RareQuest Outings

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On June 15, HMNs Kathy Byers, Chris Bowlen and Peggy Plass joined a trio of botanists with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for a trip to Magnolia Swamp in Augusta County. The primary target of their search was the Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra), a beautiful wildflower last seen on the property about 25 years ago. The team also looked for other plants which are not usually found in Augusta County, but which had been sighted at Magnolia Swamp in the past.

The site is well named—extremely swampy. “Yeah, there were probably only 5 or 6 times when my boot came really close to getting sucked off into the mud,” quipped Kathy Byers. The mucky terrain crisscrossed with trailing vines and seemingly endless patches of Johnny in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) was well worth the effort required to navigate the swamp though. Multiple small patches of swamp pink (Hellonias bullata) were located and plotted on the RareQuest Collection Map. Other finds included Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris). Both plants were on the state botanists’ list of species (rare for that area) which they hoped to find at Magnolia Swamp!

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Queen of the Prairie

The best find of the day, however, was made by HMN Chris Bowlen, who located Filipendula rubra in an isolated corner of the property after fighting her way through mud, brush, and lots of bugs. VDCR botanists were delighted to find that the Queen was still resident in Magnolia Swamp. Keep in mind that none of these plants were in bloom at the time the team was at the site—so recognizing them involved careful scrutiny of a set of leaves growing among endless other green leafy things. An impressive feat!

After the success at Magnolia Swamp, another Headwaters RareQuest team (this time including project coordinator Chip Brown along with Chris Bowlen and Peggy Plass) headed to a RareQuest site in Page County on June 25 to look for lowland loosestrife (Lysimachia hubrida). This site was soon dubbed “greenbriar swamp” by the team, who had to contend with nearly constant snagging of clothes and skin by the thorny plant.

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Lowland Loosestrife, not yet confirmed

The prickly terrain, coupled with the extravagant and multifaceted songs of what was apparently a very large group of roosters living on the adjacent property made for an exciting morning outing! Once again, Chris Bowlen was able to identify a small patch of what the team hopes is Lysimachia hubrida. With photos sent off to the state RareQuest coordinator for hopeful validation, HMNs will plan to make another visit in early July (when there’s a better chance that the plant will be flowering), hoping to obtain data needed to confirm the sighting.

More RareQuest outings are planned for later this summer. If you have an interest in being part of the project (this summer or next year) contact Chip Brown for more info!

– Peggy Plass, Cohort IV, July 2017

More about RareQuest from the Virginia Master Naturalists’ website HERE.

All photos by Peggy Plass.

Top photo is of Chris and Kathy (just behind Chris) looking for plants at Magnolia Swamp. Gary Fleming from VDCR is with the camera. 

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