Thursday, July 31, 2014

Botanizing the Florida Panhandle: Apalachicola National Forest Part 2

*Part I* *Part II* *Part III* *Part IV*

Let's move on into part two of my time spent exploring the longleaf pine savannas and sandhills of Apalachicola National Forest.  Hopefully you enjoyed part one, which you can read right here and will find this second half just as engaging!

Longleaf Pine stand set against a beautiful blue Florida sky

Not to reiterate what was already said in the previous post but there was something truly magical about the longleaf pines of the coastal plain.  Their cinnamon brown trunks come out of the lush green ground straight as an arrow and are topped with crowns of green tufts of the longest needles of any North American pine.  They were easily one of the most, if not the most handsome pine I've ever seen.

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) out on the savanna

If longleaf pine was the quintessential species of the canopy, then its counterpart on the savanna floor was the saw palmetto (Serenoa repens).  Its tropical look was right at home on the panhandle and provided an aesthetic touch to the landscape unlike anything your blogger had seen before.  The white wildflowers scattered around the palmettos belong to the thistle-leaved aster (Eurybia eryngiifolia), a species featured back in the first installment.

Impressive clump of yellow pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava)

Patches of yellow pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava) seemed to greet the eye at every turn and their highlighter-yellow glow never wore on this botanist.  During the growing season yellow pitcher plants put out their characteristic carnivorous pitcher leaves but come fall begin to produce non-carnivorous phyllodia, which are essentially flat, "regular" leaves.  Lower light levels and a scarcity of active insects makes the effort and energy of creating more pitchers seem futile during the winter months it would seem.

Sand Bog Death Camas (Zigadenus glaberrimus)
Sand Bog Death Camas (Zigadenus glaberrimus)

If any plant really put my car's breaks to the test, it was the tall wands of the sand bog death camas (Zigadenus glaberrimus) beginning to bloom along the roadside.  Despite having never seen the plant before, its large succulent flowers had the same look and feel of Ohio's white wand lily (Anticlea elegans) only on steroids, so it wasn't too hard to put a name to their face.  The genus Zigadenus formerly had well over a dozen species in it but recent taxonomic work has placed all but the sand bog death camas in different genera.

Slender Bog Club Moss (Pseudolycopodiella caroliniana

From the stately and showy to the tiny and hidden, there wasn't a nook or cranny of the savanna that didn't have something to share.  Even the lilliputian world of open sand under the grasses and sedges was colonized by fascinating plants such as the delicate evergreen stems of slender bog clubmoss (Pseudolycopodiella caroliniana) and nearly microscopic basal leaves of the dwarf sundew (Drosera brevifolia).

Dwarf Sundew (Drosera brevifolia) and the largest dime you've ever seen

Plants can be given some pretty bizarre and/or unfitting common names but I think dwarf sundew (D. brevifolia) hits the nail on the head.  On second thought, dwarf seems a bit too conservative for these puny sundews.  There's no trickery in the photograph above, those are fully grown mature specimens and not the world's largest dime. Admittedly this photo was taken last year in southern Kentucky and not Florida but the species remains the same.

Longleaf Pine saplings in the understory 

It must truly be a love affair if we're back to the longleaf pines.  Trees were my first botanical love and I can remember reading about the famed pine lands of the coastal plains when I was first learning my species/eco-regions and how magical they sounded.  The longleaf saplings seemed like small fireworks exploding in a frozen frame of emerald needles; which one can get a much better grasp and understanding of while at eye level.

Slim-leaved Pawpaw (Asimina angustifolia)
Slim-leaved Pawpaw (Asimina angustifolia)

When someone says they've found a pawpaw here in Ohio, there's not much guesswork to be done on what specific species it is.  For us buckeyes and most of the eastern U.S., the only species we have is the common pawpaw (Asimina triloba).  But traveling down into Florida sees one potential species turn into nine different possibilities; including two state endemics.  I happened to catch this slim-leaved pawpaw (A. angustifolia) still in bloom while ambling under the pines and was immediately smitten with its long-petaled flowers.

Narrow-leaved Phoebanthus (Phoebanthus tenuifolius

Without the repeated and cataclysmic interruptions of the North's glacial events, the South has fortuned in having its flora around and evolving for a very long period of time which has spawned some pretty interesting specialties and endemics.  One of those species flew right under my radar while in the field in this DYC (damn yellow composite) I would come to identify as the pineland false sunflower (Phoebanthus tenuifolius).  It was dirt common in many of the areas of Apalachicola I explored and figured it wasn't anything special until I learned it occurred in only five counties in the central panhandle and that was it worldwide.  Glad I thought to at least snap an iPhone photo to help with the future ID!

