Lizard Wars!

It is not uncommon to see a male green anole asserting his territorial rights. You’ve probably seen a male displaying his brightest coloration, “puffing up” to look larger, and doing “push ups” Until recently, I had never seen two male anoles progress beyond these warning signs to actual combat. In spring, my wife and I were walking through some woods when the trees were just beginning to bud out. As I was walking along, I saw a flash of bright green on a tree branch. Two male green anoles were circling the tree, each trying to get the best strategic position to fight. Then their jaws were locked on each other. The one lizard was actually biting down on the other lizard’s head and neck and it surely must have hurt the victim. The wrestling match continued for quite some time. When it appeared to me that actual harm might be occurring, I did try to separate the two, but after a few moments, they resumed their wrestling match. The fight was still ongoing when I left.

Georgia Trip to Montezume Bluffs Natural Area and Indian Springs

Cutleaf ToothcupCardamine concatenata
This is the host plant of the Falcate Orangetip butterfly.

My wife Marcia and I have just returned from a weekend trip to Georgia which included visits to Montezuma Bluffs Natural Area and Indian Springs State Park. As President of the Hairstreak Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association, I organized this casual trip to see the Falcate Orangetip Butterfly. This species used to be seen in Florida along the Ochlockonee River, but has not been seen in recent years. Its demise in Florida may have been due to over-collection of the species. Each spring, we still look for the caterpillars and butterflies whenever we see stands of Cardamine, its host plant.

Montezuma Bluffs Natural Area

We passed stately historic homes and orchards of beautiful blooming peach trees as we traveled north of the town of Montezuma toward the Montezuma Bluffs Natural Area on Friday afternoon. There is no sign announcing the Natural Area, only a sign for Crooks Landing.

Peach tree orchard in bloomPrunus persica

Almost immediately after stepping out of the vehicle near the boat landing, we saw several Falcate Orangetips flying along the trail. Several pairs were courting.

Courting Falcatte OrangetipsThe male Falcate Orangetip butterfly approaches the female.

That evening, Sonny P., Marcia, and I met Chris I., our host. He lives less than a mile from Montezuma Bluffs Natural Area and has "adopted" this site. His primary knowledge is botanical, but he also knows a lot about its natural history, geology, and fauna including the butterflies.

After eating dinner with Chris, he graciously took us to his home to see some of his plants in his landscape, many of which he has grown from seeds and cuttings. Of special interest to Marcia and me were Alabama Snow-wreath (Neviusia alabamensis), Alabama Croton (Croton alabamensis), Zizia (Zizia sp.), and Common Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) that were all blooming.

Alabama Snow-wreathNeviusia alabamensis

Joining us on Saturday at Montezuma Bluffs were Marty and Jim Q., and Cynthia and Eric S. Since it was too cool for the butterflies to be flying yet, we botanized until noon. We were very fortunate to have Chris lead us to all the neat spots of Montezuma Bluffs Natural Area that we would not have seen otherwise. During our hike, we saw several habitats including beech-magnolia slope forest, limestone bluffs, and the river floodplain along the Flint River.

People on Ravine SlopeCynthia, Eric, Bill, Sonny, and Chris admiring the ravine slope as we hike toward the Spotted Geranium.

We saw quite a few Relict Trilliums (Trillium reliquum), one of the other reasons Bill and I wanted to visit Montezuma Bluffs. We also saw a Relict Trillium with a yellow flower. The Relict Trillium, sometimes called Confederate Trillium, is a federally endangered species found mostly in Georgia, but also in a few counties of South Carolina and eastern Alabama. A relict species is a plant that has survived in isolation from an earlier time. In this case, it is a northern species that remained after the retreat of the glaciers.

Relict TrilliumTrillium reliquum
Relict Trillium Yellow FormTrillium reliquum

The limestone rocks in the area support many of the same species seen locally at Aspalaga Landing such as Round-lobed Liverleaf (Anemone nobilis). Also on the rocks was Alumroot (Heuchera americana), not found in Florida. The presence of many shells in the rocks also shows that Montezuma Bluffs was once covered by an ocean.

The plants in the beech-magnolia slope forest were very familiar to us although some were different species or uncommon in Florida. Trees and shrubs we saw in addition to the predominate Beeches and Magnolias were Eastern Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), Silverbell (Halesia diptera), Dogwood (Cornus florida), Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) (not found in Florida), Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), and Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor).

Wild Blue Phlox on ravine slopePhlox divaricata

On the slope floor, we saw Heartleaf Ginger (Hexastylis arifolium), Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) , violets (Viola spp.), Atamasco Lily (Zephyranthes atamasca var. atamasca), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Bedstraw (Galium sp.), American Squawroot (Conopholis americana), Grape Fern (Botrychium sp.), and Cutleaf Toothcup (Cardamine concatenata), the local host plant of the Falcate Orangetip.

