8 October 2018 – Washington County Cactus Foray

Today, Joe Metzger and I went on a foray to locate two populations of cactus in Washington County, Maryland.

Voucher specimen of Opuntia cespitosa collected by Clyde Reed at Kemps Mill in June 1952



The first one was a reported population of Opuntia cespitosa in Kemps Mills where Clyde Reed collected a voucher specimen in June 1952. We drove the entire length of Kemps Mill Road and did not see any cactus. We also located Kemp Mill’s itself, but did not see a suitable habitat in the vicinity. Unfortunately, Reed’s voucher label does not reveal an exact location.  The only real clue was a reference to “limestone ledges.”




Snug Harbor Lane. Cliff is on the right

Along Kemps Mill Road, we spotted a limestone cliff face which could have been the “limestone ledges” referred to by Reed on the voucher label. We make a cursory look at the cliff face and did not notice any spot that might have supported cactus. We could not see the upper parts of the cliff from the road. These areas are more sunny and might be a good place to look another time. The cliff face however sported a lot of interesting flora.  It was located near a KOA campground and faced mostly to the west. We will attempt to locate the population again another time. Hopefully, we just missed finding it and the population is still around. If you have a good idea where it is located let us know.

Juvenile Cliff Brake Fern plants with some small Ebony Spleenwort.


On the cliff face, we spotted some presumed fern gametophytes and several fall blooming species in the family. It looks like an interesting site to return to in other seasons.


Lock house at Dam 5 with retaining wall at base.



We continued our foray to the Dam 5 area of the C & O Canal where there was a reported population of Opuntia humifusa s.s.This time we were successful. The cactus was located at the base of a retaining wall below a lock house. Based on the small size and location of the cactus population, we concluded that it was probably planted and not naturally occurring.

Opuntia humifusa below retaining wall at Dam 5






If you know of any other cactus populations in Washington County we would be interested in learning about them. There are some cactus populations in Allegany County which we will be trying to re-locate, probably next spring. If you think you might like to participate, there is plenty of time to plan a foray.



Here are some photos of other plants we saw while looking for the cactus.

Symphyotrichum lanceolatum (Willd.) G.L. Nesom –
Panicled Aster

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (L.) Á. Löve & D. Löve. –
Calico Aster

Solidago flexicaulis L. –
Zigzag Goldenrod

Solidago caesia L. –
Blue Stemmed Goldenrod

Symphyotrichum shortii (Lindl.) G.L. Nesom –
Short’s Aster

Ageratina cf altissima (L.) R.M. King & H. Rob. –
White Snakeroot

Symphyotrichum sp. –
Unknown Aster

Laportea canadensis (L.) Weddell –
Canadian Wood Nettle

Ipomoea lacunosa L. –

Sicyos angulatus L. –
One-seeded Bur Cucumber or Star-Cucumber

Woodsia obtusa (Spreng.) Torr. –
Bluntlobe Cliff Fern

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25 August 2018 – Finding Cactus at Weinberg Park

Rangers Matt Grey and Chris Winton

Had an awesome time with Rangers Matt Grey and Chris Winton of Anne Arundel County Park and Recreation this afternoon scouting out the cactus at Weinberg Park in Pasadena. The site was near an old homestead. We could see two stone columns which could have come from a gate entrance. I understand that there is other evidence of a homestead at the site.

The site showed definite signs of anthropogenic disturbance likely from the folks who previously lived here. The soil was well-drained sand on a bluff above the bay. There is a high probability the cactus was planted and they were growing in an area about 15 feet by 15 feet. There were outlying scattered plants in the area as well.

Yucca flaccida growing nearbby

We also spotted some Yucca flaccida (weak-leaf yucca) which was planted nearby.  This, when combined with the planting of cactus, suggests that someone wanted to create a desert-like appearance at this site.

The morphology of the plants conform with a determination of Opuntia humifusa s.s. We did not find spines on any of the plants and there were mostly 4 to 5 (6) areoles per diagonal row on the cladodes. The seeds were 4.0 to 4.8 mm long.

We plan to re-visit the site in the spring to note the flower coloration.

Click here for collection data details.

