Archives for the month of: March, 2013

P1010815-001Papilio glaucus

Larval host plants:  wild cherry, white ash and Sweet bay

Nectar source:  Pinxster azalea and available flowers.

One of the state’s most familiar butterflies.


P1010157Ilex vomitoria Aiton

Tree,shrub; perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:  February, March, white

Location:  N30 00.188’W084 32.870(.6RL),N 30 00.057’W084 33.272′(1.16RR), N 30 00.093’W084 33.305′(1.25RL),N 30 00.212’W0884 33.567′(1.64RR), N 30 00.499’W084 34.120′(2.43RL)

This plant is an evergreen and is native to Southeastern U.S.   In December it’s red berries and shiny leaves provide holiday greenery, but more important, the fruit (drupe) is eaten by birds:  Florida duck, American black duck, mourning dove, ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, northern flicker, sapsuckers, cedar waxwing, eastern bluebird, American robin, gray catbird, northern mockingbird and white-throated sparrow.  The American black bear, armadillo, gray fox, skunk and raccoon also feed on the fruit.  White-tailed deer browse on young twigs and foliage.  Bees are the primary pollinators and the plant is a host for butterfly larvae.

A decoction of leaves and/or stems in a black “tea” was used in all-male fasting, purification and bonding rituals.   Early reports indicated that this infusion caused vomiting.  Scientists today are skeptical that the plant alone which has high concentration of caffeine and theobromine was the cause of the vomiting.  By itself or with other plants, it was used as an emetic, cathartic and even hallucinogen (Cherokee).   The Seminoles used the bark for “old people’s dance sickness” which manifested itself in nightmares and “waking up talking”.

The Seminoles also used the branches for arrows and ramrods.

P1010663Styrax americanus Lam.

Tree,shrub; perennial

Native:  L 48

Blooming:  March, April,  white

Location:  N 30 00.510’W084 33.853′(2.4RL)

Compared to the the masses of white blooms on other plants which are blooming at the same time, this shrub’s  flowering is as demure as its fragrance is subtle.  It is visited, however, by a number of pollinators:  honeybees (Apis mellifera L.), bumble bees (Bombus spp.) and monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus L.).  The flowers are short lived, blooming for just 3-5 days.   Birds eat its fruit.

P1010287Hypericum microsepalum

sub-shrub; perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:   February, March, yellow

Location:  Boat landing and camp site areas

This is one of the earliest spring flowers in Tate’s Hell and one of the earliest blooming species of Hypericum.  Stands of these plants line the sandy forest roads throughout this state forest.



May 19, 2017



Blossom stems taken April 11, 2014 on a living oak tree.












Epidendrum magnoliae Muhl var. magnoliae

Fort/herb, perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:  January, February, green

Endangered and threatened species: Florida

Location:  Removed to prevent predation by collectors.

This is the only epiphyte orchid to grow in North Florida.  It prefers dead oak trees.  A fellow paddler saw some blooming on the Wakulla River in January 2013 and saw plants on  Econfina Creek (2013).  Please see, but don’t touch or take.  This orchid is on the endangered and threatened list for Florida.

On the far western side of Tate’s Hell on Graham Creek  two healthy stands of Green Fly orchids were seen, one on a growing cypress tree, the other on a dead cypress tree.  Dead bloom buds, indicate that it had bloomed earlier this year.  Fort Gadsden creek, another tributary of the Apalachicola River, also has healthy stands of these orchids throughout one of its branches.

P1010546Smilax laurifolia

Vine; perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:  July, August, green-white

Location: N 30 00.173’W084 32.651′(.2RL), N 30 00.176’W084 33.485′(1.75RL), N 30 00.569’W084 34.059′(3.2RL)

There are at least two species of Smilax on Womack Creek.

Laurel greenbrier are important to black bears and birds which feed on its fruit which is shiney-black.   The fruit matures the second season after the vines set fruit and overwinters.   This photo of the fruit was taken on 3/13/2013.