Spotted Geranium

An unexpected botanical bonus was to see the Spotted Geranium (Geranium maculatum) in bloom. This is found in only one Florida county.

Chris showed us one area that he has been tryiing to keep cleared of the invasive kudzu vines. The hard-earned reward was one slope densely covered by Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) and another slope almost entirely covered by Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata). Both of these species are uncommon in north Florida and to see them en masse was quite awesome.

Elsewhere, we saw Golden Ragwort (Senecio aurea) and White Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrichium albidum), both uncommon in Florida.

After our hike, we concentrated on butterflies and we did see more Falcate Orangetips. We also looked at many of the Cutleaf Toothcups (Cardamine concatenata) in hopes of finding a Falcate Orangetip caterpillar. There was a brief flurry of excitement when Jim did find a caterpillar on the host plant, but it turned out to be a geometrid moth caterpillar.

Another good find was a tattered Mourning Cloak that was flitting around an oak tree. It liked to sit in the hanging Spanish Moss, but did land on the tree to be photographed.

Probably the best find of the trip (other than the Falcate Orangetips of course) was an Eastern Comma sighted by Eric. No photos for me, but still a joy to see one. Sonny has graciously shared his photo. Other species seen were Pearl Crescent and Lace-winged Roadside Skipper.

During a final jaunt along a trail, Cynthia spotted an Eastern Hognose Snake, a great way to end the day's trip.

Eastern Hognose Snake

Indian Springs State Park

Everyone else returned home on Saturday, but Bill and I continued to Indian Springs State Park where we briefly crossed paths with Virginia C., another Chapter member, as she was leaving after having successfully found Falcate Orangetips also.

We saw the Falcate Orangetips in an open grassy area near the start of the nature trail late that evening. The next morning, we walked the nature trail, planning to see the butterflies on the way out.

The nature trail winds through a beech-magnolia slope forest where we saw a species of Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) not found in Florida, the leaves of Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), blooming Cutleaf Toothcup (Cardamine concatenata), violets (Viola spp.), Bedstraw (Galium sp.), Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides), Round-lobed Liverleaf (Anemone nobilis), and lots and lots of Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) just beginning to bud out. A botanical oddity on the trail was one double-flowered Rue Anemone, the first seen by Marcia and me.

It was still in the upper forties when we returned to the grassy area where we saw the butterflies the previous evening. We did see some typical plant species in the grassy area, but no butterflies: morels (Morchella sp.), field pansies (Viola bicolor), bluets and innocence (Houstonia spp.), Japanese Mazus (Mazus pumilus), henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), and clovers (Trifolium spp.).

While waiting for warmer temperatures, we took a gander at the springs and old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) buildings. Indian Springs State Park is one of the oldest parks in the nation.

Homeward Bound

At 11:00 a.m., it still was only fifty degrees, a bit too cool to see any flying butterflies, so we decided to head homeward with another stop at Montezuma Bluffs to try to see the Comma (unsuccessful).

On the way home, we took a short stop at the Andersonville National Cemetery.

Panorama of Andersonville National Cemetery

We also saw our first huge stand of blooming Princesstrees (Paulownia tomentosa), an invasive species, along U. S. north of Albany.

PrincesstreePaulownia tomentosa

Ferns of Florida

The Ferns of Florida
Ferns of Florida
by Gil Nelson
Pineapple Press, 2000,
ISBN 1561641979
Paperback and Hardcover

Gil Nelson has done it again with his newest guide. A non-technical book on the ferns of Florida was long overdue. It is a much appreciated complement to his other two books on the flora of Florida, The Trees of Florida and The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida.

Like his previous books, he treats the 160 plus species of ferns thoroughly with easy to understand descriptions, distributions, and habitats. One of the selling features of all of Nelson’s books is his inclusion of how a species differs from other similar species. Another feature not included in many books is a brief description of interesting plant lore.

Excellent photographs and illustrations greatly aid in the identification of the ferns. His alphabetical arrangement of the families and genera is much appreciated by those of us who don’t know the phylogenetic arrangement of the plant kingdom. A key to the ferns families is included in the introduction of the book. Additional keys to various genera are also included. The appendices include a checklist of Florida fern species and an excellent bibliography.

Three minor suggestions for improvement would be:

  • the inclusion of more illustrations, especially of the sori characteristic of each fern species;
  • easier readability of the illustration and photograph numbers within the text description;
  • and the inclusion of a ruler on each page for easy measurement of key characteristics. This was included in his earlier books, but was inadvertently omitted in the Ferns volume. Let us hope future editions will return the ruler to its rightful place!

