Category Archives: Native Wildflowers

Our December Pinxster Azalea

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Around a particular bend in Womack Creek, always, a pinxster azalea bush sets out its blooms — in December.

Other pinxsters on that creek start blooming in March through early May.  This one is either early or very late.

It never fully opens like the ones which bloom at the customary time.  Some years it shows heavy frost bites, but it struggles to bloom.  So far this is a good year.

Some like to make examples of what we see in nature.  This shrub can certain suggest metaphors.

We, however, always look forward to seeing it bloom, sometimes struggling, sometimes not.

If I could learn brevity — it probably deserve a haiku.

Those bloomin’ green fly orchids!

 

These little lovelies, the only tree orchids which grow in north Florida, are supposed to bloom in the early spring through summer.

We have yet to record a month when these are not blooming on Womack Creek.

We’ve seen increasing number of these orchids in other north Florida watery venues, so perhaps, something about the weather and growing conditions is encouraging their growth.  These orchids seem to be able to withstand hard frost.  But most live where water may moderate the temperature.

Still, nowhere else, have we seen them bloom constantly.

 

Now blooming on Womack Creek, Tate’s Hell SF – May 4, 2018

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Cow creek spiderlily, an endemic species found only in Liberty, Franklin and Wakulla counties, Florida, is at peak bloom.  Next week, it will be in seed.

But continuing its bloom and its fragrance are swamp roses, throughout the creek.

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Little purple bells, hanging from vines throughout the creek, swamp leatherflower, Clematis crispa, are now in full bloom.  Buds indicate that they will be blooming for several more weeks, at a minimum.

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Late spring, early summer colors are bolder:  golden-yellows, blues and purples — narrow-leaf primrose, spatterdock, blue flag iris, pickerel weed. candy root.

And, already in massed blooming, but greater density promised next week, false dragonhead blossoms.

Soon also to be blooming in large masses, lizard tail.

False indigo continues its long bloom period.

Very early in the season, climbing aster are already blooming at the mouth of the river.  These flowers, in large masses throughout the river and also along Crooked River and upper Ochlockonee, will continue blooming till late fall.

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Green fly orchids, one of our favorite flowers, continue to bloom and new bud stems are appearing which promises flowering for another few more weeks.

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The next masses of white blossoms will be arrow head, heavily budded shrubs throughout the creek.

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When the Pinxster Blooms, Expect the Swallowtails.

It was the day after the official day of Spring, but don’t tell that to the pinxster azaleas.  They have been in bloom for several weeks now, but there were more bushes in bloom yesterday when we paddled up Womack Creek battling NE winds of up to 10mph on the Ochlockonee before entering the protected area of Womack creek.

Stereotypical blue sky and cool temperature at 56 at put-in and add to that swallowtails, pinxster azaleas and fringe tree.

Womack creek is such a gift of native flowers which offer a changing palate of colors, scents and feeling.  Like the waters of the creek, each visit is different.

 

What’s blooming now on Womack Creek – 3-3-2018

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The air was dulcet — in the low 60’s, 50’s when we put it, but with a cloudless sky, it soon warmed to a comfortable paddling temperature.

There are two areas of blooming on the Creek.  From the put-in at Womack Creek Campground landing, selecting the left branch (the river to the right is the Ochlockonee), one quickly enters the protected waters of Womack Creek.  From that landing to Nick’s Road campsite is 3.75 miles.  About 2.5 miles from put-in the river branches, take the left to go to Nick’s campsite landing.   The branch on the right is a dead-end — it will not take you to the Ochlockonee River unless the river is at very high flood stage and you could easily get lost without GPS or a compass (this area and north on the Ochlockonee has branches which can lure and confuse paddlers without compass or GPS, particularly when the water is high.)

Depending on water level you can continue beyond Nick’s — the right branch after Nick’s has a longer area of navigability than the branch to the left, which, if you want to be Rambo, will eventually lead you to SR 67.

The two sections of blooming:  the first 2.5 miles to the branch, the branch to the left to Nick’s Road campsite 1.25 miles.

Walter’s viburnum:

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These are the dominant white flowers on the lower 2.5 miles.  On the upper section, these are already dying and forming seed heads.

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The pinxster azaleas are in full bloom in the lower sections, mixed with Walter’s viburnum.

However, there are still bushes which flowers are still in bud.  Expect blooming in this area for another month.

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Blossoming of Pinxter’s in the upper may be for another 3 weeks, but these are now intermixed with Parsley haw.

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Both Walter’s Viburnum and Parsley Haw are tall shrubs and if the tide is outgoing, you may not be able to get a close-up.  The way to distinguish both are the leaves and the Parsley haw when first blooming have pink stamens, as in the lower photo.

Also beginning to bloom are cross vines (not trumpet vines which they resemble), Swamp jessamine (not Carolina which it resembles), bristly buttercup, and beginning to bloom Cowcreek Spider Lily, an endemic species of this area.

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Before reaching Womack Creek, in one of the branches, is a patch of Golden clubs in bloom.

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Soon to be blooming are yaupon holly, fringe tree, swamp dogwood.

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Swallowtail butterflies, monarchs, dragonflies are out.  Swallowtails appear with the blooming azaleas.

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Too early for hornets.

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Sweet gums are leafing; slash pines are blooming — clearly spring on Womack Creek.

Below freezing week before — green fly orchids still blooming!

The only tree orchid in north Florida, the green fly orchid, supposedly blooms in the spring and summer.  Not so on Womack Creek.  We’ve seen it blooming all year round.

This one survived the one week of freezing temperatures.  January 13, 2018.

Holiday season on Womack Creek, Tate’s Hell

 

 

Womack Creek, a tributary of the Ochlockonee River, on the west side of Tate’s Hell State Forest, has only native plants and trees.  There are three varieties of native hollies on that creek: Yaupon, Dahoon and American holly.  The American holly is what is what folks usually associate with holly, with its prickly scalloped leaves (above).

As in most natural habitats (as compared to managed landscapes) every year is a mix of blooms and seeds.  Some years the white flowers of one or the other holly is more pronounced.  But that doesn’t guarantee that that particular species will have more red berries  — between March to December anything can happen.

This year there were more red berries on the American holly than we have ever seen since 2012. 

Usually, the dahoon holly is the dominant and heavy bearers on the creek.  The bushes are not as full of berries as in previous years.

Yaupon holly, part of the pharmocopeia of native Americans, with its smaller leaves, tiny flowers and smaller berries, is less showy.

To the careful observer,  the red berries of the parsley haw tree can be seen.  That tree is increasing in numbers as the hornbeam trees are losing their grip on the land and landing in the water.

 

Swamp rose blooms were sparse this year, but a few matured to add reds to the creek’s palate of colors.

 

 

 

 

Ever season has its dominant colors; every year that mix changes.