by Priscilla Hollingsworth
It seems like the more I look at the swamp, the more there is to see. These are things I noticed during the past week.
A week or two ago, everything seemed to be that gray-brown color of winter in the swamp. But here you see some grasses growing. And there is a little flash of red in the trees in the background – this is because the Red Maple tree has lots of red seeds to show.
Another view of the Red Maple seeds that are so dramatic right now. Red Maple is also called Swamp Maple – how appropriate – and its Latin name is Acer rubrum. Some people call the seeds “helicopters” because of the way they twirl in the air when they fall to the ground. Interestingly, Red Maple is both flood- and drought-tolerant.
And here’s a closeup showing the shapes of the seeds with their winglike structures.
Here’s an area under trees that has greened up quickly. The little green plants are almost all non-grass types that grow very quickly.
The Sea Myrtle is showing small green leaves. Sea Myrtle, or Baccharis halimifolia, has spread inland in our area – it originally was native to the coast. It is a wetland plant.
The Bald Cypress trees are getting their leaves again – you can see the rusty-colored leaf growth coming in at the tops of the trees right now. Bald Cypress, or Taxodium distichum, is called “bald” because it loses its leaves in the winter.
Another view of a cypress tree getting its leaves out.
Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) with raindrops clinging to it. Okay, not so much a sign of spring! But I couldn’t resist the photo, and walking in the rain when it’s not that cold any longer can be fun.
This was a rather large spider that I encountered on the walk outside the Visitors Center. What do you think about spiders? This one was about an inch long, and I observed it carefully while not getting too close. Looking it up, it seems most likely to be a Wolf Spider, possibly a Hogna helluo or Hogna carolinensis. Wolf spiders are a large category, so perhaps it is better just to say this one is probably in family Lycosidae. Wolf spiders often love wetlands and wet forest areas. Most wolf spiders are active at night, so I don’t know why this one was out in the daytime. They can bite people, but are not likely to unless people poke at them over and over again (moral: leave the spider alone, and it will leave you alone).
You’ve probably seen this plant – it’s Carolina Jasmine, or Gelsemium sempervirens. Carolina Jasmine is a native plant, and many people encourage it in their yards when it appears spontaneously. But at the swamp, you get a chance to see it in its natural state. The photo above shows yellow buds almost ready to open.
And here, some of the flower buds are open.
Finally, I promised earlier to post a photo of a Bradford pear tree-turned wild, in bloom. It’s really pretty, isn’t it? But sad that these suburban self-hybriding escapees are becoming so invasive in our landscapes locally.
Above is a photo of escaping/proliferating Bradford pear descendants along Doug Barnard Parkway, on the way to the swamp. Take a look as you drive along this and other major roads in Augusta. In situations where road crews trim back highway growth about once a year, you will see these trees proliferating savagely. Cutting them back about once a year is the best way to make them spread all the faster. I don’t know what the solution is – I think that has still to be discovered.