Notes from a botany hike at Preddy Creek

Preddy Creek is a newish park north of Charlottesville with hiking and biking trails.


Guttation is sort of like plant sweat: if the ground is wet at night, a plant’s roots could continue pumping in water while the stomata are closed–meaning no transpiration to release excess water. Some plants handle the overflow by squeezing the water out of special pores called hydathodes. Great explanation here. Here’s what it looks like:


Very pretty.

Pine Spittlebugs

If you see this on pine trees:
you are seeing young pine spittlebugs, which feed on the tree and cover themselves with the “spittle” for protection. Photo from

Grasses vs sedges vs rushes

To remember the main difference among the three types of plant, a poem about stems:
Sedges have edges
Rushes are round
Grasses are hollow
Like holes in the ground 

Pink ladyslipper orchids

They only flower every 5 to 10 years, and needs to coexist with a certain type of fungus. More on that symbiotic relationship here.

Running cedar

Way back before the dinosaurs, Running Cedar used to be huge trees. Now it’s a low groundcover plant. Be careful cutting it back, because the expanse of Running Cedar you see is actually just one single organism. Details here.
Photo from Running cedar would make a lovely Christmas wreath, but don’t do it: when dried, it’s extremely flammable.

Corn salad

The name cracks me up. It’s an invasive species, considered a weed by some. More info here.


Corn salad is dichasal. A branch splits into two branches, which each split into two branches, which each split into two branches… The symmetry is satisfying.


It has a pretty purple flower, but more interestingly, it’s the plant you get when you buy shamrocks at the store for St. Patrick’s Day. Gorgeous leaves:

Venus looking-glass

The arrangement of leaves on the stem of this plant is fantastic. They spiral down in bunches, directly attached to the stem.

Maidenhair fern

These ferns have delicate fronds, arranged in a semi-circle on fine, black stems.

Photo from

Barred Owl

A hiker and her dog alerted our group to an injured owl on the trail not too far back. She said it was large and flopped around on the ground as if its wing was injured. A few of us went back to help it, and found a big Barred Owl in a tree across the creek, peacefully watching us. Apparently it had swooped in to grab a treat and wrestled with it, or was faking injury to escape the woman and dog. The owl was big and beautiful, with a gray-brown body and lighter face, and hooted hello at us. Here is more information about Barred Owls. It was too far away to get a good picture, but here’s one from



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