All in all, if you are interested in learning the ferns of Florida, Nelson’s Ferns of Florida is an essential addition to your library.

Some of Gil Nelson’s other books:

  • The Trees of Florida, Pineapple Press, 1994
  • The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida, Pineapple Press, 1996

The Tulip Tree

Tulip PoplarLiriodendron tulipifera
The Tulip Poplar's leaves offer wonderful color in the autumn.
The tulip-tree, high up,
Opened, in airs of June, her multitude
Of golden chalices to humming-birds
And silken-winged insects of the sky. William Cullen Bryant, The Fountain

Mrs. Henry's Spiderlily

Mrs. Henry's Spidelily

This beautiful spiderlily (Hymenocallis henryae) was one of several clumps that was growing in a flatwoods depression beside a highway in the Apalachicola National Forest. When we returned a few days later to show the lilies to other plant enthusiasts, one of the clumps had been dug up, leaving just a watery hole. I'm sure that the person who dug up the lily rationalized that they were doing no harm, but unfortunately this particular lily is endangered in Florida.

A Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Blue Ridge

Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Blue Ridge
A Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Blue Ridge
by B. Eugene Wofford
University of Georgia Press, 1989
ISBN 9780820324555

Another identification manual that is a must while botanizing in the Blue Ridge province is the Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Blue Ridge by Eugene Wofford. Its wide range of habitats within the region extends from northern Georgia to southern Pennsylvania. Over 2000 species are included, representing all major plant groups including ferns, trees, monocots, and dicots. All the families, genera, and species are arranged alphabetically. (Yes!) Although lacking illustrations, the keys are simple to follow. The list of references is quite useful for those who wish to delve further into species identification. Hopefully, a new edition will update the species coverage and include updated taxonomic revisions.

Wildflowers of the Eastern United States

Wildflowers of the Eastern United States
Wildflowers of the Eastern United States
by Wilbur H. Duncan and Marion B. Duncan
University of Georgia Press, 1999
ISBN 0820321079

Many years ago, I bought my first plant photo identification book, Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States by Wilbur Duncan and Duncan Foote. Now tattered and worn, I have carried it far and wide through the eastern United States and have used it extensively along with the numerous other guides that I have acquired over the years. Unfortunately, it was out of print several years later. Nothing on the market filled the void until the publication of the Wildflowers of the Eastern United States. I am glad to see that it has been expanded to include all the states east of the Mississippi except for parts of south Florida.

This new volume is well laid out with photos and descriptions of 631 species as well as comparisons with an additional 500 species that are not photographed. Each photograph shows the important characters of each species and a text description allows for easy identification. Plant families are arranged phylogenetically. All major families of wildflowers are represented.

My only major complaint with the book is that, within each family, the genera and species descriptions are not listed alphabetically which makes quick lookups impossible. A bibliography of additional references would have been appreciated.

This is one book that cannot be left on the shelf. It should be carried into the field along with other botanical identification guides previously published by the University of Georgia Press.

Other books published by the University of Georgia that cover the southeastern United States include:

  • Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of Northern Florida and Adjacent Georgia and Alabama by Robert Godfrey, 1988
  • Aquatic and Wetland Plants of the Southeastern United States (2 volumes) by R. K. Godfrey and J. W. Wooten, 1979 and 1981

Wildflower Field Guides and Books on My Bookshelves

New Pronouncing Dictionary of Plant Names. Florists’ Publishing Co.

Bell, C. Ritchie, and Bryan J. Taylor. Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants. Laurel Hill Press.

Blomquist, H. L., and H. J. Oosting. A Guide to the Spring and Early Summer Flora of the Piedmont, North Carolina, 6th ed. Blomquist and Oosting.

Brown, Paul Martin. Wild Orchids of Florida: With References to the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain. University Press of Florida.

Chapman, V. J. Coastal Vegetation. The Macmillan Co.

Chase, Agnes. First Book of Grasses: The Structure of Grasses Explained for Beginners. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Clark, Lewis. Wild Flowers of the Arid Flatlands in the Pacific Northwest. Gray’s Publishing, Ltd.

Clark, Lewis J. Wild Flowers of the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to Northern California. Gray’s Publishing Ltd.

Conard, Henry S. Plants of Central Florida. Publication #1. The Ridge Audubon Society.

Duncan, Wilbur H., and Leonard E. Foote. Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States. The University of Georgia Press.

Duncan, Wilbur H., and Marion B. Duncan. Wildflowers of the Eastern United States. The University of Georgia Press.

