Bogs and Baygalls

This post is the second part of our May field trip to see interesting flora of Texas with Peter Loos. To read the first post, click here (Stewartia malacodendron and more).

After leaving Little Cow Creek, we headed back west, grabbed food to go at Hamburger Depot, and crossed Lake Sam Rayburn to continue our herbaceous plant explorations.  Peter Loos took us deep into the Angelina National Forest to see a carnivorous plant bog he has been restoring from too much erosion.  We bounced in the van on an obscure backroad as the students finished their lunches. Juvenile longleaf pines (Pinus palustris) that had avoided tires and blades marked the drive with their dense, grassy crowns that resembled marking whiskers more than baby plants.

At the end of the trail was a gate and an opportunity for me as the driver to finally eat a bite. On the other side of the barrier we could see hundreds of Sarracenia alata visible even before we exited the van. As I scarfed down my burger and fries, I chuckled at the irony of eating food in the presence of plants that could digest, too. The pale pitcher plant is the only Sarracenia native to Texas, and seeing them in the wild certainly piqued my interest in growing them.  We saw other bog cohorts including Pogonia, Eriocaulon, and Utricularia mixed in with the pitcher plants, and woody shrubs like Rhododendron oblongifolium and Eubotrys (Leucothoe) racemosa flanked either side of the trail.  

 
Sarracenia alata  growing well on either side of the path. On the right you can see where some erosion has occurred.

Sarracenia alata growing well on either side of the path. On the right you can see where some erosion has occurred.

 
A closeup of the flowers of  Sarracenia alata

A closeup of the flowers of Sarracenia alata

Students were elated to find  Sarracenia alata !

Students were elated to find Sarracenia alata!

 
Pogonia ophioglossoides  bloomed right alongside the pitcher plants.

Pogonia ophioglossoides bloomed right alongside the pitcher plants.

 
The lollypop flowers of a  Eriocaulon  species.

The lollypop flowers of a Eriocaulon species.

Rhododendron oblongifolium  was in flower at the edge of the bog.

Rhododendron oblongifolium was in flower at the edge of the bog.

From the bog we drove through pine forest whose understory was covered with bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) and south-facing slopes along the road were dotted with goat’s rue (Tephrosia virginiana).

We arrived at the last stop of the day, a baygall.  Baygalls are habitats in the southeast where springs and seeps keep the soil moist. Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana) tends to be a dominate woody species.

The habitat of a baygall. The understory looks lush from the abundance of  Osmundastrum cinnamomeum  or cinnamon fern.

The habitat of a baygall. The understory looks lush from the abundance of Osmundastrum cinnamomeum or cinnamon fern.

Here we saw rare plants including Trillium texanum seedlings.  We didn’t see any with residual flowers or seed heads.  Peter commented that populations have been disturbed by boars. 

Juvenile  Trillium texanum

Juvenile Trillium texanum

There was also a naturally occurring fernery.  Here cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), royal fern (Osmunda spectabilis), and netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata) intermingled to form a lush fern gully.  Seeing them together gave me ideas of how to combine them here in the south.

So much green in this fernery!

So much green in this fernery!

Exiting the woods Peter pointed out a rare coneflower, Rudbeckia scabrifolia. It only occurs in a few counties in Texas and Louisiana.

Rudbeckia scabrifolia  is in the right corner of this photo. You can see last year’s inflorescence still standing.

Rudbeckia scabrifolia is in the right corner of this photo. You can see last year’s inflorescence still standing.

Overall, it was a great trip showing students several diverse habitats that occur in east Texas along with some rare plants here in the Lone Star State.  

Stewartia malacodendron and More at Little Cow Creek

Tuesday May 8th was incredible for exploring the wilds of east Texas.  My herbaceous plants class joined Peter Loos to see rare and unusual plants near Lake Sam Rayburn.

Students listen to Peter Loos talk about his plant explorations at Little Cow Creek.

Students listen to Peter Loos talk about his plant explorations at Little Cow Creek.

One target species for the day was Stewartia malacodendron near Little Cow Creek, a refugia that allows this Theaceae member’s survival in Texas.  We found the plant in peak bloom, the bright solitary flowers glowing on the forest edge only a short distance from the stream.   Closer inspection revealed dark purple stamens resting at the center of a white platter of petals.  The forms we saw were shorter and more shrub-like than most Stewartia I’ve encountered.  On one plant the branches were almost hugging the ground.  It deserves to be planted more.  I collected some cuttings in the hope of encouraging that.  Peter mentioned they were difficult to root, but some colleagues shared some practices with me that might enhance the propagules’ survival.  

Here I’m shooting down at this hanging branch on  Stewartia malacodendron .

Here I’m shooting down at this hanging branch on Stewartia malacodendron.

A close up of the delicate flowers of  Stewartia malacodendron . Notice the maroon filaments of the stamens.

A close up of the delicate flowers of Stewartia malacodendron. Notice the maroon filaments of the stamens.

The ruffled petal edges on  Stewartia malacodendron .

The ruffled petal edges on Stewartia malacodendron.

We saw other unique woodies at this location.  Right next to the Stewartia was a Hamamelis vernalis with good maroon coloration in the emerging foliage and a healthy stand of fruit on the old growth.  

 
The red-colored pigments in the emerging foliage on this  Hamamelis vernalis  likely provide protection from sunlight.

The red-colored pigments in the emerging foliage on this Hamamelis vernalis likely provide protection from sunlight.

 

A new tree to me was Crataegus marshallii (parsley-leaf hawthorn), which resembled a small-leaved Acer palmatum with the dissection and red petioles.  

The leaves of  Crataegus marshallii  look like little Christmas trees!

The leaves of Crataegus marshallii look like little Christmas trees!

And, we found a nice stand of Rhus trilobata, an excellent native groundcover.

Students contemplate trusting Peter and me that this is actually three-leaf sumac ( Rhus trilobata ) and not poison ivy!

Students contemplate trusting Peter and me that this is actually three-leaf sumac (Rhus trilobata) and not poison ivy!

On the herbaceous side (since this was an herbaceous plants class trip), I marked a plant off my wish list for seeing in the wild—Trillium ludovicianum!  I adore Trillium and miss growing them and seeing them from haunts back east.  This species is one that makes it far enough west.  I was amazed to see the sandy soil it was growing in!  I always imagined this species growing in cool, moist ravines here in east Texas, and here it was growing on a ridge of sand just a few feet short of missing the road grader’s blade!  Trillium ludovicianum appears similar to Trillium gracile with speckled leaves, but it has a more clump forming habit.  

Trillium ludovicianum  a bit past prime bloom but a spectacular find!

Trillium ludovicianum a bit past prime bloom but a spectacular find!

Another plant that I was happy to see was a species of pussytoes called Antennaria parlinii because I’ve been searching for good matrix species for the south.  It grew in an open spot under small trees, again in sandy soil.  Most Antennaria are good groundcovers, and while there was space between plants, perhaps with some encouragement the foliage would knit together.  

2019-0507-014 Antennaria parlinii-LRPS.jpeg

Before we left, we made a brief trip down to the stream to see a western population of Itea virginica and a disjunct population of Xanthorhiza simplicissima.   I’m was thrilled that Peter introduced us to this unique habitat where species that occur in abundance further east still find a home.  

Part two of the trip coming soon.