Local Nature

Local Nature: Pride of Maryland (Woodland pinkroot)

In nature’s beauty pageant, what is the most stunning wildflower native to Maryland? There are spectacular candidates like Calypso orchid and Shooting star. But my vote is for a wildflower that shares our state name—Spigelia marylandica—known more familiarly as Woodland pinkroot or Indian Pink. With  its spectacular 2-inch-long, crimson-tubed flowers on the outside contrasting with …

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Local Nature: Nature Rolls Out Her Carpets – Spring Ephemerals

Every spring, Mother Nature rolls out her most exquisite carpets for a limited time only. Rarely is it a red carpet, but throws in shades of yellow, blue, purple, and white on a green background are plentiful. There are the displays of Virginia bluebells, the lacy green foliage and peculiar pantaloons-like flowers of Dutchman’s breeches, …

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Local Nature: Building a Backyard Wilderness – Native Shrubs

A walk along the lower trail bordering Cabin John Creek requires a bit of boulder hopping. A relatively flat path gives way in a certain section to a world of jutting rocks, exposed roots, and low-growing trees—the most enchanted part of our local forest. The boulders are often topped by Polypody ferns, also known as …

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Local Nature: The Perils of English Ivy and Other Stranglers

If only the founding fathers had decided that the walls of all academic buildings in New England colleges be covered in Virginia creeper, our vibrant native climber. How much more intense our autumn color would be if this woody vine—a study in scarlet foliage—were the main attraction. In fact, the only other native plant that …

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Local Nature: Beware the Wintercreeper

A beginning naturalist’s pop-quiz: Wintercreeper. Does the name refer to: A) a forest bird that overwinters in the northern hemisphere, maneuvering up and down the tree trunks in search of insects hiding under the bark? B) derogatory epithet for a birder who moves too slowly on the fast-paced Christmas Bird Count? C) an invasive alien …

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Local Nature: Privet-ization

Of the many uses of plants, enhancing the privacy of one’s property by growing a border of thick impenetrable trees or shrubs is a common phenomenon, especially in the modern suburb. A favorite planting of local landscapers is Leyland Cypress, a non-native that is cheap, grows quickly, and is evergreen—and therefore is widely used (even …

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