On April 19, 2014 Jefferson Chapter had a wonderful trip to the VMI bluff and Maury River floodplain. Ruth Douglas led 18 of us to see the many unusual plants there. The area has a wonderful combination of limestone soil; a cool and moist north facing slope, too steep for deer or logging; and a deep, sandy loam on the bottom land along the river. The result is a rich array of species, many of which are not often seen in Albemarle where the soil is more acid.
Due to the late spring, there were still a few twin leaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) flowers [see picture 1] and the hillside was thick with blooming dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) and Carolina spring beauty (Claytonia caroliniana), but the jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans) was beginning to bloom and the toad trillium (Trillium sessile) [see picture 2] and virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) were gorgeous. Our most exciting discovery was the rare rat stripper (Paxistima canbyi) [see picture 3] in bloom. Another unusual plant that we found in numerous spots was balsam ragwort (Packera paupercula), and the hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens) was in its full glory. It was a memorable day.
[Trout lily (Erithronium americanum), showing the “ears” (auricles) at the base of the petals that distinguish it from Erythronium umbilicatum).]
Written by Jeff. Chapter President: Mary Lee Epps