Friday, June 12, 2009

A Little Opening Beside the Creek

This is Smooth Phlox, Phlox glaberrima, an uncommon plant in Ohio. I believe this to be the most attractive of the Ohio phloxes, possibly because it's the most common phlox at Blue Jay Barrens. It is found in the more open areas along the creek.

This little opening has an abundance of the Smooth Phlox. Measuring about 30 feet across and 100 feet long, this is a sunny patch trapped between the wooded creek on the right and a patch of large cedars on a rocky slope on the left. You can see the creek centered in the distance just before it makes a sharp turn to the right to curve around this area. Heavy rainfall can cause the creek to flood and come right through the middle of the opening. The combination of deeper soil, sunlight, shaded boarder and flooding make for an interesting collection of plants.

Skippers were actively visiting the phlox when these pictures were taken. Here’s a Northern Golden Skipper drinking some nectar.

This skipper lit on the flower while I was focusing for this shot, took some nectar, and left before I could look up. I can do a fair job of identification on these brown skippers if I can see the upper side of the wings, but I never saw more than what you see here. I think it’s a Northern Cloudywing because of the brown face, but if you know better, let me know.

This is Great Wood Sorrell, Oxalis grandis. It’s very common around the edges of openings like this. You may notice bare ground behind the plant. That was caused by a late winter flood that washed the ground clean.

Great Wood Sorrell has a wonderful bloom that really adds some nice highlights to the edge of the opening. I never see any insects visiting these flowers, but I have to think those red stripes at the base of the petals are showing the way for some flying pollinator. Maybe night flying moths find this to be a choice place for a meal.

Fire Pink, Silene virginica, is another one of those plants that thrives in the interface between light and shadow. You don’t see many flowers displaying the vivid red shown here.

When illuminated, the Fire Pink shines like a tiny Christmas light. You can see these little guys from a long way off. I’ll try to bring you back to this clearing later in the summer, when the prairie plants are at their best.

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