Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

Hatpins (Syngonanthus flavidulus)
Earth Day 2015 in Gainesville started as an absolutely gorgeous day. Fresh, cool air and clear blue skies. On a beautiful day like this, one must be outside! I thought it would be fitting to celebrate Earth Day by visiting one of my favorite places, the good ol' Ditch. But I got a late start because I had to finish up at work first. It was my last day at the Museum. It was kind of sad saying goodbye to everyone, but I'm really feeling ready to get on with the move. And before I actually move, I plan to visit as many of my favorite places as many times as I can, starting today!

It was hot and sunny when I finally got started in the late afternoon, so my feet were VERY hot in the rubber boots I wear to keep dry in the soggy ditch (and to give a little snake and tick protection). It turned out that I didn't really need the boots because the ditch was fairly dry. I expected it to be wetter because we had a hard rain this week. But maybe it didn't rain on that end of the county.

Tattered Buckeye
A lot of the spring flowers were spent or nearing their last days. The Purple Thistles had gone to seed, covering the ground in a snowy dusting of fluff. I had a hard time finding a Meadowbeauty that wasn't tattered and torn, and I couldn't see any Sundews. The area seemed very subdued, with none of the bright orange, yellow and purple that come later in the summer, and not a lot of insects and frogs. But a healthy assortment of sprouts reminded me of the fall colors to come. As I looked around more carefully I found sprigs of light blue Skullcap scattered up and down the roadside. Among the Skullcaps were single spiral stalks of Ladiestresses Orchids and bunches of Fleabane. The ephemeral Spiderwort flowers were spent for the day and they looked more like the wild onions that grew nearby than the brilliant blue buds that had opened this morning.

Purple Thistle Fluff (Cirsium horridulum)

Pale Meadowbeauty (Rhexia mariana)

Skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia) next to Wild Onion

Ladiestresses Orchid (Spiranthes sp.)

Early Whitetop Fleabane (Erigeron vernus)

Spent Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

One lone, bright, Coreopsis shone like a beacon in the sea of green. Along the fence line I found white Blackberry blossoms and the strange flowers of Blackroot. I didn't see any of the Little Metalmark butterflies that I usually find in the Ditch. I don't know if it was because it is too early in the year or because it was too late in the day. Actually, I saw very few butterflies today--including one tired, worn Buckeye as I walked back to the car. There were plenty of mosquitoes, though. A tiny katydid nymph on a Betony stalk turned to hide whenever I tried to get closer, but its enormous antennae gave it away every time.

Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana)

Blackberry (Rubus sp.)

Blackroot (Pterocaulon pycnostachyum)

Betony (Stachys floridana) and Katydid nymph

Patches of Twinflowers and Queen's Delight surprised me. I've never seen them in this ditch before. There were a few thin stalks of Bluehearts and red poofs of Heartwing Dock. The wet depressions were filled with Hatpins and Mock Bishopweed. I was happy to find a red Dwarf Pawpaw flower. I only see one or two of those each year. Bracken fern fiddleheads were everywhere. And, of course, I found a few old tires. Why do people do that?
Twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia)

Queensdelight (Stillingia sylvatica)

Bluehearts (Buchnera americana)

Heartwing Dock (Rumex hastatulus)

Mock Bishopsweed (Ptilimnium capillaceum)

Dwarf Pawpaw (Asimina pygmaea)

Bracken Fern Fiddleheads

Eventually I got too hot and was ready to go home, but I always try to fit in just a few more things before I leave, so I took a quick walk through the nearby flatwoods. The flatwoods were pretty quiet too. I hardly even heard birds singing--just the call of the White Eyed Vireo and some crows in the distance. I found some nice fresh Tread Softly and a couple of dainty Damselflies. They made me think of skinny Pipefish in the Gulf as they hovered in the air just above the grass. Just when I was ready to turn around and head back I looked down and found a Savannah Milkweed in the trail. I love Milkweed and it always makes my day to find one.

Tread Softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus)

Citrine Forktail Damselfly

Savannah Milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata)

The woods are thick with berries at this time of year--shiny blueberries, huckleberries, deer berries and pawpaw fruit--bountiful harvest for birds, deer, turtles, raccoons and all the other berry eaters. The Saw Palmettos are flowering now, too, providing nectar for bees and butterflies. Walking through the Flatwoods I felt so happy to be alive. The light breeze brushed my skin and the sweet scent of Vanilla Leaf followed me along the trail. The crickets chirped and mosquitoes buzzed and I felt utterly at peace. Everyone should be so lucky. Happy Earth Day.


Vanillaleaf (Carphephorus odoratissimus)


  1. Love these photos…and also the plant taxonomy.

    1. Thank you! I do my best with the taxonomy, but I'm no botanist. Let me know if you see any misidentifications.

  2. Beautiful, calming, what a glorious day, it shows in the photos. John and Janet

    1. Thanks, John and Janet. It was a perfect Earth Day outing!