24 October 2020 – Second Largest Pitch Pine in Maryland

Photo from Chris Winton taken by Sharon Winton

The plant inventory team found this Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) on the Refuge’s Central Tract and thought it might be a contender for the state champion of this species. Chris Winton went back on 24 October 2020 and measured it for the Maryland Big Tree Program. A detailed profile of this tree can be found at this page

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Matt Beziat –
Nature Photographer Extraordinaire

Matt Beziat

Anyone from Maryland (and beyond) who follows the nature photography pages on Facebook will certainly recognize Matt’s name. He is a prolific photographer who with his smartphone and camera, takes the most amazingly stunning photographs of nature. His subjects include plants, birds, insects, and scenery.

He has won recognition for his images from Flicker and other web pages, and has contributed images to to citizen scientist projects like Maryland Biodiversity Project and iNaturalist.com.

His enthusiasm for nature is catching. With his keen eye, he seems to spot plants and other subjects that no one else sees.

He also is an eager volunteer who mans the front desk at the Patuxent Research Refuge’s North Tract Visitors Contact Station, works with Mike Goldberg in putting on nature scavenger hunts on the North Tract, and performs trail monitoring duties.

His contributions to the Refuge’s Plant Inventory Project make him a valued member of the team.

Bill Harms. Plant Inventory Project Coordinator.

Showy Orchis
Photo taken by Matt Beziat

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Hypopitys monotropa Crantz. – Pinesap
21 September 2018

Hypopitys monotropa Crantz. is a member of the Ericaceae family. Its common names include Dutchman’s pipe, false beech-drops, pinesap, or yellow bird’s-nest. Its natural range is circumboreal and is found throughout North America. The plants do not contain chlorophyll and is caled a myco-heterotroph because it gets its food through parasitism upon fungi rather than photosynthesis.

You can see Hypopitys monotropa in handful of locations on the refuge.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monotropa_hypopitys
  2. Weakley, Alan S.; Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States; Working Draft of 21 May 2015
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13 May 2020 – Ranunculus flabellaris

Earlier this week, Chris Winton of the Patuxent Research Refuge Plant Inventory Project spotted a type of buttercup that we had not seen on the refuge before. On 13 May 2020 we visited the location where he had spotted this “new” buttercup. Lo and behold, we determined it was Ranunculus flabellaris. Since this was a Maryland state endangered species S1, we had our determination validated by other botanists. After doing some research we found out that according to the SEINET online database, this species has not be reported in Maryland since 1988. Congratulations to Chris for spotting this population.

The exact location of this population is withheld.

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Pine Needle Gall Midge –
Thecodiplosis cf. brachynteroides on Virginia Pine –
5 July 2019

Matt Beziat and I spotted some Pine Needle Gall Midge (Thecodiplosis cf. brachynteroides) parasitizing in a Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana) on the North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge.

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Juncus brachycarpus –
Whiteroot Rush
18 June 2019

This is a rarely reported species. I found it in a wet meadow on the North Tract of the Refuge When I first tried to determine the plant’s name, I thought it was Rhynchospora capitellata, a fairly common beaksedge. I posted it to a Facebook page for sedges to verify my initial determinination. I was informed by Wes Knapp that this was Juncus brachycarpus instead.

What is interesting about this species is its tuberous rhizome.













A search of available databases on the internet has yielded the following (only four Maryland records since 1950):

1. and 2 Two in Piscataway Park, Prince Georges County C. A. Davis (Charles Davis?) in 1995 and Wesley Knapp in 2005,
3. One in 1998 in Queen Anne’s County by Jennifer Meininger, and
4. One in Talbot County by Wayne Longbottom in 2013.

There is also a record of this by R. H. Simmons and M. Tice on 4 Sep 2000 at Runnymede Park, Herndon, Virginia.

There are no other known records of this in Anne Arundel County and the Refuge.

The Maryland Biodiversity listed the conservation status of this species as uncertain and it is unlisted in the Maryland Natural Heritage Program Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plant list. I will be reporting this to the Maryland Natural Heritage Program.

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A Method to Press Cactus

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Milestone Reached –
Collection Number 10000 –
15 June 2019

Well, I just reached a cool milestone with my plant collection – I just hit collection number 10000. It was an Opuntia probably O. humifusa s.s. collected at the Cromwell Valley Park in Parkville, Maryland, 15 June 2019. I know I will never surpass prolific collectors like Clyde Reed whose collection number surpassed 150000 or Wayne Longbottom. who has more than twice as many collections as I do. However, I never thought I would collect this many plants. It’s been a fun ride.


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Ophioglossum pycnostichum –
13 June 2019

Ophioglossum pycnostichum (Southern Adders Tongue) is native to Southeastern North America. Some authors subsume this species under Ophioglossum vulgatum s.l. which is found in Europe and Asia. Even though it does not look like it, it is a type of a primitive fern.



The sporophore (the spore bearing spike) is said to resemble a snake’s tongue and thus the common name. It is found on the Refuge in moist area in mesic woods at several locations.



Flora of North America; Ophioglossum Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 1062. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 484, 1754.

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Cactus citizen science project – Locating Maryland cactus populations and identifying species.

Did you know that there are three putative species of cacti in Maryland?

Lucus Majure, PhD. at Florida at the Museum of Natural History in Gainesville has recently updated the taxonomy of the cactus native to the East Coast of the USA. According to his treatment, there are three species native to Maryland. So it would be an awesome citizen science project if we could document the populations in Maryland, and try to identify the species name of each population. Many populations have already been identified based on observation by citizen scientist and historic herbarium collections. Here is a web page of sites we have compiled thus far: http://blog.botanybill.info/?p=5021 The aim is make this the best reference for cactus populations in Maryland. I will try to update it as much as I can. Even for populations already located, we will still need to document which species they are.

