Tag Archives: Tate’s Hell State Forest

Massed blooms: lavender and white on Womack Creek – May 11, 2018


This is a great year for swamp dragon head.   They are now blooming everywhere there is sunshine:  on dead tree falls with soil, in the back swamps beyond the trees, in sunny patches along the creek.

In huge masses, they diminish the swamp roses.   But those more demure blooms have a greater over reach  — you can smell their cinnamon-sweet smell before you see them. Here, surrounded by narrow leaf primrose.


Butterflies and bees are attracted to the nectar of the swamp dragon head.


Soon, the arrow head blossoms will be in full bloom — they are heavily in bud throughout the creek.


In other areas, with its strong sweet scent, the sweet bays are blooming.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Broadhead skinks – Womack Creek – May 4, 2018

It was a perfect day for snakes and while scanning the shrubs and overhanging branches, this redheaded creature popped into view, above me on an oak branch.  Most snakes we’ve seen on Womack creek are at kayak eye level or about a foot above that down to the water, so not just the coloration of the head, but its location suggested that it was not a snake.

Unlike the water snakes on the river which allow one to get really close without moving, this creature quickly escaped down the oak tree and into the leafy bank below.

This is a broadhead skink (Plestiodon laticeps), the largest skink in southeastern US, which can get to 13 inches long.  It is a common semi-arboreal skink  from southeastern Pennsylvania, central Indiana and eastern Kansas to to eastern Texas, the Gulf coast to Central Florida.

This is a male adult skink, more likely.  Juvenile and to some extent female skinks have five to seven stripes along its upper body, similar to another skink species called five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus).  Juveniles have a bright blue tail. Male heads become larger and turn orange as they approach mating season, usually late spring (May 4, in this photograph).

Males smell through their tongue, the better to smell the pheromones emitted by females who are ready to mate.  Females seem to prefer larger males with brighter colored heads.  Once bred, a male will stay with a female for about a week, challenging other males from approaching her during this time.  The male is not monogamous.

The females lay from 8-13 eggs in a nest in decaying trees or leaf debris.  These hatch from 3-8 weeks from laying, the female leaving the nest only to feed.

Newly hatched skinks are on their own within a few days of hatching and are sexually mature when they reach over 3 inches long.

They feed on insects, spiders, mollusks, rodents and smaller reptiles, including juvenile skinks. They, in turn, are food for carnivorous birds, larger reptiles and cats.  Skinks have break-away tails which continue to wriggle, thus distracting its predator while making its escape.


Three brown water snakes – May 4, 2018


With temperatures starting at 72F and inching up to 82F at end of the trip, we knew we’d spy at least one snake.  They are usually seen sunning under leaf-canopied stems of shrub branches extending over the water.  Unlike cooters, skinks and gators, they tend to remain in place if one approaches them without undue motion or vibration.

We saw only brown water snakes, but we did see three, one barely discernible.

Yellow-crowned night heron – Womack Creek 4-24-2018


After perching long enough for several shots, this yellow-crowned night heron flew upstream as we paddled upstream.  Much like kingfishers like to do, it stayed within visual distance, perching on a tree branch then flying away as we got too close.

Late spring flowers starting to bloom – Womack Creek, April 24, 2018

Within a week and for about a week after, expect the heavy scent of blooming sweet bay.   They will overpower the lighter, cinnamon scent of the swamp roses which are now blooming on bushes throughout the creek.

Finally, the clematis crispa vines are bearing buds and flowers.  This black swallowtail butterfly was taking its fill of nectar from a bloom.   With the pinxster azaleas going to seed, the clematis blossoms may keep these butterflies on the creek.

Blue flag iris and pickerel weed add bright blue color to the landscape, but they are usually in sunny pockets behind the shrubs and trees at water’s edge.

The cow creek spider lilies are blooming and should continue its bloom for about two weeks.

And within two weeks, masses of false dragonhead blossoms will be seen along the creek.