March 2017

I have returned to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park for 2017.  I am excited to be back and hope my experience last season will allow me to go about my rare plant survey work with increased efficiency.  After discussing the priorities of the natural resource management program with park staff we have decided to focus on updating the occurrences of 20 or so globally rare species that have previously been recorded in the park. More or less these species are found in three areas of the park: 1) the “falls line” area of the Potomac River between the piedmont and coastal plain 2) the shale barren habitats of western Maryland and 3) the high quality limestone habitats such as in the Hagerstown Valley.

The plant records vary considerably.  Some are comprised of one occurrence that hasn’t been seen in a hundred years to one comprised of forty occurrences numbering in the tens of thousands.  In 1995 and 2001 a Maryland Natural Heritage Program Botanist conducted a park wide survey of all the rare plants within the canal.  It is from these reports that I take most of my direction in planning my survey efforts.

I’ve started collecting publications with information on these species.  I enjoy reading these collections of records and observations especially the older ones.  The area around Washington, D.C. has a long history of botanical study.  Unfortunately the area is also heavily urbanized now and much of the pristine habitats described no longer exist.

The resources office of the canal located in Hagerstown, Maryland has a nice collection of botanical publications to assist me in my work.  The following are some books I reference daily.

I also rely on Alan Weakley’s Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States, which is available online.  I keep a copy saved in my Ibooks app on my iphone.  I really appreciate this flora and its thoroughness.  The fact that it is available in a searchable .pdf file is also a big help for quick reference in the field.

The weather is not quite what I would consider warm yet, with eight inches of snow falling last week.  April will be a busy month for me when several of my target species start flowering.

In my first week here I was able to get out into the park and update a Snow Trillium record, which is not part of the priority list but a real treat to see.

Snow Trillium

Trillium nivale

I have a newer camera this year and hope to upgrade the quality of the photos I post.  I was disappointed in the quality of some of the photos from my blog entries last season but this may be a condition of uploading photos to the site itself.


Coleman Minney

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