Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rainy Weekend - Patuxent Wildlife Refuge and the first spring flowers

The weather this weekend kept us from driving long distances to go for a long hike.  Yesterday, it rained hard most of the day.  The forecast for today was more of the same.  We decided to go for a four mile walk in Patuxent Wildlife Refuge in Laurel, MD just to get outside.  We piled three people and two dogs into our little car and drove over there in the rain.  This only works for short drives.  Once there, the rain stopped and we started the loop with the Fire Road Trail.  It was no surprise that standing water covered the trail in some places; in others, the trail became a running stream.  There is a lot of storm damage, particularly the holly trees, which did not take the heavy snow well.  The outlet stream from Cash Lake was over its banks, creating a second pond beneath the lake.  We saw several geese and a pair of ducks on the lake.  We had the trails completely to ourselves at what is normally a very busy park.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
The trail had become a full running stream in a lot of places.

An interesting fungus on a pine tree.  I don't know fungi very well, so I don't know what kind it is.  It is about the size of a golf ball.

Spring Flowers
Spring flowers are starting to emerge from the ground.   We found Simplocarpus foetidus, the aptly named skunk cabbage, in Rock Creek Park.  It is not the prettiest flower, by any measure, but it is one of the very first wildflowers to emerge in the spring.  Its odor and structure are adapted to drawing ground dwelling insects.  They crawl inside the flower seeking carrion and pollinate the flowers.
Simplocarpus feotidus in Rock Creek Park.

Snowdrops, one of the earliest emerging cultivated flowers, are also popping up everywhere.  Crocuses won't be far behind.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. It is great to hear reports and see pictures of other trails. A little higher and it looks like you might be able to Kayak on that trail. There is a patch of Skunk Cabbage at Bartenders Spring near the top of the Old Rag switchbacks. I am watching for its emergence. It will be interesting to see how many weeks separate the emergence of skunk cabbage at PWR and Old Rag. Last year it was April 11, 2009 when I first noticed Old Rag Skung Cabbage.

  2. Love the vibrant colors in your photos! Spring is upon us!

    Enjoy the blog. See you on ORM this spring.

    -liz b.