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.
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.
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.
A low spring tide exposes the shoreline and prevents paddling up branches.
But, it attracts shoreline birds — like this little blue heron.
It was cold that day.
The the spring colors were promising of warmer days to come.
Spring flowers affirmed that.
With the creek beginning to bloom, we will visiting at least twice a month. A warm or a cold spell can change the array of blooms within days.
Observing the creek every month or more frequently during the blooming season, change seems the one constant. While one can generally classify bloom times by season, within each season, there seems to be no certainty. Certain flowering plants bloom gloriously in one year, only to be hard to find in another. As we have noted, every paddle on the creek is a new experience.
The morning started without event, but the spring colors were soon noticeable on the creek.
In north Florida one would not consider late February as the beginning of spring. But here is a gallery of flowers which were blooming on February 25, 2017.
In order (from top left, clock-wise): swamp buttercup, Walter’s viburnum, blackberry, pinxter azalea, fringe tree, spatterdock and to left of spatterdock, candy root, yellow star grass, golden club, primrose leaf violet, swap dogwood and to left of dogwood, wax myrtle, and swamp jessamine.
Alligators are more commonly seen now on that creek.
Tree fungus deserve to be examined more closely.
Up close – a gallery of forms.
A symbol of renewal — the resurrection fern which lies brown and dormant on overhanging branches and revives in the spring.
Womack creek has become our sanity place — away from the discordant sounds of a society ripping itself apart.
January on the creek, with its bare trees, often gloomy days, can be spiritually invigorating.
Witness these sights, taken on January 12 and February 4, 2017. There is always a serendipitous moment, nature’s surprises, on the creek. Depending one one’s take on life, these can be elevating or depressing. Like all before us, nature serves as a metaphor for life itself. We prefer the more hopeful interpretations, even as we see our species destroy the source of the metaphors.
To start the year — a gator and a cooter: predator and prey both sunning on a January day.
And on that same day, a surprising stem of green fly orchids. My mother used to grow orchids of all types in Honolulu and I grew up taking orchids for granted. We’re finding them blooming all year round, not just here, but on many creeks and rivers we paddle in North Florida (and even on the Ocklawaha River in central Florida).
They’re liking looking for violets in a lawn, concealed well, but upon discovery, what a thrill! They’re the only native tree orchids in North Florida.
In February, one begins to see in the marshy, dark brown muck along the creek, little shoots of gold — Golden clubs. The velvety leaves in varying hues of green are also beautiful.
A crisp February day, blue sky, slow moving river greeted us on February 4, 2017.
The entrance to Womack creek (going upstream) is to the left, the Ochlockonee River on the right. Increasingly that intervening land is being cut off from the rest of the peninsula and a small island will result. The soil taken from that cut is being deposited in front of that section and spatterdocks now are growing, where it once was too deep for these plants to take root and thrive.
Even in February, some flowers are beginning to show, some ahead of the usual flowering, others on schedule.
These are (from top left going clockwise) Walter’s viburnum, usually seen as early as late December; clematis crispa, usually seen blooming in March through the summer and early fall; Florida maple, Pinxter azaleas, some early blooms seen in late February, the peak usually being April; and under it blueberry blossoms, usually starting in January with fruits as early as mid-May, and the buds of the pumpkin ash tree.
And camouflaged, a small sparrow.
Anticipating warmer temperatures, an early spatterdock bud. These do not appear till March, usually, but the creek has many different micro-climates and sheltered areas which affect the blooming periods of the plants.
These are photos were taken on Womack Creek, May 19, 2017.
I’ve singled out the flowers of Spanish moss — many have seen the moss, but never looked close enough when they are flowering to see them.
And, if you’re paddling, look up at overhanging branches of trees (particularly oak and sweet gum), you may see either the Green Fly orchid plants, bud shoots, or blooms. They bloom all year round.
The bloom peak for the other creek plants is hard to determine — it ranges from April through mid-May. Certain blooms are more dominant at different times. For pink hued masses of blooms, pinxter azaleas begin the season and swamp roses begin to start blooming in masses in May. In 2017 the swamp roses did not bloom out as much as they have in previous years. Both of these species: native rose and wild azaleas also are fragrant, the strength of the fragrance dependent on breeze, ambient air temperature.
For ID and information on above plants see http://www.womackcreek.wordpress.com