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.
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
This is not what we expected two days ago.
I had forgotten my camera at home when we arrived at Womack Creek to do our November field report. What a shame…the morning started out in thick fog, so thick that the water droplets hung on to the spider webs on the creek. When the fog lifted the skies were clear and the colors of the creek literally shimmered fall.
We returned 3 days later with camera. The photo above was what we saw: to the left, Womack Creek, the Ochlockonee river is on the right, looking upstream. One hour earlier than three days ago. The truism, every paddle is a different, hit home.
Within the hour, the heavy clouds dissipated and the clear sky opened a palette of fall colors:
And flowers were still blooming on that creek. Last month the lavender colored climbing asters out-shown the others. Insects love these blossoms: butterflies, bees, other insects gathering the last nectar of the season.
This month, Simmond’s aster, smaller, demure, and less attractive to the insects, dominated the creekside.
And a few holdouts — little gems which could easily elude your eyes.
A bloom which is still to open, about a month late — silvering buds are still tight, holding on before releasing open their brush-like flowers.
If you suffer from hay fever, you don’t want to be near this shrub when it’s blooming.
And if it’s November, one is likely to see this pinxster azalea shrub which always blooms months ahead of the other pinxters on the creek.
It lacks the fragrance of the spring blooming pinxters, but the shrub blooms so consistently in the late fall. Finding it blooming is like seeing the first crocuses in spring in the North.
Spring flowers bring fall fruits.
The tide was coming in when we set out upstream, but it soon turned. When it did, a great blue heron, finding exposed areas along the floor of the creek, flew in to feed.
Not as many gators as two days ago, but this 6 footer loves its bank.
Lots of cooters, a few warblers, a vulture, woodpeckers and the migrating ducks are finding the little ponds within the forest to be nice stopping places.
There are lichens and mosses, and these have flowers — see if you can detect them.
We stop for lunch at Nick’s Road primitive camp site — it’s a quiet (except during hunting season), private place to camp. No water or toilet facilities at the camp — bring a foldable (military) spade and dig 200 feet from the water for toileting, away from the camp site.
The photo on the left is looking down the creek, on the right looking upstream. The creek forks upstream, one fork goes for about 1/4 miles before the water gets too shallow; the other goes as much as a mile, depending on the tide levels and also branches again. Great exploring areas — we surprised an otter in one of these branches once. In the fall, don’t be alarmed at all the spiders on the branches above you — they might fall into your boat. Just pick the fallen spider and put it back on a limb. It needs to prepare for the next generation of its kind.
Fall is for landscapes — it’s hard not to feel enveloped in color.
That photo on the lower left is not upside down — it’s how the trees look when you look up.
There may not be many of them, but skippers and bumblebees and an occasional dragonfly, zebra long wing and sulphur butterflies can still be seen on the creek.
Keep an eye for snails — these are hatched native apple snail eggs. We’ve never seen an apple snail on the creek, but we are looking. If the snails are there, the limpkins may not be far behind.
At the landing, not to be outdone by the colors on the creek, these buttons of orange shone under the kayak trailer.
Womack Creek, a western tributary of the Ochlockonee, in Tate’s Hell, has a world of native species all year round. Paddle with a discerning eye and every paddle brings a surprise.
For plant and others ID’s on the creek see The Paddler’s Guide to the Flowering Plants of Womack Creek, http://www.womackcreek.wordpress.com.
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.
Spring memories can easily fade when these flowers are stepping into the spot light.
Blue flag iris in a short branch of the creek.
When the patch is all in bloom the cow creek spider lily resembles a merry troupe of dancers.
Swamp dogwood, a few stands still blooming, but most are going to seed.
False indigo, a favorite of insects.
Clematis crispa, you’ll have to look to find them — this year they are less clustered along the vines.
A few Virginia sweetspire still blooming.
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.
A colony of busy wasps.
Not many birds today, but…
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.
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.
Swamp sweet bells are just beginning to bloom. Below with cross vine.
Two swamp roses were blooming, promising more blooms and fragrance.
And the earlier bloomers are now going to seed and fruit. Pumkin ash and blueberries.
A kingfisher, an owl, a duck, cardinals and a yellow-crowned night heron — not much in the way of bird life.
One alligator out, only a handful of cooters, a few swallowtails, but hardly any honeybees and other insects except…
Get in your boat, canoe or kayak and check out the rivers and creeks of Tate’s Hell.
St. Patrick’s day, at 11:30 pm. It was perfect paddling weather — in the low 70’s. There was a slight breeze which rippled the surface of the Ocklockonee River, but the trees, even with the early leaves, protected Womack Creek. The colors were spring — shades of light green, tinges of red with a few red maples still asserting its shiny red colors — a continuum of hue. The bays with their darker, mature leaves added a depth to the colors of the scene.