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22 August 2018 – Maryland Cactus Sites

This is a working draft list of locations where cactus has been found in Maryland, excluding the Eastern Shore. (Eastern Shore sites may be added later.) If you know of a location not listed here, let me know at botanybill (at) verizon.net and I will put it on the list. Also if you would like to claim a site to watch, let me know.


Alleghany County

  • Flintstone – (at least three stations) – Opuntia humifusa s.s.

Anne Arundel County

  • Global Command Antenna Field, Davidsonville
  • Hancock’s Resolution – Field north of house
  • Hancock’s Resolution – Planted in garden – Opuntia cespitosa
  • Jug Bay, Parking Lot Meadow
  • Jug Bay, Sand Barrens, Parris Glendenning Area (Wayson’s Corner?) (More info)
  • Jug Bay, South Farm
  • Milt’s Sand Pit, Sands Road –  large population – old field (More info)
  • Patuxent Research Refuge, Lake Allen – large population – Opuntia cespitosa – Bill Harms (More info)
  • Patuxent Research Refuge, East of Tipton Field – likely planted many years ago – Opuntia cespitosa – Bill Harms
  • Sandy Point State Park – Extirpated?
  • Weinberg Park – Opuntia humifusa – probably planted.
  • Wooton’s Landing – assumed to be planted in two stations.

Baltimore County

  • Factory Road – planted possibly from nearby wild stock – Opuntia cespitosa. (More info)

Calvert County

  • Broome Island
  • Flag Ponds

Carroll County

Charles County

  • Chapman State Park

Frederick County

  • East of Emmitsburg

Howard County

  • Main Street, Elkridge – Planted next to a parking lot – Opuntia humifusa s.s. (more info)

Montgomery County

  • Bear Island
  • southern end of the Billy Goat A Trail in C&O Canal NHP
  • Plummer’s Island – Extirpated
  • River Road, SSW of Poolesville

Prince George’s County

  • Billingsley House
  • MacGruder’s Landing
  • Nottingham Road – apparently planted – tentatively Opuntia mesacantha ssp. mesacantha
  • Priest Bridge
  • Queen Anne Canoe Launch – open meadow – apparently Opuntia humifusa s.s.
  • Rte 301 – small number of plants – planted

St. Marys

  • Commander’s residence USN Solomon’s Recreation Area in Lawn
  • Patuxent Naval Air Station, East side of Security Road at NE corner air station.
  • Piney Point

Washington County

  • Kemps Mill
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13 August 2018 – Queen Anne Canoe Launch

Had an awesome time today with Michael Ellis, park ranger and invasive plant specialist for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation. We visited two sites where prickly pear was growing.


FIRST SITE – The first site was an open meadow near the Queen Anne Canoe Launch Patuxent River Park. The meadow was a restoration project and had an old field look about it.  Based on the fact that the cladodes had no spines and mostly four or five areoles per diagonal row, these plants appear to be Opuntia humifusa s.s. We will be returning in the spring to look for flowers in bloom.

Cactus pad next to driveway.SECOND SITE – The second site was an old driveway off of US Route 301 in Bowie. The woods were overgrowing the driveway which was apparently no longer in use. We saw a few plants on the left side of the driveway, which we assumed to be planted by past owners.


Many thanks to Michael for taking time out of his job to show me around.

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11 August 2018 – Cactus in Elkridge

On the way home from Glen Arm, Maryland this morning, I stopped off at a location here in Elkridge where someone planted some prickly pear cactus evidently many years ago next to a parking lot.  The plants key out to Opuntia humifusa sensu stricto.

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11 August 2018 – Cactus on Factory Road

This morning I attempted re-visit a site where Clyde Reed collected some cactus in 1981 which has been determined by Opuntia expert Lucas Majure to be Opuntia cespitosa. The site was on Factory Road in Glen Arm, Maryland (Click here for Reed’s record.). The voucher label described the site as an stone outcrop.

