Category Archives: Native Wildflowers

Spring on Womack Creek – March 15, 2017

A low spring tide exposes the shoreline and prevents paddling up branches.

But, it attracts shoreline birds — like this little blue heron.

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It was cold that day.

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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.

 

Early Spring Flowers – February 25, 2017 – Womack Creek

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.

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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.

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Tree fungus deserve to be examined more closely.

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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.

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Womack Creek – a place for all seasons – January and early February, 2017

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.

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To start the year — a gator and a cooter: predator and prey both sunning on a January day.

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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.

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A crisp February day, blue sky, slow moving river greeted us on February 4, 2017.

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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.

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And camouflaged, a small sparrow.

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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.

Womack Creek, Tates Hell SF, in May

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.

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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

 

Summer temperatures, summer blossoms, Womack Creek 4-14-2015

P1140159Swamp Rose — in a few weeks the many bushes will fill the creek with its fragrance and pink blossoms.

Summer weather too soon.  Thunderstorms or rain predicted for the week and we chanced today’s opportunity to paddle Womack Creek.

Our last visit was 16 days ago and so much has happened on that creek: the American wisteria, a thickly clustered and fragrant native species, bloomed in the interval and deprived us this year of their blooms and their scent.   All but the last few pinxter azaleas have bloomed, but the stalwarts in the shade still can outshine the swamp dogwoods which peached their peak in the interval.

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Spring memories can easily fade when these flowers are stepping into the spot light.

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Blue flag iris in a short branch of the creek.

P1140166Swamp sweetbells.

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When the patch is all in bloom the cow creek spider lily resembles a merry troupe of dancers.

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Swamp dogwood, a few stands still blooming, but most are going to seed.

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False indigo, a favorite of insects.

P1140184The source of the non-sugaring tupelo honey, Ogeche tupelo blossoms beginning to bloom and a few honeybees have already found them.

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Clematis crispa, you’ll have to look to find them — this year they are less clustered along the vines.

P1140213But you won’t have to search for these; with their bright yellow faces, they call for attention.   Narrow leaf evening primrose.

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A few Virginia sweetspire still blooming.

P1140256A sure sign of summer, spatterdock.

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and…highbush blueberries!  Each bush differs in taste, some tart, some sweet, some tart-sweet.  This calls for sampling.  This year the bushes are loaded, so sample some, there’ll be enough for the birds.

P1140170Another sign of early summer — carpenter bees on Virginia sweetspire.

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A colony of busy wasps.

Not many birds today, but…

P1140231Tah dah!!!   A beautiful juvenile little blue heron.

There are more blooming plants and trees on this 3.75 mile of Womack Creek than almost any other creek in the Panhandle.

The last trip we destroyed what we hoped is the last of the invasive Japanese climbing ferns (3 locations).  Today we dug up the first of the invasive taro plants, off the shoreline requiring some slogging to get to it.  To our knowledge Womack Creek has no exotics, only native plants and trees.

Sunday morning meditation – on Womack Creek, Tactical Area 3

November 2, 2014.

Blue sky, temperature in the mid-50’s at 10 am, but feeling like mid-40’s.  A bite in the breeze.  No one on the Ochlockonee River as we put-in heading up to Womack Creek.   We were layered; the PFD no longer was enough to warm our torsos.

Once into the main body of Womack, the water calmed — Womack Creek is usually protected from winds, or breezes.   At the confluence, a welcoming mass of vining asters and swamp sunflowers, welcoming the sun.  The tide was out when we put in. P1110254Low tide — looking at Ochlockonee River from Womack Creek.   Later, the tide will cover this muddy barrier (below).

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The asters are still in full bloom, with occasional clumps of swamp sunflowers — their seeds seem to fall in the same locations.   Blooming at the same time they combine to form lovely arrays, occasionally  with red-berried Dahoon, an even more striking display.

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This cold — we were not expecting turtles, and certainly not alligators.   But this little one — just a little longer than a yard stick had first dibs on this sun drenched log. P1110266 But these were only brief interruptions from the calmness of the creek, the trees and shrubs still with leaves, but beginning to prepare for winter.  An arena of change — for us, a chance to meditate on the gifts which nature endows a paddler who enters in quiet and absorbs with ears, eyes, nose to feel the totality of wildness.

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Come paddle and find peace and quiet and beauty.

