Maryland State Parks for Days

Hello again! Jake Dakar here. I was a Seeds of Success (East) intern last year based out of the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC, and I’m at it again this year in the same location. During the interim period between November 30 and May 31, I stayed on as a temporary employee at NCBG doing a multitude of things, some of which were behind the scenes work in preparation for this year’s SOS East collecting season.

After months of work, countless email correspondences, and the tireless help of many involved, I recently received good news – we had succeeded in getting permission to collect seeds at 19 different Maryland State Park properties. Most of them are surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, as well as one on the Atlantic coast, and a few inland parks.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my mentor, Amanda, and I visited 18 of the 19, the 19th being Assateague State Park, which would have been extremely out of our way. We spent the entire week State Park-hopping to survey plant communities for our collection season this year.

It’s difficult to remember every detail about each park, but I did take pictures at a bunch of them.

We started off our tour at Seneca Creek State Park, where we found great populations of Asclepias syriaca, Kalmia latifolia, and Gaylussacia frondosa. Here is a picture of the Kalmia.


Next we stopped at Patuxent River State Park, which was really pretty, but wasn’t suitable for our needs.

After that we went to Patapsco Valley State Park. The traffic was awful getting there, but we got some beautiful views of old railroads and some pretty rock formations. Again, though beautiful, we didn’t find large enough populations of species on our target list.

We ended our first day at North Point State Park, where we found good populations of Prunus serotina and Cornus amomum, though we saw Phragmites australis growing everywhere, including in the woods.

The next morning we started off at Gunpowder Falls State Park where we noted a nice population of Carex vulpinoidea. Here is a photo of the very first Adiantum pedatum population I’ve ever seen in the wild!


Next we stopped at Rocks State Park where we saw, once again, a really nice population of Kalmia latifolia as well as some Rhododendron viscosum var. viscosum which is the first population we’ve seen large enough to make an SOS collection from!

Following that we went to Susquehanna State Park where we found a population that may be large enough to collect from, of Asimina triloba, which would be a fun collection to clean, as the Paw Paw is our continent’s largest fruit, and also one of my favorites. Here is a photo of some water fowl around one of their ponds.


Our last stop on day 2 was Elk Neck State Park, which was a really great spot. We saw tons of Kalmia latifoliaPontederia cordataGaylussacia frondosaAsimina trilobaTeucrium canadensePrunus serotinaTypha latifolia, and the list goes on. Here’s a picture of the lighthouse at the tip of the neck.


The following morning we began at Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area, where we saw a bunch of Viburnum dentatum, Pontederia cordata, Cornus amomum, and Asclepias sp. (the flowers weren’t quite ready yet.

This isn’t a MD State Park, but we had time to stop off at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, where we saw a great population of Typha angustifolia, Iva frutescens, Schoenoplectus americanus, Spartina patens, Distichlis spicata, and Juncus roemerianus. Here is a photo of some Amorpha fruticosa.


Our next stop was Tuckahoe State Park. We found our first great population of Iris versicolor, as well as lots of Saururus cernuus, Sambucus canadensis, and Cephalanthus occidentalis. I took a photo of a plant I had never seen before, Medeola virginiana.


We then visited Rosaryville State Park, which unfortunately didn’t have anything for us, but it was nice to visit, since we pass it quite often during our travels.

Our last stop on day 3 was Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, where we saw some Pinus virginiana, and a nice wetland that will be a little difficult to access. Here is a photo of some Juglans nigra I found there.


In the morning we headed off to Calvert Cliffs State Park, which was fantastic. There were incredible populations of Gaylussacia frondosa, Kalmia latifolia, and Pinus virginiana. I couldn’t help but photograph a caterpillar (maybe someone here knows what type) on some Packera aurea.


Next was Greenwell State Park, which didn’t have much in the way of natural areas, but had a well developed Equestrian area, pictured below.


We then visited St. Mary’s River State Park where we found our very first population of Rubus hispidus, as well as some Dichanthelium scoparium and many species of Eleocharis. Here is the Rubus I mentioned.


Following that we visited Point Lookout State Park, which looked very familiar to a lot of places we collected last year. There was Solidago sempervirens, Spartina patens, Iva frutescens, Smilax rotundifolia, and Juncus roemerianus, among other things. Here is a photo of some Diospyros virginiana.


Our last stop on day 4 was Smallwood State Park. We found lots of good stuff there, including Saurus cernuus, Carex lurida, Alnus serrulata, Typha latifolia, and Glyceria striata. Here is a photo of some Salix nigra in fruit!


Our first and last stop on day 5 was Chapman State Park. We saw pretty much the same flora there as we found at Smallwood, since they are within 15 minutes of each other. I did, however, take a photo of Liriodendron tulipifera.


All in all, it was a very productive scouting trip, and we had a lot of fun botanizing and seeing the beauty of MD State Parks.

I look forward to a fruitful season with SOS once again. Until next time…

Jake Dakar, NC Botanical Garden, SOS East

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