Although I am not absolutely certain that I found the population from which Reed obtained his voucher specimen, it could be. The cactus I spotted was growing along a stone retaining wall. The morphology of these plants seems to conform with Opuntia cespitosa. I talked with the landowner Ken, and he told that his wife planted them many years ago. He believed that the original stock for the plants may have come from the nearby woods, but he was not certain.  So, the plants I spotted should be considered to be cultivated.  But the question of whether or not this species is native to Maryland is still unclear because we do not know if Reed collected his voucher from the cultivated plants I spotted this morning or if he collected his voucher from naturally occurring plants which may have been growing in the nearby woods.

Another re-visit to this site is planned for next May or June to look at the coloration of the flowers and to obtain more information about the possible native occurrence of this species in the nearby woods.

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7 August 2018 – Cactus Foraying near Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary

After learning about some cacti located south of Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, David Anderson, Matthew Beziat, and I went on a foray to see if we could locate them.

We found the cactus on a south facing slope beside Nottingham Road adjacent to a farm.  The presence of spines and three or four areoles per diagonal row at the middle of the cladodes suggests that they are Opuntia mesacantha ssp. mesacantha. The clump was about 20 feet by 20 feet and seemed out of place.  The plants looked like someone was weeding them and probably planted.

A special thanks for Esther Woodworth for letting us know about the plants and for Joe Metzger for providing the directions.

A trip in the spring when they are in bloom is planned.

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3 August 2018 – Cactus Foraying at Wooton’s Landing

This time Matt Beziat and I forayed the Wooton’s Landing Park to look for some cactus that Matt had spotted previously. We found it along the perimeter trail which parallels Sands Road. The small number of plants at this site were atypically elongated because they were growing in the shade. On the way out of the park, we spotted another patch under a guardrail by the parking area.

The plants were spineless and had three to four areoles per diagonal row. This conforms with a determination of Opuntia humifusa s.s.


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28 July 2018 – Cactus at Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary Parking Lot Meadow

Today, Matt Beziat, Dave Anderson, and I paid a visit to the meadow next to the Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary Center parking lot to look for the cactus reportedly there. The meadow was well maintained with plenty of native plants.  While walking around the meadow, we met up with Kerry Wixted who also happened to be in the area.

We spotted some cactus around the perimeter of the meadow on the opposite side of the parking lot. Someone had also planted some cactus along a fence across the road from the meadow. The cactus was apparently O. humifusa s.s. Most of the cladodes had four areoles per diagonal row with a few which had three or five. We did not see any plants with spines.

A spring visit is planned to examine the coloration of the flowers.

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21 July 2018 – Foraying at Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, Jug Bay

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Despite some rain, heavy at times, had a awesome time today meeting up with Joe Metzger and Karyn Molines to foray the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, Jug Bay. We hiked about one mile to an area called the “Sand Barrens” … Continue reading

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14 July 2018 – Cactus at Milt’s Sand Pit

Today Sam Droege showed me a location where some Opuntia was growing along the east side of the Patuxent River along Sands Road in Davidsonville, MD in Anne Arundel County. There were scattered patches of cactus growing along the access road at the site, but the bonanza was about ⅓ of a mile from where we parked the car on Sands Road. Cactus was all over the place. We did not have an accurate way to measure the area, but estimated the cactus covered at least 5 or 6 acres. The habitat was an old field type in clearings with sandy soil. The area was an old sand borrow pit with evidence of sand having been moved around around in the past.

The plants seem to key out to Opuntia mesacantha because the cladodes were spineless and there were three or four (not five) areoles per diagonal row. Closer examination of the plants in this population is needed and a trip to investigate the flowers is planned for next spring.

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22 September 2017 – Hidden Bog – A New Discovery

Dave standing next to a patch of sphagnum moss


Dave Anderson and I spent some time this afternoon locating a previously undocumented Magnolia seepage bog that was recently discovered by the Patuxent Research Refuge supervisory wildlife biologist Sandy Spencer and biologist John Bourne on the Refuge’s North Tract.

The area was very pristine with no noticeable infestation of exotic plant species. We estimated that the bog covered an area of about 1 or 2 acres (a more accurate measurement will be done later.)

This is a fine example of the numerous seepage bogs found on the refuge.



