Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rain Day

I was all set to go on an Alachua Audubon Society sponsored wildflower tour this morning, led by Dr. Dana Griffin, who taught "Local Flora" at the University of Florida for years. I went on his tour last year and it was great. But just as we were meeting and getting ready to start, it began to rain and thunder. Very quickly, my desire to get out and learn more local wildflowers gave way to not wanting to be cold and wet or hit by lightning, so I went home, very disappointed. I'm sure if any brave souls persevered, they learned and saw all sorts of marvelous things, because not long after I got home, the rain let up. Figures. It's hard to make the right call sometimes. The forecast was for rain most of the day, so it was a crap shoot. Oh well. But then my husband and I went on a walk with our dogs, and I noticed that there were a bunch of pretty flowers blooming along the creek near my house, so I decided to take a self-guided walk. I was a good guide. I showed myself lots of new spring blooms, frogs and birds. I tried to focus on the native wildflowers, and ignored the exotics, although it was a little hard. The gaudy pink Oxalis blooms were kind of distracting and the Common Vetch tricked me into taking a photo, but I didn't get hung up. Even though the Duckpond Neighborhood Association and the City beautifully landscaped the creek with appropriate native plants, it is still plagued with invasive exotics that are channeled down the waterway. But still, it is a lovely little creek. I visit it often, especially when I'm looking for tadpoles. Sometimes I've seen River Otters and Raccoons there. Today, I saw mostly squirrels and birds, including the elusive flock of Cedar Waxwings that seem to appear whenever I  can't photograph them. How do they know? It was too cloudy and rainy for butterflies, but it was perfect for snails.
Garden Snail
The flowers that caught my eye in the first place, while I was walking the dogs, were the Oakleaf Fleabane (Erigeron quercifolius). They were blooming all along the creek in such pretty clusters.
Oakleaf Fleabane
I saw a few bright yellow False Dandelions (Pyrrohappis carolinianus). I can always recognize these flowers from the color. They're a particularly bright shade of yellow, not the golden of true Dandelions. A Dandelion gets its name, not because they look like "dandy lions", but from the French, "dent de lion", or "lion's tooth", after the serrated petals that look like teeth. I learned this little fact on last year's tour.
False Dandelion
There were clusters of the most common spring flowers blooming at this time of year: Lyre Leaf Sage (Salvia lyriata) and Toadflax (Linaria canadensis) and Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium) and Betony (Stachys floridana) in the grass and mixed in among the greenery on the banks. The Betony is especially glorious right now, so pretty and pink.
Lyre Leaf Sage

Lyre Leaf Sage Bed


Blue Eyed Grass Patch

Florida Betony (See the Spider in the background?)
At this time of year, no landscape is without Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) or Beggar's Tick (Bidens alba). In sunnier weather, there would be bees and probably butterflies nectaring on both, but not today.
Wet Spiderwort

Beggar's Tick
The tiny white flower clusters and interesting seeds of Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum) help me recognize this plant. Sometimes called "Poor Man's Pepper", Pepperweed tastes spicy and hot. It is in the same family as watercress. It is also a host plant for Checkered White, Great Southern White and Cabbage White butterflies, so it's a good one to keep around.
There were hundreds of tiny and lovely wild Geraniums (Geranium carolinianum) peeking out of their foliage, but you have to look carefully to see them. The flowers are very small.
Wild Geranium
A few tufts of Watercress (Nasturtium officianale) were growing along the banks of the creek, and a clusters of Walter's Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum) flowers were opening on the bushes.

Walter's Viburnum
The Pickerel Weed (Pontederia cordata) and Green Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginica) were just starting to bloom again after winter. There were just a few plants today, but soon there will be purple and green all along the banks.
Pickerel Weed

Green Arrow Arum
So the day was not lost. I enjoyed my tour. But it's a lot more work guiding myself. I have to look up and identify everything I see. I'll look forward to following and learning from an expert next time.


  1. Love your blog, Katherine. Am about to go out and enjoy a rainy morning in my neighborhood. Life is richer when you can appreciate the variety of life around us. For some reason, knowing their names helps. I hope to learn the wildflowers and look forward to future postings.