Rhynchospora corniculata
Fuirena breviseta

Everything is bigger down south, including their beak-sedges (Rhynchospora spp.).  I was quite taken aback by the size of the diffuse inflorescence of the short-bristled horned beak-sedge (R. corniculata) swaying in the warm savanna breeze.  That's one I wouldn't mind calling Ohio home.  Another exciting Cyperaceae find was the presence of another umbrella-sedge in Fuirena breviseta.  That one, or any Fuirena honestly, I really wish would call Ohio home!

Savanna Meadow-beauty (Rhexia alifanus)

One of the first wildflowers I noticed blooming along the roads was the towering pink blossoms of the savanna meadow-beauty (Rhexia alifanus).  I feel like a broken record talking about how much more diverse a particular genus is down south when compared to Ohio and the meadow-beauties were no exception.

White Maryland Meadow-beauty
Rhexia mariana var. exalbida

Another stunning meadow-beauty blooming on the savanna was the white Maryland meadow-beauty (Rhexia mariana var. exalbida).  They apparently have no shame in flaunting their private parts for all the world to see in their generously-sized golden stamens.  It certainly catches the eye and is a hard aspect to ignore!

American Bluehearts (Buchnera americana)

Familiar faces were hard to come by so far south but a few did occur throughout Apalachicola, including the unmistakable purple-blue blooms of the American bluehearts (Buchnera americana).  A state-threatened rarity in Ohio that only occurs in a handful of extreme southern counties, bluehearts can be found just about anywhere in Florida.

Cross-leaved Milkwort (Polygala cruciata)
Coastal False Asphodel (Triantha racemosa)

Another Ohio rarity that was unequivocally more common in Apalachicola was the bubblegum pink cross-leaved milkwort (Polygala cruciata).  The actual flowers to this species are tiny and inconspicuously placed between the pink bract-like wings that get all the attention.  Only a few flowers bloom at a time at the apex of the stem and leave behind their bracts, making the flower look like it's a lot more "busy" than it really is.  Coastal false asphodel (Triantha racemosa) was like a weed throughout the savanna with many specimens in perfect shape as well.  If you'll remember, this is the same species that occurred in the bog with the Venus fly trap and white pitcher plants.

Wonderful longleaf pine stand

It pained me to see the sun start to wane in the afternoon sky and know my time in Apalachicola National Forest had come to a close.  I could have easily spent all week in its depths continuing to explore and see what I could find.  The three hour drive back to where we stayed went by fast as visions of longleaf pine, lilies, and pitcher plants danced in my head.  I'm incredibly fortunate to be as well-traveled as I am and have experienced so many unforgettable places, so it's hard to sufficiently rank them but it should be said that Apalachicola instantly inserted itself near the top.  I sincerely hope to revisit this place at least a few more times in my life, even if to only gaze upon those longleaf pines again.

That wraps up my posts on Apalachicola!  I have one more topic to share on my time in Blackwater River State Forest to complete this Florida panhandle saga and hope you'll tune back in soon to check it out!

*Part I* *Part II* *Part III* *Part IV*

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Botanizing the Florida Panhandle: Apalachicola National Forest Part 1

*Part I* *Part II* *Part III* *Part IV*

I'm back and ready to move forward with my botanical foray into the wonders of the Florida panhandle!  If you caught my first post in this series on Hosford Bog and its insectivorous denizens, thanks for coming back for more. If you didn't get the chance to read up on one of the most fascinating sites I've ever stepped foot in, please don't hesitate to give it a read by following this link here.

After visiting the bog and spending all morning with the white pitcher plants and Venus fly traps, I hopped back into the car and headed due south into the vast expanse of Apalachicola National Forest.  At over 500,000 acres in size, it's the largest national forest in the entire state of Florida and home to a wide diversity of habitats, flora and fauna.  Being so large and having no prior experience with the region, I went into the foray more or less blind and with little to no expectations on what I might encounter.  Much like my attitude at Hosford Bog, I figured just about anything and everything would have me wide-eyed in wonder and botanical bliss.

*Due to the breadth of items I'd like to share from my time in Apalachicola, I'm breaking this post into two parts to keep things from getting too long and overwhelming.  I figured two shorter posts would be easier to digest than one exceptionally long one; which we all know I'm capable of doing!