The following species of plants were sighted:

Clethra alnifolia
Magnolia virginiana
Nyssa sylvatica
Liquidambar styraciflua
Ilex opaca
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum
Osmunda regalis
Anchistea virginica
Carex ssp.
Quercus palustris
Pinus virginiana
Smilax glauca

A more complete inventory will be done later.  (Scroll down to see more photos of the bog.)

Sweet Bay Magnoila

Sweet Bay Magnoila

Clethra alnifolia

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6 May 2017 – Newly Discovered Plant Species for Maryland

(Click on image for larger and fuller view.)

Today, I went out to the southern border of the Refuge to checkout the area around the old USDA Beltsville Landing Strip. There were several species of weeds hanging around.  To my surprise, one of them ended up being a plant species that had not been documented for Maryland.  It is called Krigia cespitosa (Raf.) K.L. Chambers or Weedy Dwarf Dandelion.

The Weedy Dwarf Dandelion is found throughout Southeast USA, including the neighboring states of Virginia and West Virginia, so its appearance in Maryland is not surprising.  Since this plant was located at an airport historically associated with the USDA, it is very possible that it could have been introduced by an aircraft from another area. It would not be surprising if other as-of-yet-not-known species are at this site which were introduced by the same method. Another plant species new to Maryland, Lythrum hyssopifolia L. or Hyssop Loosestrife, was found near this location in June 2015.

There are three other species from the genus Krigia in Maryland – K. biflora, K. dandelion, and K. virginica. The lack of pappus in the flowering head is one of the traits which distinguishes K. cespitosa from the other three.

My original determination of this plant species has been verified by Rod Simmons and Wes Knapp.

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25 April 2017 – Forget-me-not or not – Part 2 – SUCCESS!

Last time we attempted to identify a Forget-Me-Not that was found growing in Oldtown Elkridge. (Click here to see the first part of the story.)

After looking at the key, we narrowed the possibilities down to three species – Myosotis arvensis, Myosotis discolor, and Myosotis stricta, the last three species on the key.

So today I went out to the station where we first found the plant. Of course, the flowering stems had elongated and there were more fruits. The fruiting pedicels were all shorter than the calyces. The plants were floriferous (with flowers) well below the middle of the flowering stems.  I did not see any styles extending beyond the mericarps. After running this through the key in the first blog entry, we come up with Myosotis stricta  Link ex Roem. & Schult. or Strict Forget-me-not.

CONCLUSION: sometimes you have to look at a plant at different stages to be sure of an identification.


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16 April 2017 – Mollusks Galore

Old Erie Canal (Clinton’s Ditch) on left
and the “New” Erie Canal on the right

This time we diverge from looking at plants. On our hike on the Butterfly Trail at Lock # 30, Erie Canal, Macedon, New York, we found at least four mollusks. In the first picture, you can see the “beach” where we found them. It was mostly made up of the remains of shells. We would like to know what are the exact species. If you know or can verify the exact species of these mollusks please let us know.

Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)

The first shells that we are looking at are Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). They are an aggressive invasive species throughout a large portion of North America. They were first detected inNorth America in the Detroit-Windsor area in 1988. They are considered a serious pest.

Asian Clam (Corbicula fluminea)



This one is believed to be the bivalve mollusk called the Asian Clam (Corbicula fluminea).






I have no idea what this is. For this article I am calling it a Striped Snail. This little guy was alive when we found it.




I am calling this one a Cone Snail. They are similar to some snails that we used raised in aquariums when I was younger.

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14 April 2017 – Poet’s Daffodil – Narcissus poeticus L. –

Today, I went on a botanical foray in Oldtown Elkridge concentrating on the area around the Thomas Viaduct and found several interesting exotics and even a few natives.

Pictured here is the Poet’s Daffodil – Narcissus poeticus L.  It is native to south and central Europe and had become naturalized in other parts of the world including Maryland. At this location, there were several dozen plants.

Its short yellow reddish rimmed corona is a distinctive characteristic of this species.

The origin of the name Poet’s Narcissus is not clear, but one version states that the poet Virgil wrote about a Narcissus which matched the description of this plant in his fifth Eclogue. Theosphratus (371 – c. 287 BCE), in his botanical writings wrote about a spring blooming narcissus which subsequent writers consider to be this species.


