CHAPTER XVII - Summertime - Part II

On another expedition, we discovered a sandy prairie-like opening in the midst of dense Post Oak Woods.

Like most local prairies, it had Bluestem as the dominant grass.

This one, however, had huge stands of Bee Balm (Monarda) mixed in.

There are five species of Monarda locally, some with several heads per stem; some with only one.

On all of the summer expeditions, we seemed to find a lot of Smilax. This Catbriar or Greenbriar is a wiry vine with wicked hooked prickles. It reaches up from the ground and down from the trees to catch and tear clothing, skin, and hair.

Struggling through a quarter mile of Smilax and Dewberry brambles is enough to dampen the enthusiasm of even the most ardent field botanist.

On one trip through the bottomlands, we found one wet area that abounded in grasses, sedges, and rushes. This is one of the species of the genus Carex, which is a sedge.

The genus Cyperus is immediately recognizable, but determination to species often requires minute dissection to examine the mature achenes. This sample probably isn't old enough to identify.

A few species of Cyperus can be sight-identified. This is the common Cyperus strigosus.

Several kinds of Rhynchospora or Beak-rush were collected. Despite the common name, this too is a sedge.

The Juncaceae or Rush Family is nearly as difficult to work with as the sedges. This is a species of Juncus.

In all the wet places of the park, American Germander (Teucrium canadense) is sure to be. The corolla of this mint is unusual, having all five lobes in one lower lip and no upper lip at all.

In the rich bottomland woods are some not-so-common trees. For example, a few American Elms (Ulmus americana) survive here. Most American Elms have died of Dutch Elm disease. This species of Elm has smooth, large leaves up to about 5 inches long.

Tilia, called Basswood or Linden, is very much a creek- and river-bottom plant. It has large, simple, serrate leaves.

The most diagnostic feature of a Tilia is the long, strap-like bract which subtends and is fused to the slender peduncle. Species determination requires minute examination of pubescence or lack thereof.

Tying the bottomland canopy together is a network of Smilax and Rattan Vine or Supple-jack.

Rattan-vine (Berchemia scandens) is a high-climbing, smooth-barked vine. It twines tightly around whatever's handy. Often the support dies, leaving free-standing corkscrews behind. If nothing else is available, the vines will twine around each other.

Rattan-vine shows one of the typical features of the Rhamnaceae--leaves with very straight, even parallel side veins.

Panicles of small, white flowers appear in spring. Summer brings clusters of small, blue- black fruits.

Whatever the day, whatever the path, a trip to Lick Creek Park is always an experience, a chance to see something new.


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