Field Trip Reports

Shale Barrens of Allegany County (4/20/2024)

Trip Leaders: John Hall and Jim Brighton

The MBP field trip to Allegany County was one of the best – a great group of naturalists and good weather. We expected to see a lot of plants on this trip but we had some animals in mind as well. Unfortunately, the Cerulean Warblers we had hoped to see along the ridges had not returned from their wintering grounds yet so we switched gears. Lots of plants!

Our first stop was a shale barren on a dry ridge in Green Ridge State Forest. Along the forest road we saw some spring flowers (Dutchman’s Breeches, Red Columbine, Cutleaf Toothwort, Creeping Phlox, Carolina Vetch) as well as some shale barren specialists like Kate’s Mountain Clover. Along the roads, we were treated to flurries of butterflies including many Mourning Cloaks and a few American Ladys and Pipevine Swallowtails.

Above: American Lady

After exploring the ridge, we walked down the road to a creek, floodplain, and slightly wetter upland forest. Along the creek we found a Northern Ring-necked Snake and a Northern Two-Lined Salamander. In the woods, we were excited to see some Seneca Snakeroot, Fringed Polygala and Red Honeysuckle – all species typical of the piedmont and mountains. In the woods above the river we also encountered a few Uhler’s Sundragon. We would see more later in the day but everyone was excited to see this wonderful and uncommon species. We spent the whole morning in Green Ridge before driving to Rocky Gap State Park for lunch and exploration.

Above: Fringed Polygala

After lunch, we went to see the Table Mountain Pines. Table Mountain Pines are primarily Appalachian species and we have scattered populations in Maryland. The populations in Rocky Gap are numerous and spectacular, offering us a chance to see their cones up-close and to compare them with those of the more common Virginia Pine. Table Mountain Pine and the Mountain Spleenwort were the botanical highlights of this stop. Rocky Gap State Park was the last scheduled stop for the day.

A smaller group decided to traverse Green Ridge again along a different route from some dry ridges down to the floodplain. We explored a large patch of Shooting Stars with their bright pink-purple blooms, all scattered through an oak-hickory woods. As we descended to the valley, we stopped along a steep bank covered in Bird’s-foot Violet and Pussytoes. Two mustards dominated the roadsides: Field Peppergrass (native)  and Perfoliate Penny-Cress (non-native). We continued to the flood plain and walked along the road. The floodplain was full of Virginia Waterleaf, Blue Cohosh, Mayapple and Golden Alexanders. The steep banks above the road were decorated with wildflowers of all kinds: the white flowers of Woodland Stonecrop, yellow sprays of Hairy-jointed Meadow-parnsip, and the pale purple flowers of Eastern Gray Beardtongue. The Green Ridge is a remarkable place!

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