Wide open expanse of longleaf pine savanna full of pitcher plants and other oddities

My route initially took me through the heart of some impressive longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) sandhills and woodlands ensconced in a mosaic of bright wildflowers.  Mile after mile passed with the scenery getting more and more impressive before I finally broke out of the pines and into one of the most stunning landscapes I'd ever laid eyes on.  Apalachicola is known for its extensive tracts of longleaf pine savanna and the first one I came upon could not have given a better first impression.

Lovely patch of yellow pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava)

The savannas and their vast openness of grasses and sedges were sparsely dotted with lone longleaf pine saplings or the occasional woody shrub and in exceptional cases littered with large clumps of yellow pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava).  I'd passed countless instances of the pitcher plants on the drive through Apalachicola, but seeing them at 55 miles per hour through the window is apples to the oranges of seeing them in all their glory before you...and in this case oranges are definitely better than apples.

Yellow Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia flava)

The yellow pitcher plant is one of the most frequently encountered of the Southeast's Sarracenia taxa and can come in all sorts of yellow-to-red color schemes and/or naturally-occurring hybrids.  Their tall golden pitchers are conspicuously topped by a lip called an operculum, which acts as an umbrella of sorts and prevents excess rainwater from diluting the pitcher's digestive secretions and enzymes within.

Pine Lily (Lilium catesbaei) on the savanna

I decided to wade deeper into the savanna's sea of grasses and gluttony of beak-sedges (Rhynchospora spp.) to see what other oddities were hidden within.  Before too long my squinted eyes (that Florida sun is bright!) spotted isolated blotches of vivid red-orange peaking above the surrounding vegetation.  I picked up the pace and found my heart stuck in my throat as the mesmerizing pine lily (Lilium catesbaei) materialized before me.  I meant what I said above on not having any sincere expectations of what was waiting inside Apalachicola, and never in a million years did I think these would end up on the menu.

Pine Lily (Lilium catesbaei) in all their glory 

The presence of the pine lilies sealed the fact this savanna was one of exceptional quality and management.  Once a much more common sight throughout the state, pine lilies rapidly disappeared as their habitat niche of open, sunny habitats on wet acidic soil dwindled due to development and habitat maturation/degradation and are currently listed as a threatened species.  Their presence is intimately tied to a landscape's fire regime and its frequency.  These pine sandhills and open savanna ecosystems evolved with fire playing an integral part in its health and structure.  Fire kept excess woody encroachment in the understory at bay and allowed the grasses, sedges and sun-loving forbs like the pine lily to thrive.

What is more lovely than a fire-red pair of the rare pine lily...

The intensity and saturation of the fire-red lilies was unlike anything your blogger can recall seeing before. Perhaps the harsh Florida sun and stifling humidity were playing tricks on me but their glow on the savanna had me speechless and utterly entranced in their beauty.  It's fair to admit these were the highlight find of my foray into the Florida panhandle.

Bartram's Marsh Pink (Sabatia bartramii)
Bartram's Marsh Pink (Sabatia bartramii)

One of the pieces to the aforementioned mosaic of wildflowers along the roadsides was the dazzlingly pink Bartram's marsh-pink (Sabatia bartramii).  Taking a gander at the reproductive parts at the center of the flower, I was immediately reminded of Ohio's own rose pink (S. angularis) but then taken aback by the number of petals on the Florida specimen.  Turns out that despite the difference in flower part numbers both are relatives and reside in the same genus.  It's rewarding to be able to use one's botanical knowledge from home to help unravel the floral mysteries of afar.

More treeless savanna in Apalachicola National Forest

The magnitude of Apalachicola National Forest accompanied with my iPhone saying "no service" really drove home the feeling of seclusion and isolation while in its depths.  If not for the two lanes of asphalt, I'd have sworn I drove through a wormhole to a time in the distant past.  A great deal of my time is sought searching out tiny pieces of the massive puzzle that is the natural world and a great deal of my emotions are tied up in the success and/or failures of that search.  But the most influential and memorable moments and experiences have always been the feeling of complete and unspoiled solitude.  A landscape bereft of the stains and markings of humanity, whether they be sights, sounds, or smells.  Just me, myself, and I and the giant ensemble of Mother Nature.  I don't have that specific feeling of euphoria very often and cherish it when I do, and believe me when I say the longleaf pine savannas of Apalachicola gave me chills and had the hair on my arms and neck standing up in awe.