Bourne, Stephen Eugene; W. L. Foster (1903). The Book of the Daffodil. J. Lane. p. 3.

Linnaeus, Carl von. 1753. Species Plantarum 1: 289, Narcissus poeticus


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14 April 2017 – Oldtown Elkridge and Thomas Viaduct

This gallery contains 11 photos.

The venue for today’s foray took place in Oldtown Elkridge and in area of the nearby Thomas Viaduct (the world’s oldest multiple arched stone railway viaduct still in use from the early 19th century). Below, you can see some of … Continue reading

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14 April 2017 – Forget-me-not or not – Part 1

Let’s have some fun here.  This time, we will focus on the difficulty in identifying the species of plants. I found a large patch of plants next to a parking area in “Oldtown” Elkridge. It was obvious to me that they were forget-me-nots (Myosotis sp.) But I was not sure of which species it was.

So, what shall we do to figure out what species this is? For this we will consult the Myosotis key in Alan Weakley’s Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States, 2015. There are other keys avaialble, but for the purpose of this article, we will stick with this one. (See bottom of the page of the excerpt of the key).

The first choice in the key deals with the pubescence on the calyx:

1 Calyx strigose, the hairs neither spreading nor uncinate.
1 Calyx with some loose or spreading, uncinate hairs.

Okay, strigose means short and appressed, the hairs of which on our Myosotis are not. Furthermore, at least some of the calyx hairs seem to be uncinate, meaning they are like hooks. So we will go with the second one in the pair.

The next choice is as follows:

3 Corolla limb 5-8 mm wide; perennial
– OR –
3 Corolla limb 1-4 mm wide; annual or biennial.

Our plants are not perennial and the corolla limb was measured to be less than than 5 mm.  So the second one of this pair fits better.

Going down the key, this is the next choice:

4 Calyx lobes unequal, 3 lobes shorter than the other 2; corolla white; [native, of dry or moist habitats].
– OR –
4 Calyx lobes equal, all 5 the same size; corolla blue (occasionally yellow or white); [alien, mostly of dry disturbed habitats].

Right off, the corolla lobes are equal and the same size, the corolla is blue, and the habitat is disturbed. So we have to go with the second one of the pair.

Here is the next choice.

6 Fruiting pedicels equaling or generally longer than the calyx
– OR –
6 Fruiting pedicels distinctly shorter than the calyx.

Okay, this is a bit problematic. That is because the plants are in an early stage of blooming and there are not many fruiting pedicels to look at. The ones that are visible seem to be shorter than that the calyces, but the pedicels could end up being longer than the calyces as the plants mature. Identifying the plants at this point would be not much more than a guess. (There are three possibilities based on this key – Myosotis arvensis, Myosotis discolor, and Myosotis stricta.)

So for now, let’s wait for a week or two and go back to this location to see if the pedicels will be longer. (They are not going anywhere.) Then we can look at the key again. There are three possible species left in the key, and after we figure out if the pedicels stay shorter than the calyces or not, we will be able to be more confident about determining which species this is.

(Continued in Part 2)

The key for Myosotis from Weakley’s Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States, 2015.

(Used with permission of author.)

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11 April 2017 – Cerastium



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9 April 2017 – A Harbinger of Spring – Draba verna

This tiny plant called Draba verna L. is a true harbinger of spring. It is always one of the first flowers to makes its presence known each year.  In Maryland, it can usually be seen blooming as early as February, and even in January, if temperatures are warm enough like this year (2017).


This member of the Brassicaceae family has several different “common” names. The one I usually hear it called is Whitlow Grass. The name- Erophila verna – is sometimes seen as a synonym in scientific literature.


It is native to Eurasia, and most literature I have seen says it has been introduced to North America. However, Wikipedia, without quoting a source, says it is now considered to be a native to North America. I have not found a source that validates this. If you know of such a source please let me know. At the very least, it is naturalized to North America.

It is found on the refuge in disturbed areas like the edge of parking lots, roads, and other open areas where there is bare soil. It is a highly variable species generally growing from about 1 inch to 3 inches tall. I have seen it attaining heights of over 6 inches in favorable conditions.




It is a hardy little guy that can truly be called a harbinger of spring.

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