Monday, November 5, 2012

Getting Aquainted

View upstream toward Harper's Ferry, WV a few days before Hurricane Sandy.
We've been in the new house for a little over a month now and we are starting to get into a new rhythm.  We are about a mile from the Potomac River, near Harper's Ferry.  As the leaves are falling it is easier to see the landscape features on the grounds and also identify some of the plants that were previously inaccessible through the brush.

The woolly leaves of Sweet Everlasting are similar
to those of Pearly Everlasting (see below). 
As I was tramping through the less explored areas, one familiar plant that stood out for me was the annual, Sweet Everlasting, Pseudognaphalium obtussifolium.  This can be distinguished by its nearly pure white flowers, compared to the yellow-centered flowers of the similar looking Pearly Everlasting.

The flowers of Pearly Everlasting have yellow centers.

The reddish-brown stipe of Ebony Spleenwort
is not as rigid as those of Christmas Fern.

As I made my way into the ravine at the back of the property I saw some familiar Christmas Ferns growing in the shade.  I turned around and saw another similar looking fern that turned out to be Ebony Spleenwort, Asplenium platyneuron.  These are both 'once-cut' ferns with boot-shaped leaves (pinnae), but the spleenwort has a reddish brown stem (stipe) and is generally more delicate in appearance.

One of the projects I have in mind is to 'develop' a portion of the property as a meadow area.   I was planning on covering the area with cardboard (a material I have an ample supply of after unpacking) to kill off the existing lawn.  However, a good portion of this area has been going wild for a couple of years and, on closer examination, I have found many of the desired grasses already present.  Now I think I will take a different approach, rather than starting with a clean slate, I will augment the existing native species and edit out the invasives.  This will be a tedious job, but  it would be a shame to remove the indigenous gene pool and replace them with the same species from some other ecoregion.  Currently in this meadow to be there are a lot of Multiflora Rose.  There also appear to be some other rose species.  I will need to wait for some fresh growth to make a determination of which rose is which.  
Multiflora Rose can be identified by the comb-like stipules.
Most native roses less complex stipules.
Anyone familiar with this plant?

There are a number of wildflowers growing in this area.  One that was still in bloom in October is what I believe to be a species of Helianthus.  I would appreciate any thoughts as to which species this is.  Since there was only one plant in bloom, I did not want to generalize too much based on one (partial) flower.  I'm leaning toward Jerusalem Artichoke, H. tuberosus, but there are so many other possibilities.

Some of the native grasses that are well represented in this meadow area are Little Bluestem, Switch Grass, and Deer Tongue Grass.  In the deciduous woods there are many clumps of Spreading Sedge, Carex laxiculmis.

Little Bluestem comes into its glory in the fall
when the seedheads glow in the low sunlight
Deer Tongue Grass stands out among the other grasses in the sunny meadow with its relatively short, broad blades.  The plume-like seed heads are lost early in the season.  
Clumps of Spreading Sedge are scattered
through the moist deciduous woodlands.

Fall projects include clearing out some of the fallen trees and thinning the River Grape vines and other overgrown shrubs from around the trees.