Parrot Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia psittacina)

The savanna's masses of yellow pitcher plants were certainly the easiest to find and pick out but they weren't the only ones around.  Often nestled right at the yellow's feet were patches of parrot pitcher plant (Sarracenia psittacina).  This species utilizes a rather unique technique of trapping its prey by means of false exits and dead ends rather than simply falling in and drowning.  Its insect prey is attracted to the small opening at the top and lured inside by the smell and promise of nectar.  Once finding out it was gypped, the insect is tricked into crawling further down the pitcher by changes in light intensity, thinking it represents a way out.  Unfortunately, that's not the case and before long the insect enters the base chamber of the pitcher and with the aid of dense, stiff hairs cannot get out and is slowly digested in the enzymes secreted within.

Parrot pitcher plants in bloom
Foxtail Bog Clubmoss (Lycopodiella alopecuroides)

Apart from the related California pitcher plant or cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica), no other Sarracenia exhibits the same kind of entrapment technique of the parrot pitcher plant.  They were still blooming nicely during my visit too, while most other species were all but done.  Nearly as strange as the pitcher plants and almost always growing right alongside it was a lycopod on steroids in the foxtail bog clubmoss (Lycopodiella alopecuroides).  This fern-ally belongs to a division of plants that are among the oldest and most primitive species still around with their first ancestors showing up over 400 million years ago.

Sandswamp White-topped Beak-sedge (Rhynchospora latifolia)

It's not everyday you're driving down the road and see countless conspicuous specks of white that you assuredly assume are a wildflower, only to find out are actually a sedge!  As much as I love sedges, Ohio doesn't exactly have any that even the most novice of nature-goers can easily spot at highway speeds.  The sandswamp white-topped beak-sedge (Rhynchospora latifolia) has taken a card from plants like poinsettias and Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja spp.) with its snow-white foliaceous bracts.  While they appear like petals or flower parts, they are merely specialized leaves and typically play a role in pollinator attraction.  However, beak-sedges are wind pollinated, so it's interesting they would bother with being so showy.

Thistle-leaved Aster (Eurybia eryngiifolia)

Speaking of showy white plants, another one of my favorite finds out on the savannas was the nearly Florida panhandle endemic thistle-leaved aster (Eurybia eryngiifolia).  It's a bit of an odd name considering its epithet of eryngiifolia is in relation to the plant's leaves that look a lot like rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium).  I found its involucre's spiny phyllaries to be particularly attractive.

Thistle-leaved Aster (Eurybia eryngiifolia)

Thistle-leaved aster has a very narrow geographic distribution and is only found in high-quality open pine savannas in the central panhandle and in only a few select sites in extreme southern Alabama and Georgia.  That makes it a species worth noting and enjoying not only for its physical beauty but its global rarity and vulnerability as well.

Spurred Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum)

Tucked away in the understory was a trailing vine I recognized as the spurred butterfly pea (Centrosema virginianum), a widespread species of the Southeast and quite similar to the Ohio rarity butterfly pea (Clitoria mariana).  A striking species I wish was able to call Ohio home.  I ended up seeing quite a bit of it during my time in Apalachicola and was thankful for each and every one I saw.

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) under the longleaf pines (Pinus palustris)

Had I run this post in its entirety we'd barely be at the halfway point, so I think here is as fine a place to pause as any.  I hope you've enjoyed what you've seen so far and are looking forward to more.  Apalachicola National Forest isn't done just yet!

*Part I* *Part II* *Part III* *Part IV*

Monday, July 28, 2014

Botanizing the Florida Panhandle: Venus Fly Traps, Pitcher Plants,Sundews and more in Hosford Bog

*Part I* *Part II* *Part III* *Part IV*

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of accompanying my partner and her family down to the Florida panhandle for a lazy week on the Gulf coast.  It felt great to sit around and relax with little to do but bury my nose in a book and relish the never ending supply of fresh seafood.  I'd been down to the sunshine state on several occasions as a child but those are all approaching a couple decades ago and well before any legitimate interest or passion for the outdoors had taken root in me.  So needless to say this time around had me salivating at the idea of what botanical treasures awaited my arrival.  I knew travelling so far south into such a contrasting region from my own would result in countless new life plants and unexpected surprises and I was not disappointed!

I managed to get out and about for two of the days we spent down there and the following few posts are dedicated to the ecosystems and flora/fauna I found most interesting and memorable.  Even if I had been able to dedicate every waking moment of my week to exploring the wonders of the central panhandle, I'd still only been able to scratch the surface of the diversity to be had.  Regardless, I'm thankful and pleased with what I was able to come across and hope you enjoy this look back at one of the more fascinating botanical forays I've yet experienced.

