Friday, August 29, 2014

wild flower walk at Deep Cut Battlefield Manassas

It began as just a hike to get some exercise and enjoy an unexplored trail in the park. We suited up in long sleeve and pants with our bug proof clothes and some sun screen and big straw hats... of course we also wanted to prevent another exposure to Poison Ivy so we added some ivy block on our feet and legs under our thick socks and hiking shoes. Once we determined where to go for a new trail it was a complete surprise to discover the trail at Deep Cut is a meadow full of flowers that lead to a marshy area and on into the woods and up the hill to the high ground with a scenic view.

thistle and thoroughwort 

grasses mixed with black berry 

Both of us armed with our cameras and luckily good weather blew in after lots of rain so we had a freshly watered wilderness garden to tour. 
With all that tall grass and flowering plants on either side of the mowed trail we were glad we wore protection to keep the deer ticks at bay. This time I am happy to report it worked neither of us got a tick or a serious poison ivy out break. 
The first flower I thought I knew was rag weed turns out to be Late blooming thoroughwort. Near the thistle and bunches of tall flowering grass mixed with berry thickets growing only about 2.5 feet below the grasses. The black stems of those black berry plants were covered with the sharp thorns and I am guessing when I call them black berry. Looking in my field guide I see that Rubus has over 200 varieties that are difficult to distinguish  for experts so lets leave it at that.
late flowering thoroughwort - Eupatorium serotinum

I was in my element strolling along on a mostly empty trail stopping to admire every little plant flowering or to watch as the butterflies skipped from one bunch of flowers to the next. One of my favorites the Iron weed Vernonia noveboracensis was growing in abundance mixed with the daisy like yellow flowers we later determined are tickseed sunflowers ~ Bidens aristosa.

ironweed's violet purple color 
Along the way were more of those wild pink bean flowers and the liatris squarrosa or scaly Blazing-Star which blooms from the top flower down towards the ground. Most plants bloom from the bottom up.

wild pink bean flower and beans straight as a pin
Keith got some good shots of these black swallowtail butterflies but I couldn't get my camera trained on one and focused long enough to capture a good shot. This was the closest I got to a good one while it was visiting the tasty purple ironweed flowers. 
I saw one little patch of white asters out in the field grasses then we came to the edge of the field where I head a crow cawing as Keith approached his sign. He soon flew off into the taller trees but we heard them scolding us for a while after.

There were some orange flowers at the edge of the field along the border where trees grew in the lot next to the field. Jewelweed is a lovely delicate flower also called Spotted touch-me-not Impatients capensis, because the ripe seed pods burst open when touched.  

More to the yellow partridge pea flowering in the grasses next to narrow leaf mountain mint's white flowers and another possible wild mint or bugleweed are visible in this image. 
Then I spotted something I never saw before which on close inspection seemed to be an orchid with no leaves again just a stalk sticking up in the grass with tiny white and green flowers. Before long we were seeing them all around us standing in the grass. It's called Slender ladies' tresses or spiranthes gracilis orchidaceae. It seems the leaves die away before the flower appears just like the one we found in the forest last time we went on a walk at the unfinished railroad trail. I was impressed upon careful inspection to see that the flowers wrap around the stem blooming in a spiral along the stalk and the seed pods form there when the flowers drop off. 

Next we ventured along and discovered a marshy wet area where rainwater had collected and the park service added some board walks to make it easy to pass without getting wet. The sky cleared a bit then and looking back I got a great view at the field's edge beside the forest. In the wet area there were tall sedges growing laden full of seeds and on the other side below and growing on the trees were vines. 

 The dreaded Poison Ivy turns a lovely shade of red in the fall seen on this tree trunk below. Leaves of three leave it be!!!
Poison ivy turning red 
Not to be confused with the perfectly delightful Virginia Creeper which has five leaves and also turns a great shade of cherry red in early autumn but doesn't cause any rashes. I thought it was great that they seemed to be right side by side growing on two different trees so I could share them in this side by side comparison here for us all. Also notice how well behaved the VA creeper is staying small and low on the tree compared to the Ivy which is covering the entire tree trunk above. My hand started itching just thinking about it I better move on.
Virginia Creeper 

Next came a patch of Queen ann's lace as we turned the corner and headed off into the woods to escape the heat of the sun which was shinning more.

We enjoyed walking in the shade and things were a bit low key there after so much to see in the fields but Keith's sharp eye soon spotted a butterfly that looked like bark on a tree. This insect posed on a leaf while I took it's portrait no fluttering what so ever perhaps it thought it was hiding?

Then we came upon a tall Joe Pye Weed in bloom next to a little clearing where there was a bridge over a stream full from the rains the day before.

Sharp eyed Keith spotted a red cardinal flower way off on the edge of the stream in the grasses near the edge. I was happy to have a zoom lens to reach out and take a picture because that area was too far away in the tall growth to try and get any closer. 
Soon we were out of the woods again and in a new field with different flowers and bugs. This interesting native wasp was sipping nectar from the golden rods flowers. I was surprised how different flowers were in different fields some of the same but a few that were not in the last field.  

Keith and I on opposite sides of a Monarch butterfly visiting the yellow tickseed sunflower

a soft blue Mist flower - Eupatorium coelestinum : seen in lots of domestic gardens and flower boxes but much shorter and compacted.  

Eventually we found our way back to the parking lot and car but not before exploring the great view from the high ground held by the Confederates where a row of canon stood overlooking the low ground where men were sliced and diced by the bombs trying to assault them during the second battle of Manassas. Unfinished railroad track ran along the edge of this high ground and we followed it back to the top of the field where we began our walk. It was a spectacular wildflower experience to stumble upon, maybe some birthday luck for me as I turned 59 the day before.  

Spotted Keith took my picture as I was pointing my camera at the  butterflies