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Carolina Beach State Park

Sponsored by the Southeast Coast chapter

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dr. Paul Hosier, Professor of Biology and Marine Biology at UNC-Wilmington, led a walk through the maritime forest, salt shrub habitat and the salt and freshwater marshes of Carolina Beach State Park.  Our thanks for his superb teaching abilities!

Heading into the marshes!

Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana

A salt-resistant native, Red Cedar is an important maritime forest tree and a great wildlife food. The effects of saltwater intrusion and salt spray greatly affect which plants grow in the many micro-habitats of the coastline.

Live Oak, Quercus virginiana

Southeast Coast icon, Live Oaks are incredibly resistant to salt spray and wind damage.

Constant salt spray kills upward-growing shoots along the branches and produces the long horizontal branches characteristic of this species. Saltmeadow cordgrass, Spartina patens, grows beneath them.

Saltmeadow cordgrass, Spartina patens

Saltmeadow cordgrass grows in salt marsh and dune habitats, helping to stabilize the shoreline.

Giant cordgrass, Spartina cynosuroides

Living up to its name, Giant Cordgrass grows in brackish water and is important as wildlife habitat and food source.

Seeds of Giant cordgrass, Spartina cynosuroides

Dr. Hosier braves the cutting blades of Sawgrass, Cladium mariscus.

Sawgrass, the dominant grass of the Everglades, is another plant of brackish waters.

Cutting edge...Sawgrass earns its name!

Mixed grasses stabilize a dune.

This mixture of Bitter Panicum (Panicum amarum), American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) and Saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) may have been planted, since American Beachgrass, native to the Northeast NC coast, is commonly used in dune restoration.

Dr. Hosier disentangles three different species of grasses and sedges from one small clump.

The beautiful seeds of Bitter Panicum, Panicum amarum.

Black Needlerush, Juncus roemerianus, dominates brackish marshes.

This rush blooms in early spring. Unlike grasses and sedges, rushes have flowers like tiny, dull-colored lilies with three petals and three sepals arranged in a circle. A three-parted capsule filled with seeds usually stays on the plant for much of the season.

Dune Finger Grass, Chloris petraea, (Eustachys petraea Weakley)

An uncommon grass of dunes and sandflats

Sand Dayflower, Commelina erecta

We were lucky to catch the delicate bloom of Sand Dayflower, open for only a few hours of sun.

Grassleaf Roseling, Tradescantia rosea (Cuthbertia graminea, Weakley)

A plant of sandy ridges in Pine-Oak forest, Roseling has grass-like foliage (which gives it the species name "graminea".)

Foxtail Grass, Setaria parviflora

Found at the upper edge of brackish marshes, Foxtail Grass has a purple flower head that fades to tan as it goes to seed.

Giant Foxtail Grass, Setaria magna

A huge grass, to 10' tall with the inflorescence a foot long, Giant Foxtail Grass grows in brackish and freshwater marshes.

A Walkingstick studies the plant list for its next meal.

Swallow-wort, Seutera angustifolia

The vine, Swallow-wort, weaves through the grass stems and shrubs of brackish marshes and salt shrub thickets

Swallow-wort seed pods

Like other milkweeds, Swallow-wort has a silk-filled seed pod which helps the seeds disperse over wide areas.

Climbing Hempweed, Mikania scadens

A dune plant in the Aster family, Climbing Hempweed attracts pollinating insects and has wind-dispersed seeds.

Barnyard Grass, Echinochloa walteri

A common species of freshwater wetlands

Eastern Coralbean, Erythrina herbacea

A maritime forest plant with beautiful red tubular flowers

Eastern Coralbean seed pods

Marsh Fleabane, Pluchea odorata

A beautiful flower of freshwater wetlands, the leaves have a strong odor when crushed.

Photographing natives

Carla Edwards, Carolina Beach State Park Ranger, notes additions to the park's plant list.

Thanks to Carla for her active interest in the native plants of this wonderful park!

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