Power line cut full of insectivorous plants

In the days, weeks leading up to the trip, I sent out requests to my extended botanical family in the south for good sites and places worth a visit while in the area.  They came through in marvelous fashion and a majority of their suggestions I had to put on the shelf for the next time around as there was no way I could fit everything into the very finite amount of time available.  However, one place I knew I had to prioritize above all else came from Flickr friend and brilliant botanist/photographer Alan Cressler - you might recall his name from back in May when he was kind enough to share with me the small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) in northern Georgia - so of course I was all ears when he had some killer suggestions.  The place was called Hosford bog and within was a plant species that I'd only ever dreamed of seeing.

Venus fly trap and other insectivorous plant species

The Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) is a plant of legend and one damn near every single person you talk to would know and/or recognize.  It always amazes people to learn this seemingly exotic species only naturally occurs in a small geographic area of North and South Carolina and that is it worldwide.  Not the jungles of Borneo, not the Amazon or the depths of the Congo but the good ol' U. S. of A.  The fact the hundreds of clumps of insect-eating horror before me weren't indigenous to the site but rather transplants from years ago did nothing to quell my excitement.  I'm sure I'll see them on their home turf someday but this would most definitely suffice for now.

Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula

I was too late to catch the fly traps in bloom but once again I was hardly disappointed, as in this unique case the vegetative state of the plant is the main draw.  Many of the plants exhibited a striking contrast between green and red on their modified leaves while others remained purely lime-colored.  You can gaze at all the online images of this plant you want, these included but nothing can prepare you for seeing their charm in the flesh.

All lime-green Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula)

Venus fly trap's "jaws" are modified leaves that have their inner surfaces covered in tiny trigger hairs that allow the plant to know when to snap shut with the hope of a meal inside.  Multiple trigger hairs must be touched in a relatively rapid succession for the plant to react and close in mere tenths of a second.  This prevents false captures from happening and precious energy being wasted should only one hair be moved by things such as raindrops or debris.

This brings up the topic of the morality of getting Venus fly traps to close as a means of entertainment.  You have to contemplate the amount of energy it must take for this plant to respond with such a rapid movement and then get nothing to replenish those stores.  It would be no different than playing a long game of fetch with your dog and then refusing it food and water afterwards.  Sure, it's just a plant but it's a pet peeve of mine to see people buy these in those humid plastic cubes at the local home improvement store only to have the plant dead and forgotten a week or two later.  

Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula
Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula

Even standing in front of them with the camera, I still felt like the Venus fly traps were plastic molds and not a real, living plant that had evolved over the countless millennia to be such a unique and fascinating being.  An interesting tidbit I would come to find out is the name "fly" trap is a bit of a misnomer in the fact it rarely utilizes flying insects as prey.  Ants, spiders, beetles, and other crawling arthropods are the dominate prey and something this specialized species has come to utilize most often.

Pink Sundew (Drosera capillaris) and Lycopodiella spp.

As fascinating as the Venus fly traps were, they were hardly the sole species of insectivorous plant to call the bog home.  The round scarlet clumps of basal leaves of the pink sundew (Drosera capillaris) were everywhere in the muckier, more saturated parts of the bog; their spatulate leaves glistening with insidious dew.  

Wet, open part of the bog with the endangered white pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophylla)

If I came for the Venus fly traps then let it be said that I stayed for the white pitcher plants (Sarracenia leucophylla). The dry hummocks dotting the landscape of standing water were lined with their green-scarlet-white goodness and it was quite the task trying to take your eyes off their elegance.

White Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia leucophylla)

Back in Ohio, only one species of pitcher plant (S. purpurea) can call our state home and its diminutive stature and comparatively tame coloration is no match for its white-headed brethren.  Also known as scarlet pitcher plant, this taxon is listed as endangered in the state of Florida and currently under consideration for federal listing. Habitat loss/degradation, illegal picking/digging, and a very restricted geographic distribution all go hand-in-hand to make this gorgeous bug-eater a species on the brink.

White Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia leucophylla)
White Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia leucophylla)

It's almost as if an artist with surgical hands and infinite patience took each blank green pitcher and meticulously painted its head with a delicate scarlet venation over the snow white background.  Each pitcher was like a fingerprint in that no two were exactly the same, every one a unique pattern and individual work of art.

White Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia leucophylla)

Much like the Venus fly traps, the white pitcher plants were done blooming for the year and had their respective flower stalks in various stages of decay and desiccation.  Once again, the real value lay in the leaves rather than the flowers so it was another none issue.