Native Americans used the root bark for as medicine for burns and sores and urinary disturbances.  The root was also pounded and ground into flour for bread.  The Seminoles used the plant for buckskin dye.

On a field trip Professor Anderson noted that the early spring tips of the vine have been known to be eaten.  One of us took a sample and it had a taste which seemed similar to young fern fronds which she had gathered as a  child in Hawaii, which her grandmother considered a delicacy.   Her grandmother lightly stir fried it.

P1010509Aythya americana

Male:  mostly gray body with black chest and a round red-brown head, bill blue with black tip.   Female:  brownish with a broad grap wing-stripe and a suffused light patch about base of bill (Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds).

Winters from New York to Gulf.   Photo taken 3/13/2013.  It was alone.

Breeds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba south to Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan.

We had called this a canvas-back duck originally, but was corrected by someone who hunts in Nebraska. (Thanks to alert viewers!)


P1010431Gelsemium rankinii Small

Vine; perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:  March, yellow

Location: N 30 00.154’W084 32.952′(.6RR), N 30 00.646’W084 34.231′(3.45RR)

This species grows in wetter sites and can be differentiated  from Carolina jessamine (Gelsimium sempervirens)  by its different shaped  sepals.  But both  brighten the early spring landscape with their bright yellow blossoms.

Gelsemium has been studied for its pharmacological use with most research on G. sempervirens.  A fact sheet published by North Carolina State University has noted that all parts of G. rankinii are poisonous with symptoms resulting from ingestion being sweating, nausea, muscular weakness, dilated pupils, lowered temperature, convulsions, respiratory failure.  The alkaloids in the plant are toxic.

P1010788-001Toxicodendron radicans (L) Kuntze

Vine; perennial

Native: L 48, Canada

Blooming:  February, March, white

Location: N 30 00.169’W084 33.522′ (1.59RL)

Poison ivy can be found throughout the whole creek.   Blooms are noticeable in late February and early March along with young leaf shoots.  Insects, particularly honey bees, pollinate the flowers.  Birds and mammals which eat the seeds disperse these seeds as does water.  It also spreads by stems that root and also by below ground stems which send up shoots.

Urushiol is a pale yellow oil found in all plant parts which cause allergic reactions, in some people,  life threatening.  According to  USDA forester J.K. Francis, 10-15% of the US population do not respond adversely to the plant (immune), 25-35% react to only high doses, and 50% have a consistent reaction.  The best line of defense is to avoid it.  If  in contact, wash immediately with soap and water or if not available mud and water or with an alkaline material such as baking soda or wood ash and water.   Traditional medicine treated poison ivy reaction with the mashed juice of the jewel weed (Impatiens spp.).   Jewel weed is not found in Womack Creek.

Some native American tribes used the eastern poison ivy  as a rejuvenator, as an emetic, and rubbed whole or broken leaves over non-healing sores.  The Navajos even used a compound in the plant to make poisoned arrows.

It is an important food source for deer and the fruit for game and song birds.  Rabbits and rodents eat the leaves and fruit.  Extracts from the leaves have and still are used to treat herpetic eruptions, palsy and rheumatism and in small dosage used as a sedative.

P1010493Nyctanassa violacea

Family:  herons, egrets, bitterns

Description:  22-27″, medium sized heron.  Adult: slate-gray, black head, white cheeks, yellow crown and plumes, black bill, yellow or orange legs. Immature: grayish brown, fineley speckled with white.

Locations:  wooded swamps and coastal thickets.

Nesting:  southern New England to Florida and west to Texas, mainly near coasts.  3-5 blue-green eggs in a nest of stocks in a tree or occasionally on the ground.

Saw a pair on 3/13/2013.   These herons are so well camouflaged they seem not to take to flight as quickly as others herons, but remain still on the branches, even when a photographer is under the tree, clicking away.