Coastal Plain forests

Third and final trip with Joe and Stephanie, this time to forests of the Coastal Plain in P.G. and A.A. Counties.

new plantFirst, we stopped at Watkins Regional Park, a mile or two from Central Avenue. The park is host to some humungoid old-growth trees: a Sweetgum the size of a Red Oak, a White Oak with a circumference of 152 inches at breast height that we estimated to be 242 years old. So what did I get a good image of? This lovely Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana) (a new plant for me), beginning to hunker down for the winter.

Nature fun analogy of the trip: the branches of a Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), bare of leaves, look like an old school VHF TV antenna.

not a mossbrittlegillThen, east over the Patuxent River and on to the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, where we chased butterflies two springs ago. Geologically speaking, here the early Eocene Nanjemoy Formation lies above the Marlboro Clay. While the profusion of River Birch (Betula nigra) on the clay-based bits of the Preserve is quite nice, it’s the sandy passages, residues of the overlying Calvert Formation, that are really interesting. The trees are a near-monoculture of Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana), but down at the herb layer we have the lichen Cladina subtenuis (at left), one of the so-called “reindeer mosses.” Recent rains led to a bloom of brittlegill mushrooms (Russula sp.) (at right).

Lying below the Nanjemoy is the Aquia Formation. This Paleocene unit of sand crops out to the west of Anne Arundel County, in Prince George’s County, where it makes a recharge zone. In A.A., now deep under other geologic formations, the Aquia constitutes an aquifer.