service, this damage is minor in comparison to the role of a pest control that they perform.

Dwarf Dandelion - 3 May 2014

Dwarf Dandelion – 3 May 2014

 

 

Allegheny mound ants have been observed scavenging upon honeydew produced by aphids and leafhoppers, dead vertebrates and arthropods, and seeds; and preying upon most small arthropods they encounter. They also prey on caterpillars, beetles, treehoppers, grasshoppers, crickets, wasps and flies.

Dwarf Dandelion - 3 May 2014

Dwarf Dandelion – 3 May 2014

 

On the refuge, they also help to spread certain plant species like the Dwarf Dandelion (Krigia virginica (L.) Willd.) and the Canada Toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis (L.) D.A. Sutton.) The ants harvest the seeds of these plants and feed on a fat-rich accessory in the seeds called an elaiosome.

Dwarf Dandelion - 3 May 2014

Dwarf Dandelion – 3 May 2014

 

Then they discard the still viable seed next to their mound. On the refuge, you can see this behavior in action. The photos seen here are from the Dwarf Dandelion which were seeded by the ants next to their mounds.

Dwarf Dandelion - 3 May 2014

Dwarf Dandelion – 3 May 2014

 

 

The ants are aggressive when disturbed and will bite. Their bite is irritating, but not harmful.

 

When taking pictures on the refuge, I have had more than a few encounters with this fascinating critter.

 

 

REFERENCE: Insects – 195-Beneficial Insect Series 1: Allegheny Mound Ant, Fact Sheet No. 195, UMaine Extension No. 2005, http://umaine.edu/blueberries/factsheets/insects/195-allegheny-mound-ant/

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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

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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.

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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.)
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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.
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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.

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

 

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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

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Seed capsule - picture taken on 30 July 2010

Seed capsule – picture taken on 30 July 2010

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