My proposal is for individuals or teams to adopt sites, preferably ones that they would have easy access to. They would first document the locations, then they would look at the plants to see if we can determine which species it is. They would also take close-up photos of the parts of the plants for identification purposes. If they are so inclined, they could collect voucher specimens for donations to herbaria after obtaining permission from the land owner or custodian.

If you are interested in participating let me know which population you would like to adopt and I will add you to the list.

Below is a simple dichotomous key that I have drawn up to help differentiate between the three putative species.Basically we are looking at the coloration of the flowers and the presence or absence of spines.

Dichotomous key for use when plants are blooming:

1. Flowers are mostly yellow with a reddish/orangish area near the base of the tepals. Pads have spines – Opuntia cespitosa

1. Tepals of the flowers are entirely yellow from base to tip.

2. Pads are spineless – Opuntia humifusa s.s.

2. Pads have spines – Opuntia mesacantha var. mesacantha.

1.Don’t be fooled by the center parts of the flower which can be red or orange. Focus on the tepals.

2. Also, it is possible that the plants may not neatly break out in the key. No worries. We are doing an investigation, and there could be other things going on. For instance, it is possible there are other species around – most likely planted, and there could be hybridization and introgression going on.

3. When looking at the plants, examine as many plants as possible to get a good idea what they look like.  There can be a lot of variation in characteristics even within one population.

4. Please contact me if you have any questions. The only dumb question is one that should have been asked but wasn’t. My email address is botanybill (at) verizon.net

5. Please let me contact me at the above email address if you know of any populations not listed.

6. Have fun.

NOTE: This document is a working draft and will be added to as necessary.


  2. Taxonomic revision of the Opuntia humifusa complex (Opuntieae: Cactaceae) of the eastern United States https://opuntiads.com/records/Taxonomic%20revision%20of%20the%20Opuntia%20humifusa%20complex%20in%20eastern%20usa.pdf
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Viola primulifolia –
Primrose-leaved Violet


Viola primulifolia or Primrose-leaved Violet is an acaulescent viola meaning that the flowering stem grows from the crown of the plant along with the leaves. Its natural range is Eastern USA from Maine in the north, Iowa and Texas in the west, and Florida in the South. It prefers wet areas like seepages. It is fairly common on the Refuge is this type of habitat.


It is a nothospecies, or a self-reproducing hybrid of Viola macloskeyi and Viola lanceoalata. The former is not known from the Refuge, while the latter is. The populations of this species in this part of Maryland appear to be slightly different in the leaf shape from other populations found elsewhere.


These photos were taken on 10 April 2012 on the North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge.

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Liparis liliifolia –
Purple Twayblade – Part 2
31 May 2019

Today, we visited a second site where Liparis liliifolia (Purple Twayblade) was growing on the Refuge. We looked around and found several patches of these lovely orchids thriving. In all, it is possible we spotted over 100 individual plants. I am sure that if we spent more time in the area, we could have found many more.

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Opuntia cespitosa –
Eastern Prickly Pear –
31 May 2019

The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia cespitosa) is in full bloom on the Patuxent Research Refuge today by Lake Allen on the North Tract. This species differs from the other two species of Opuntia found in Maryland by the reddish area at the base of the petals, and smooth spines found mainly on the margins of the pads.

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Rubus hispidus – Swamp Dewberry
25 May 2019

After we re-discovered the location of the Liparis liliifolia on the North Tract, Dave and I did a little foraying in the powerline area. We found some patches of Rubus hispidus (Swamp Dewberry) in bloom. It is also sometimes called Bristly Dewberry.

It differs from the other two species of Dewberry (R. flagellaris and R. trvialis) found on the refuge by the lack of prickles or thorns.  R. hispidus usually tends to like wetter areas than the other two species.

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Liparis liliifolia – Purple Twayblade Part 1
25 May 2019

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Today, Dave Anderson and I re-discovered the location of a patch of Liparis liliifolia in bloom that Dave initially spotted last year on the North Tract after the blooming season. This is a new record for this species on the … Continue reading

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Which species of Oxalis is this?
18 May 2019

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Which species of Oxalis is this? I suspect it could be Oxalic colorea? Maybe. If not what other species could this be? We have measured the petals to be at least 7 mm, but never more than 10 mm. It … Continue reading

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Botrychium matricariifolium

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VIola striata – Striped White Violet

Viola striata is native to Eastern North America and is mostly (not always) found away from the Coastal Plain. On the Refuge, it is found in the floodplain/bottomland woods. It is a caulescent violet meaning that the flowers are found on nodes (or leaf axils) along the above-ground stem and not directly from the crown of the  plant.

The flowers are white with characteristic blue stripes.

This species also has stipules or leaf-like structures on lthe axils of the leaves. It is narrow, about 1 inch long, and and has a teeth-like fringe.

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Viola sororia – Common Blue Violet


Viola sororia also known as Common Blue Violet is an acaulescent violet found in Eastern North America. It is commonly found on the Refuge in hydric habitats like bottomland woods and roadside seepages. It will invade lawns and gardens., and is sometimes considered to be weedy.




There are several different flower color variations of this species. The one pictured here with the alternating blue and white coloration is called the “confederate” form. There are light blue, dark blue, and white forms as well.

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Viola pedata

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