Dicromantispa interrupta

Dicromantispa interrupta

Saturday, December 4, 2010

San Felasco Trail Mapping

I just can’t stay away from San Felasco Hammock State Park. I did a solo 15.2-mile ride this afternoon with the goal of filling in blanks on my master map of its trails and roads. Before today, I had been lackadaisical about adding waypoints to show where trails/roads start and end, or where I jumped off trail to take shortcuts or explore wilderness, so the master map is kinda snaggley, with hanging trails and horse/bike statuses unknown. I guess I just figured that if I recorded my bike-and-hike GPS tracks, I could sort ‘em out later. Wrong!

The worst depictions are trails that are furthest from the trailhead, naturally, so that’s where I went. Folks, I gotta tell you, 15 miles of my boney butt bouncing around on that skinny, hard bicycle seat has me worn out and sore. I don’t even have the energy to fix dinner, so here I am instead posting to my blog and drinking a beer. But that’s ok! Someday soon, I will have a map of the park that is better than any version I can get online from the state. Maybe it will all be worth it? Wanna buy one from me?

As usual, the trip produced some neat stuff, but less than normal due to my constantly getting on and off the bike to collect waypoints and bury my nose in maps. Here’s the best botanical find today, a crane-fly orchid (Tipularia discolor) leaf:

It is the time of year when the crane-fly orchid produces a single leaf, but is immediately after it flowers and sets seed. Having only a leaf makes it harder to spot the beast among abundant greenbriar sprouts and newly-fallen leaves. This specimen did not have a flower stalk, so if you take just a quick glance at the leaf you might think I have mistaken a greenbriar (Smilax sp.) for an orchid. It certainly does look like the leaves of several local species of greenbriar, but look at this second pic:

It clearly shows the smooth, purple surface of the leaf’s underside, whereas Smilax pumila, the only greenbriar around here with a purple leaf bottom, has a profusion of hairs under its leaves. So it’s a crane-fly orchid, and I am tickled pink to find it in San Felasco. I have been looking for it all my life, yet only saw it recently for the first time (in the mountains of NC), so am glad to know that it occurs in San Felasco. The NC experience taught me the cues to look for, and I suspected it might occur in San Felasco due to potentially appropriate soils and forest habitats, so I was watching for it today. Treasures appear to those who are prepared for them. If you want to see some really good pics of crane-fly orchids in bloom, check out the Nov. 29, 2010 post on The Florida Native Orchid Blog (one of my Favorite Blogs, listed in the right-hand column of my blog) at http://flnativeorchids.blogspot.com/.

Moving right along… In the Trees-with-Character category, I spotted this Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) on the hillside:

It is a single plant, the trunk in the center being 2+ ft dbh and the two flanking trunks 1+ ft dbh. The central trunk is partially hollow, and I searched for evidence of mammal nests at its entrance, but found none. Its three main trunks have caused the tree’s healthy crown to spread out wider than the norm for this species, so evidently the large wound has not put a crimp on its ability to survive and flourish. We should all be as tough. Peace.


  1. I absolutely love this orchid species!

    What a neat coincidence that you're blogging about this very same orchid a few days after I posted about it to my blog.

    The first time I saw T. discolor makes a bit of an interesting story - I had recently been gifted Luer's The Native Orchids of Florida and had read the chapter about this species. Armed with the description of this plant's hibernal leaves, I was determined to try to find it in the woods near my house on the west side of Tallahassee.

    I frequently visited this one very picturesque steephead stream just a short walk from my house...I had spent many hours exploring it, during all seasons of the year, clambering up and down the banks, swinging from grape vines overhanging the stream, and attempting to catalog the plants and animals found there.

    This one midwinter day, I was walking along a rather steep embankment overlooking the stream when I lost my footing and slid down about five or six feet on my rump, my arms flailing wildly and hands grasping for any vegetation that I could use to slow my slide, but to no avail--I plashed down in the very cold stream (thankfully on my feet).

    When I recovered, I was about to toss the handful of leaves that I had collected on my way down when I noticed one shiny green leaf with a distinctively purple underside...I had found a Tipularia! Going back up the bank (more carefully this time), I found a small colony growing near where my slide had started. Further exploration of that stream from end-to-end revealed 100 or more plants. I saw my first flowers the next July-August.

    BTW, if you want to see the flowers in summertime, it's best to put some sort of relatively inconspicuous flag near patches of their hibernal leaves in fall/winter. Only about ten percent of the plants flower, so locating the rather inconspicuous flowering stems can be a bit daunting, even when a particular area had many dozens of plants the previous winter.

  2. Blogging and beer sounds like a pretty good way to pass the time!