There’s a spot just down the road from where we live that’s known locally as ‘the quarry’ – though one old timer told me it was a former Civil War salt mine – a limestone quarry seems more likely. Not that there couldn’t have been salt here, but I can find no evidence of it. But then again, I know zip about salt mines.
Anyway, this area has become one of my favorite spots. There’s always a puddle or two, which attracts birds and butterflies, and it is surrounded on all sides by woods. Last summer literally hundreds of butterflies gathered in the quarry, supposedly gleaning minerals from the ground. Among the most common that I see there are these red spotted purple butterflies (which are actually orange-spotted and blue).
It’s also one of only a few places in this large county where the delicate wildflower known as glade cress blooms in March and April. I learned this from the same state herpetologist that told me about the horsehair worms.
I’d never noticed the glade cress before – maybe because I wasn’t there in March or early April, spending most of my time banding..or maybe because I wasn’t paying attention. I thought about the not paying attention part, and decided on a little experiment. I chose my own woodsy backyard as the spot, sat on my back steps with coffee and hand, and took inventory of what plants were growing there. Dogwoods, redbuds, the willow and beech trees, Virginia creeper, poison ivy….but what is that? And that? And that?
It took mere seconds for me to realize that I don’t know the identity of most of the wild plants growing in my own back yard, and so my personal challenge is to actively become familiar with my own surroundings, in addition to exploring other areas of this magnificent forest, of course.
We’ll see how I do…