Coastal Plain Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris ambigua)
Coastal Plain Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris ambigua)

An interesting aspect to pay attention to when traveling around is how the diversity of certain genera waxes and wanes depending on the region you're in.  For instance, the yellow-eyed grasses (Xyris spp.) are a pretty easy group to get under your belt in Ohio with our whopping two species.  But travel down to the Southeast and you're greeted by over 20 different taxa; including this robust and vigorous species I believe to be coastal plain yellow-eyed grass (X. ambigua).  It was quite prevalent throughout the bog and by far the showiest yellow-eyed grass I'd ever seen.

Mucky, saturated area of the bog with Drosera tracyi and Triantha racemosa

Despite the bog being rather small and long/narrow in shape, it was interesting to see how the plant associations changed with the level of saturation and water depth.  The open clay pans where shallow water flowed over it was always ensconced with dense clumps of Tracy's sundew (Drosera tracyi) and scatterings of white wands belonging to coastal false asphodel (Triantha racemosa).

Tracy's Sundew (Drosera tracyi)

You'd be hard pressed to find a more impressive sundew in North America than Tracy's.  Its long, green linear leaves seem to be on steroids and have to be the stuff of nightmares for any small insect.  Until recently it was regarded as a variety to the filiform sundew (D. filiformis) but was given full species status and can be told apart by its predominately-pure green color and super-sized appearance.

Coastal False Asphodel (Triantha racemosa)
Coastal False Asphodel (Triantha racemosa)

Despite having never seen this specific wildflower before, I knew right away the snow-white stalks hiding among the enormous sundews on the clay flats belonged to the Triantha genus.  The coastal false asphodel (T. racemosa) looks almost identical to the sticky false asphodel (T. glutinosa) that calls Ohio's high-quality fen meadows home and is separated by technical differences in the styles and fruit capsules.  Since the two species' ranges don't overlap it's a pretty easy split, with T. racemosa being a coastal plains species and T. glutinosa an interior and northern occurrence. 

Fringed Meadow Beauty (Rhexia petiolata)

In a case similar to the aforementioned yellow-eyed grasses, the Southeast and especially Florida is a hot bed of diversity for the meadow beauties (Rhexia spp.).  Of the handful of species I saw while on the panhandle, I think my favorite was the fringed meadow beauty (R. petiolata) blooming in the bog with the sundews, pitcher plants, and Venus fly traps.  Most meadow beauties tend to show off their reproductive parts proudly with over-sized stamens but the fringed meadow beauty was a much more shy and conservative species.

Carex glaucescens
Fuirena squarrosa

A sedge-head in Ohio is a sedge-head anywhere and everywhere, so it should come as little surprise I'd keep an eye out for some new and unusual Cyperaceae finds.  Oddly enough, the Southeast is hardly a breeding ground for Carex diversity and of the handful or so of species I found, the southern waxy sedge (C. glaucescens) was by far the best.  Making up for the lack of Carex was the presence of a sedge genus I'd long wanted to come across but never had the chance to living/working in Ohio.  The umbrella sedges (Fuirena spp.), or pineapple sedges as I came to affectionately call them are an oddball group that look like spiky footballs.  Doing my best to follow along through the keys, I believe this one to be the hairy umbrella sedge (F. squarrosa).

Orange Milkwort (Polygala lutea)

I went into my panhandle forays with little expectations or demands on what I wanted to see and figured just about everything would be new in one way or another and equally exciting.  However, one wildflower I had my fingers crossed on was the orange milkwort (Polygala lutea) and as luck would have it I got plenty of chances to soak in its charm.  The plants at Hosford bog seemed to grow in a more prostrate manner than is typical but that did nothing to take away from their delicious-looking, creamsicle appearance.

Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider (Arigope spp.)

As if the sundews, pitcher plants, and fly traps weren't enough, the bog was littered with black-and-yellow garden spiders (Arigope spp.) biding their time on the edges of their webs, waiting for a fly lucky enough to escape death-by-plant to run out of said luck and get caught in its stickiness.

I could easily go on about the wonders within Hosford bog, but this seems as good a place as any to call it quits for now and pick back up on another Florida panhandle botanical foray in the very near future.  The next couple posts will deal with the wondrous longleaf pine savannas of Apalachicola National Forest and the slew of phenomenal wildflowers that come with them.  Stay tuned!

*Part I* *Part II* *Part III* *Part IV*