An October Saturday Paddle – Cash Creek, Tate’s Hell

Come paddle Tate’s Hell — the cosmos, Florida’s state flower, is in full bloom –from put-in, view  a panorama of cosmos gold between sedges and pines.  Also see climbing asters, goldenrod, salt marsh morning glory, swamp lily, cardinal flower,  ratttlesnakemaster, vanillaleaf, dahoon and yaupon holly red berries — wasps, bumblebees, alligators (big ones), lots of sedges, rushes, gnarled cypresses,  long leaf pine — estuary and pinelands.  Gulf fritillary and sulphur butterflies — an October estuary ecosystem vibrant and alive!

The cooler days of October through April temper the sun’s rays.

Put in at Cash Creek Day Use boat launch, off SR 65, head upstream.  The branches will end — you should not get lost.

The first fork:   to the left is High Bluff Creek, to the right is the continuation of Cash Creek.  High Bluff Creek, as does Cash Creek, ends in a narrow swamp creek.

If you take the fork to the right (Cash Creek) and come across the next fork, the fork to the left is an old canal probably cut through pineland by the logging plantation, previous owners of Tate’s Hell lands.   It is straight and narrows to less than the length of most kayaks. Last December, we saw a mother bear and her cub (the cub on a pine tree, learning its climbing skills).   The mother bear quickly alerted her cub when she saw the us.  The cub’s instinct was to climb up the tree.  A sharp rebuke from its mother brought the cub scurrying down the tree and quickly into the palmetto.  A wild bear will avoid human contact; a bear habitualized to humans, e.g. garbage can or campground scavengers, may not.  Feeding wildlife habitualizes them.

(We had just broken camp at Wright Creek in the Apalachicola National Forest and had paddled Owl, Fort Gadsden and Graham creeks,  tributaries of the Apalachicola.  The night before we arrived there,  a camper saw a black bear near his campsite.  The camper shouted — loud noises are usually sufficient to warn off wild bears. This bear ruffed back and went into the woods.  The camp host reports such incidents to the forest service and an effort is made to capture the bear and relocate it away from established campsites. )

On the extension of Cash Creek,  the branch to the right continues into woody swamps and dead ends.

Easy paddling: some tidal influence.

Two portable toilets at put-in.  Bring your own toilet paper.  Covered concrete picnic pavilion with 3 tables.

There is no day use fee in Tate’s Hell, except for Womack Creek Campground which has flush toilets and showers — $2 there.  (A good place to shower, if traveling through).

Photos taken on Saturday, October 25, 2014

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View from put-in. Between the sedges and pines is a huge field of cosmos. Reminded us of that shot in the movie Color Purple where the child is seen romping through pink and lavender cosmos.

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Golden Rod

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A small island of cosmos.

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Paddling in an area where estuary meets the swamp environment — it gives you two experiences.  We think Cash Creek would make for a beautiful full moon paddle, up to the first fork (a little over a mile from put-in). After that there are snags which might not be readily seen in the dark.

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Golden rod and cosmos growing from a spot of soil on a snag in the water.

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Gulf frittillary on cosmos with rattlesnake master cluster in foreground.

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Osprey nest. In the spring the pair of osprey will return to begin a new generation.

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Cardinal flower – attracts insects.

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Cosmos – Florida state flower

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Salt Marsh Morning glory

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Salt marsh morning glory seed pods.

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Swamp lily.

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Dahoon holly berries — feast for migrating birds.

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Vining aster – common fall flower in Tate’s Hell.

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Vanillaleaf

Memorial Day Sunday on Womack Creek, Tate’s Hell State Forest

While big brother was lounging on a log, his littler siblings just born this year were curiously exploring the watery environment, some dangerously curious.

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One yearling, curiousity over caution, surfaced to check the third kayak to see what manner of creature it was.

For the first time since we’ve been paddling Womack Creek  (2011), we saw these egg cases, what we believe are apple snail cases.  The first photo shows a spider on one of the alder branches — do spiders eat the eggs or the young as they hatch?

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Going up the creek, the largest barred owl we have ever seen was perched on a branch, looking down.   Returning, it was still there, but this time its mate, a bit smaller, was in the trees across the creek.

25-P1080921Still blooming: swamp roses, sweet bay, swamp bay (persea), clematis crispa and green fly orchids.

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Sweet Bay

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Swamp Bay (persea)

 

 

 

 

 

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Green Fly orchid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a week the whole creek will be abloom with swamp titi and arrowwood.

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Swamp titi

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Arrowwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on the way to the blackberries, now ripening, narrow leaf primrose stands.

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Summer is here on Womack Creek.

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(One warning:  yellow flies are out at the landings and on the upper third of the creek which is narrow.  I think a bit of baking soda and water will prevent the bites from welting (a old fashioned remedy for bee stings) — bring a snak bag of baking soda just in case.