The woodpeckers were pecking, the ubiquitous kingfisher darted upstream and then down, the resident hawk could be heard and was seen, a great blue, which now seems a regular in that creek, and both barred owls’ dueling duets and great horned owl sounds at dusk and in the early morning.
Walters viburnum is still in full bloom, but will not be so within a week of 70 degree weather, but the swamp dogwoods will be blooming soon and swamp sweetbells soon after. The blackberries are now in bloom and are the parsley haws. Ogeche tupelos are just beginning to start their leaf buds.
The swamp is alive with the sound and activity of life — carpenter bees and honey bees sipping nectar from the pinxter azaleas, nymphs hatching out, dragonflies and both the swallowtail butterflies flitting from flower to flower.
Young alligators — the creek may be a nursery — are never cautious. One cruised along my kayak, unafraid. And a young brown water snake, less than a yard long, was out sunning, totally camouflaged against the brown/black branch. And even young cooters, some no larger than 5 inches, were perched on logs.
We camped there overnight to save a trip the next day to Eastpoint’s Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve where we were looking forward to a talk on Florida’s freshwater turtles.
Two years ago, on this same week (Spring Break for Leon County Schools), we had met a father and his two sons and their guests here. We did not camp last year during the spring break (we had taken two mothers and their four children to camp at Nick’s Road Primitive Camp site, which was reported on in an earlier blog). We did not recognize the older son, he is now a freshman at Leon High School, but he nudged our memory.
This dad has taken his sons to camp and boat and canoe, fishing and hiking and just enjoying the Panhandle’s out of doors from the time they were very young.
The young man related to me that he went camping with some friends overnight and he brought along a Coleman stove, water and some food. His friends made fun of him with all the gear he had, but they helped tote all that gear 2 miles to the camp site. In the morning, he got up, and had prepared for them when they got up coffee and spam and other goodies! Were they happy that he had some camping skills and to know that water and food are essential and he knew how to cook the food.
Mack, a host to end all hosts, had at our campfire a load of firewood and fatwood to start the fire. The bathrooms were immaculate and freshly painted! The picnic table was pressured washed clean and the fire pit was clean and ready to start.
The day before a couple from Alaska had camped. There seem to be more out of town campers than in state. What a shame — for a north Florida experience without being packed between RV’s and trailers, this is one of our favorite places.
The day we broke camp, Paddle Florida, which we had joined last February to paddle 5 days on the Withlacoochee, arrived with 40 paddlers. Unlike last year, when every day but one was a rain day, and that brought a blustery winds which make doing Ochlockonee Bay treacherous, this year’s group will have perfect paddling weather.
We checked the New River — it is very low. We were hoping to camp at Campsite 7 next week and paddle upstream, but it does not look promising. When it is low there are too many big trees which have fallen over the river to paddle. When the river is high, one merely paddles over them. A federal forester, now retired, told us that when the deciduous trees start leafing on the New River, they guzzle up water like marathoners and paddling will require portaging and dragging.
The next day we paddled from the Womack Creek Campground on the Ochlockonee to Crooked River, all bounded by Tate’s Hell land on one side, to Loop Landing campground. This, too, is another isolated campground which we like to camp — right on the Crooked River. It’s a 4 mile paddle. We started out at 8:35 a.m. and never have we paddled the Ochlockonee when it was so calm. Pinxters are blooming there also as are Devil wood with its white blossoms and blackberries.
We paddled to McIntyre landing on the Ocklockonee which is at one end of the Crooked River. The posts which once supported a train track on which trains hauled turpentine from one side of the river to the other are still there. Crooked River connects to the New on the west and is subject to tidal flow from both the Carrabelle River and the Ocklockonee River. We were against the tide that early in the morning, but it was a short paddle and the sky was blue, the air sweet and crisp and spring in the air.
We had parked our car and trailer at Loop Landing, which is only 2 miles from Womack Creek Campground — one could walk to get one’s car if one is camped at Womack.
Go paddle Womack now and throughout April — the creek is blooming and there will be a succession of blooms from now on.
The splash from a little turtle’s jump.
Parsley haw blossoms.
Nick’s Road landing — always a great place for lunch on Womack Creek. Picnic bench, grill and fire pit. Also a great place to camp — away from it all (from April through September, bring mosquito repellent).
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. Low tide — looking at Ochlockonee River from Womack Creek. Later, the tide will cover this muddy barrier (below).
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.
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. 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.
Come paddle and find peace and quiet and beauty.