— Anne B. Wagner
On a sunny Sunday that was also the first day of spring, I led a RIWPS group on a walk in the wetlands of the Great Swamp. It had rained the day before and dense fog lingered into the morning. Most of the north edge of the parking lot at GSMA was filled when we arrived at 9:50. However we encountered few people on the trail.
As we departed from the parking lot, we heard wood frogs “quacking.” Later, we saw one in a pool of water.
The fog cleared. It was warm and there was no wind. We soon stripped to shirtsleeves. The beavers had been stripping too: we saw a tree beavers had ringed.
This year, plants seem slow to develop. Skunk Cabbage was just emerging and was the only plant flowering.
We can now correctly identify the patches of mowed, black, woody-stemmed plants in the median under the utility wires. It is a naturalized Erica sp., probably Erica cinerea. Our specimen had dark brownish-green, hairless, whorled leaves. Normally they are green and the plant is in flower. The leaves are revolute, that is, the edges curl under so far as to obscure the underside of the leaf.
We saw Dodder (Cuscuta) wrapped around the stem of another plant. Because it has many species, it’s not easy to identify, and we made no effort to do so. We wrote it up as Cuscuta sp. When we do not know the species we indicate it by adding sp. or spp. if we see more than one. I might have allowed more time to actually key out some plants, but my intention was to feature characteristic plants of wetlands by sight. Besides we had no flowers to key from.
Plants We Identified
List compiled by Anne B. Wagner, walk leader, 3/22/2022
• Chamaecyparis thyoides (Atlantic white cedar) bog indicator tree in southern New England. So useful that bogs were drained and this tree harvested for lumber.
• Chamaedaphne calyculata (Leatherleaf) small, spreading shrub often dominant in bogs
• Clethra alnifolia (Sweet pepperbush) wetland indicator
• Cuscuta sp. (Dodder) a vining parasitic plant that penetrates plant stem to gain nutrients
• Decodon virticillatus (Water-willow or Swamp loose-strife) arching stems that root at the tips
Note: This not Justicia which is also called water-willow, which is found only in Vermont.
• Erica sp. This naturalized Heath shrub appeared as black patches in the median of the trail. It had been mowed and and appeared dead, but close inspection revealed live leaves.
• Eubotrys racemosa (Fetterbush) secund buds are oval, red and stalked. Often growing near
Lyonia ligustrina (Maleberry) which features secund buds that are red, flattened and lack stalks. “Secund” means buds and flowers are arranged along one side of the stem.
• Ilex glabra (Inkberry) small evergreen Holly common throughout our walk
• Ilex opaca (American holly) large trees with evergreen prickly leaves; many seedlings
• Juncus effusus (Soft rush) flower cluster emerges from side of stem
• Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep laurel)—small shrub; flowers below topmost cluster of leaves
• Kalmia latifolia (Mt. Laurel) large shrub, showy when in bloom in late June
• Kalmia polifolia (Swamp or bog laurel) small shrub of wetlands; flower cluster terminal
• Lichens: We presented the three major classifications—Crustose, Foliose, Fruiticose– but made no effort to identify species.
• Lycopdium/Lycopodiella spp. Commonly called Clubmosses, Running Cedar, Princess Pine, etc. No strobili present and we did not key these out
• Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)
• Phragmites australis (Common reed)—tall invasive wetland plant
• Pinus rigida (Pitch Pine)—3 needles in cluster characteristic plant of Pine Barrens
• Pinus strobus (White pine)—5 needles in cluster
• Rhododendron spp. Large evergreen shrub, showy in flower
• Scirpus cyperinus (Woolgrass) a tall bulrush with terminal fountain-like flower clusters; common in freshwater wetlands
• Symplocarpus foetidus (Skunk cabbage) wetland indicator
• Vaccinium corymbosum (Highbush blueberry) Also observed a Blueberry kidney gall
• Vaccinium sp. (Cranberry) red leaves on the vines in Winter; no fruits present