Sugarloaf wildflowers

After a misty start, the weather proved especially cooperative for our final field trip for spring wildflower ID. Would that my point and shoot had done the same. I made suitable images neither of a darling yellow flower of the amaryllis or lily families, Yellow Stargrass (Hypoxis hirsuta), nor of the delicate Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), another lily.

Along Mt. Ephraim Road, where it crosses Bear Branch, to the west of the Sugarloaf Mountain summit, we compared the wiry stem of Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) (yet another lily) to the fleshy stem of the pogonias, in this case Large Whorled Pogonia (Isotria verticillata) (an orchis family member). We also found some lingering fruits of Partidgeberry (Mitchella repens) along with this year’s tiny red flower buds in pairs. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), looking like a dandelion as the flower is opening, is easy to distinguish from its fellow Composite when you see the somewhat hoof-shaped leaf.

don't insult itThe bottomland along the stream turned out to be a bonanza for non-spermatophytes, with at least five ferns in evidence. These are early fronds of Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis), so named because it dies back after the first frost.

neighAnd as an added bonus, a completely different division of the vascular plants: Equisetophyta, the horsetails. This drift of plants, per one general guide, is Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense).

We then took a quick drive and climb to the summit, finding hawkweed along the roadside and blueberries as we mounted the stairs. Up top, there are a few tiny patches of Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)—I think I prefer Moccasin Flower for its common name. Also some nonreproducing American Chestnut trees (Castanea dentata). We went in search of Checkerberry but only found a group of five-plus Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis antiopa).

blackjackAlso scratching out a living on the summit, along with the Table Mountain Pine, is the leather-leaved Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica).