Monday, September 22, 2014

Late Summer on the Trail

Japanese angelica-tree (Aralia elata) seeds
It's been a while since I've posted (mostly because Kali's broken foot kept me from getting out much during her four-week convalescence), but her cast came off last Tuesday, the crutches are stored in the attic, and Kali is, once again, driving herself to and from work.  On Saturday afternoon, we took advantage of her new-found freedom and nice weather to walk on the level, even-surfaced rail-to-trail pathway in the county park downstream of my preserve.  It was the longest walk Kali had taken in five weeks, so we started out slowly; she was only able to walk a mile before her foot began to hurt and we turned around, but in that distance I got some late summer images.
Kali on the trail
One long section of the trail is bordered by dense growth of non-native, invasive Japanese angelica-tree (Aralia elata).  This plant is closely related to native Aralia spinosa, which is also known commonly as Hercules'-club or devil's walking stick. 

Aralia alongside the trail
Aralia branch and flower/seed stalk from below
Angelica-tree and Hercules'-club have the largest leaves of any plant in the mid-Atlantic.  Each leaf is pinnately compound, with a dozen or so leaflets strung along a central rachis.  The tree produces tiny white flowers on feathery pink flower stalks, giving the plant an interesting and unmistakable appearance.
Aralia leaves and flower stalks from above
Aralia gets its common name of devil's walking stick because the stem and even the leaves are liberally  festooned with defensive thorns.
Aralia stem
There were lots of weedy late-summer native plants producing seeds and fruits along the route...
False climbing buckwheat (Polygonum scandens)

Bur-cucumber (Sicyos angulatus)
The trail heading north along the west bank of the creek flowing about 20 feet below.
The creek photographed downstream
...and there was no shortage of non-native invasive plants, too, in addition to the Aralia.
Mile-a-minute weed (Polygonum perfoliatum) with blue seeds favored (and spread) by birds
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
Porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) - the bane of my professional existence
Autumn was just beginning to make its advent apparent in the trailside foliage.
Flowering dogwood leaves (Cornus florida) on the woodland edge are turning maroon
Great Blue Heron fishing the creek's shallows
Several groups of skittish Wood Ducks in autumn eclipse plumage were cruising the creek.  I captured the image below with my telephoto lens extended to its maximum, and then I further enlarged and sharpened the image digitally, so the quality is not great, but it was the best I could get.  When enlarged, I think the image looks a little Impressionistic as a result of my manipulations.  Wishful thinking...?  What do you think?
Wood Ducks on the creek
The creek at the north end of our walk


packrat said...

Glad to hear that Kali's back on her feet, Scott.

Yes, the wood ducks photo is very impressionistic. I especially like the Blue Heron image; you've captured a perfect reflection there.

Carolyn H said...

You sure did see a lot in that mile walk! i'm glad Kali is doing so well.

Scott said...

Packrat: I don't know if you intended your comment to be pun-ny, but hey, take it for what it's worth! That Great Blue Heron is often along this reach of the creek; I see it there nearly every time we walk the trail. It is very skittish, though; I'm surprised it didn't take flight when I stopped and pointed a long projectile (my telephoto lens) at it.

Scott said...

Carolyn: Kali's doing great (considering that she's been off that foot for four weeks); thank you. I thought about walking at Fort Washington State Park, but then I remembered the hawk watch there and thought that the state park parking lot might be jammed, so we settled on this old, familiar trail.

robin andrea said...

Really great news that Kali is walking again and able to get out there on the trails.

Love seeing the beginnings of fall there. Wonderful photos. And yes, that photo of the wood ducks does look quite impressionistic. Very cool. Interestingly, I just learned the term eclipse plumage from a friend on Facebook. It's that time of the year.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: I just got "reacquainted" with the term eclipse plumage when I went to my Peterson's guide to make sure that the ducks I had photographed were Wood Ducks, and the field guide included a picture of the ducks in "eclipse" plumage.