Category Archives: Tate’s Hell wildflowers

Summer colors and flowers on Womack Creek – May 21, 2015

It was in the mid or high 70’s when we put-in at the Womack Creek Campground landing.   There was a slight breeze, the sky was sunny with some clouds.  The tide was outgoing.

P1140431We were expecting the swamp roses to be in full bloom.  But we had been gone from the creek for 6 weeks and only a few were blooming.  But they were fragrant!

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Other trees and shrubs which had passed it bloom were narrow leaf primrose,  cow creek spider lily, and sweet bay.

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The most dominant flowers are clematis crispa, arrow wood,  false dragon head, button bush and swamp titi.P1140478

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We had hoped to see orchids on the bloom stem we saw previously, but that had bloomed out.  Instead we came across a patch of green fly orchids now blooming. P1140533 P1140532 P1140529A new flowering plant, still unidentified, was blooming.

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We were hoping for blueberries to snack on, but the birds and animals had dispatched them in the 6 weeks we were away.  But the blackberries are ripening.  And while the muscadines upriver have little grapes on their vines, the lower vines are still blooming.

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The temperatures are just perfect for snakes to catch some sun’s rays and we were not disappointed.  A brown water snake and what we think is a green water snake were sunning.

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And, the hornets were busy building their nests.

P1140576And perhaps in the future we shall see limpkins in the creek — there were many apple snail egg cases on various plants.

P1140437P1140501P1140555The hornets were building nests, the bumblebees, dragon flies, damsel flies, Gulf frittilary butterflies, and assorted flies and bees were taking food from flowers and other parts of the plants.   We saw bright yellow headed prothotonary warblers in the shrubs, a pair of ducks, heard cardinals and other birds in the forests, and on the paddle back saw 4 magnificent kites flying overhead.

No one else was on the river; we heard no aircraft overhead — it was a warm, delightful paddle and we escaped the predicted thunderstorms of the late afternoon.

 

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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.

March goes out like a lamb…. Womack Creek 3-29-2015

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Womack Creek is in the middle of its spring flowering.  The blooms above, Rusty Blackhaw had a back drop of Pinxter Azaleas right now at it’s full bloom.  Fringe trees, cross vines, yaupon holly are all blooming.  And poison ivy.

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Swamp sweet bells are just beginning to bloom.  Below with cross vine.

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Two swamp roses were blooming, promising more blooms and fragrance.

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And the earlier bloomers are now going to seed and fruit.  Pumkin ash and blueberries.

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A kingfisher, an owl, a duck, cardinals and a yellow-crowned night heron — not much in the way of bird life.

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One alligator out, only a handful of cooters, a few swallowtails, but hardly any honeybees and other insects except…

P1130917 This is wilderness, folks!

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Get in your boat, canoe or kayak and check out the rivers and creeks of Tate’s Hell.

 

Womack Creek – overcast skies, but warming…go paddle! GRASI Tactical Area 3

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A cloudy day, 58 degrees at put-in, but no breeze — Ochlockonee River running high.  This is where Womack Creek meets the Ochlockonee on the east side of Tate’s Hell.

We put-in at the Womack Creek campground.  There were no campers, but the hosts were home — Mack and Lee are doing a marvelous job of maintaining this and other east-side campsites in Tate’s Hell.

In mid-January, after three nights of freezing temperatures, we were not expecting flowers.  But there it was, at the entrance — a brilliant display of Florida maple in bloom.

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And soon after and thereafter, upriver, high bush blueberries, promising fruit in late May and June.  Surprisingly without insects, but bees shall soon be gathering nectar when it warms.

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The alder catkins were not unexpected — we see them in late winter.   Their seeds still remain on the branches.  The subleties of hue and shape which nature gifts us on this river cannot be overestimated.

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But there were remnants, too, of last summer and last fall.  A pair of hornet’s nest and the furry seeds of silvering which bloom in late fall.

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With no breeze to speak of and the tide at turning point, it was a calm paddle up and back.

We were again surprised to see a single spray of Green Fly orchid.  Our written sources had noted that they bloom in January to March, but after years of diligent searching from  January through March, we saw a profusion in bloom last May!  Last December two sprays were blooming.   These are lovely elfin flowers — we have not GPS’ed them on our Womack Creek blog http://www.womackcreek.wordpress.com  (our Master Naturalist project, “A
Paddler’s Guide to the Flowering Plants of Womack Creek”) because we were told that plant collectors can be avaricious and will harvest them if they know where to look.  There are more plants in other locations in Tate’s Hell, but we have never seen them in bloom.

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Too cold for alligators and even turtles,  but there were 3 female cardinals, a gold finch, the always present kingfisher, a cormorant, a buzzard, a woodpecker, a thrasher and a flock of unidentified gray birds.   No insects, either.

While eating our lunch of jerky, crackers, kumquats and for dessert a Perugina chocolate-hazelnut “kiss” each at Nick’s Primitive Campsite, the clouds parted to give us  sun. We had the warm blessing of the sun on the paddle back to the Womack Creek Campground.

A lovely 7.7 mile round trip paddle.

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