Henderson, Peter. Henderson’s Handbook of Plants. Peter Henderson & Company.

Hitchcock, A. S. Manual of the Grasses of the United States. 2nd edition revised by Agnes Chase. Government Printing Office.

Hitchcock, C. Leo, and Arthur Cronquist. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press.

Hotchkiss, Neil. Common Marsh Plants of the United States and Canada. Bureau of Sport fisheries and Wildlife.

Hotchkiss, Neil. Underwater and Floating-Leaved Plants of the United States and Canada. Bureau of Sport fisheries and Wildlife.

Jaques, H. E. Plant Families: How to Know Them. Wm. C. Brown Co.

Jelks, Mary. Allergy Plants. Florida’s Fabulous. World-Wide Publications. 65 pp.

Larrison, Earl J., Grace W. Patrick, and William H. Baker and James A. Yaich. Washington Wildflowers. Seattle Audubon Society.

Lloyd, Francis E. The Carnivorous Plants. Dover Publications, Inc.

Luer, Carlyle A. The Native Orchids of Florida. New York Botanical Garden.

McDougall, W. B., and Herma A. Baggley. Plants of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone Library and Museum Association.

Niering, William A., and Nancy C. Olmstead. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers: Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Nourse, Hugh, and Carol Nourse. Wildflowers of Georgia. Univ. of Georgia Press.

Peterson, Roger Tory, and Margaret McKenny. A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America. Houghton Mifflin Co.

Perkins, Kent D., and Willard W. Payne. Guide to the Poisonous and Irritant Plants of Florida.

Rickett, Harold Wm. The New Field Book of American Wild Flowers. G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Rickett, ed., H. W. Wild Flowers of America. Crown Publishers, Inc.

Shuttleworth, Floyd S., and Herbert S. Zim. Non-Flowering Plants. Golden Press.

Shuttleworth, Floyd S., Herbert S. Zim, and Gordon W. Dillon. Orchids. Golden Press.

Spellenberg, Richard. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers: Western Region. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Starr Dana, Mrs. Wm. Ho+w to Know the Wild Flowers. Dover Publications, Inc.

Stupka, Arthur. Wildflowers in Color. Harper and Row, Publishers. 144 pp.

Taylor, Norman. F. Schuyler Mathews’ Field Book of American Wild Flowers. G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Ward, Daniel B. Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Florida. Part I. Technical Bulletin 726 July 1968. Agricultural Experiment Stations, Univ. of Florida.

Watts, May Theilgaard. Flower Finder. Nature Study Guild.

Wofford, B. Eugene. A Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Blue Ridge. Univ. of Georgia Press.

Wunderlin, Richard P. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Central Florida. University Presses of Florida.

Carnivorous Encounters

Carolina Mantis on PitcherplantStagmomantis carolina
A praying mantis on a yellow trumpet pitcherplant was an unexpected sight in a pitcherplant savannah.

You walk through the savanna looking for the trumpets of pitcherplants that are poking through the grasses. You peer into each pitcher’s trumpet with the expectation of finding a pitcher plant moth or caterpillar (Exyra sp.) that lives in the trumpet of the pitcher plant.

More often, you only see carcasses of other insects that have fallen to the base of the trumpet. During lovebug season, the trumpets can be filled to the brim! After a doomed insect slides down the slippery side of the trumpet, it cannot escape and dies. Its carcass is “digested” by the carnivorous plant.

This praying mantis was our reward for investigating the savanna. Perched atop the trumpet of a Yellow Pitcherplant (Sarracenia flava), she was waiting patiently for her next meal. The pitcherplant provided her a high vantage point to use her very keen eyesight to spot approaching prey. The praying mantis may spend hours perched motionless waiting for a chance to grab an unsuspecting insect between her powerful front legs.

The praying mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is quite common from Virginia to Florida in the autumn. Look for this insect in the upper clusters of flowers, especially those in the aster family. The flowers attract butterflies and other insects that feed on the flowers’ nectar.

Poem to the Magnolia Grandiflora

Majestic flower! How purely beautiful
Thou art, as rising from thy bower of green,
Those dark and glossy leaves so thick and full,
Thou standest like a high-born forest queen
Among thy maidens clustering round so fair,—
I love to watch thy sculptured form unfolding,
And look into thy depths, to image there
A fairy cavern, and while thus beholding,
And while thy breeze floats o'er thee, matchless flower,
I breathe the perfume, delicate and strong,
That comes like incense from thy petal-bower;
My fancy roams those southern woods along,
Beneath that glorious tree, where deep among
The unsunned leaves thy large while flowercups hung!Christopher Pearce Cranch, Poem to the Magnolia Grandiflora