smith creek borrow pit

Tadpoles, at the shallow end...
Tadpoles, at the shallow end…
kayak launch
kayak launch

In a rare local example of thoughtful re-purposing, what had been a 35-acre hole excavated for I-40 fill sand has become the centerpiece of a 92-acre county park, complete with playground, picnic shelter, dock, and a paved loop trail.

Don't mow, let it grow!!
Don’t mow, let it grow!!

 

While we have never seen anyone actually paddling around the ‘lake’, its steep banks are threaded with trails people have made to get to the water’s edge for fishing.  (despite the ‘Warning, Alligators’ signage…) The  shore vegetation is  a mix of planted and opportunistic mostly native species, which are allowed to grow and flower. It’s refreshing to see these sorts of signs.  This restricted mowing regime is INTENTIONAL, y’all!

Cinnamon Fern, Osmundastrum cinnamomeum, with Bracken Fern, Pteridium aquilinum.
Cinnamon Fern, Osmundastrum cinnamomeum, with Bracken Fern, Pteridium aquilinum.
Coastal Azalea, Rhododendron atlanticum, in fragrant bloom under the pines. No scratch-n-sniff, sorry.
Coastal Azalea, Rhododendron atlanticum, in fragrant bloom under the pines. No scratch-n-sniff, sorry.

Our wandering habits always take us off-trail and into the woods, so we explored the wider perimeter of the park, beyond the west boundary.   The outer edge , at least along it’s north and west boundaries , still has a great mix of native vegetation – with some relics of pocosin as well as more mesic sandy woods.

Inkberry, Ilex glabra. Berries must not be quite as delectable as other holly species...
Inkberry, Ilex glabra. Berries clearly not  quite as delectable as other holly species…
Coastal Fetterbush, Eubotrys racemosa.
Coastal Fetterbush, Eubotrys racemosa.

Although it is not an undisturbed landscape, it still has some awesome plant and bird diversity.  Lots of Longleaf Pine, Pinus palustris, Titi, Cyrilla racemiflora, Inkberry, Ilex glabra,  Fetterbush, Lyonia and Eubotrys spp., Blueberry, Vaccinium and Huckleberry, Gaylussacia species. We’ve heard (and tax records seem to indicate…) that the area we were wandering will be a future addition to the park. Fingers crossed for trails versus sports fields!

More park space will be especially awesome if they can manage to keep the plant diversity.  At the southern end, however, a silt fence, a mesh/seed-stabilized swale, and the loud grumblings of heavy equipment foretell the coming of…drum roll, more patio homes!!

Parcel to south of 'lake' may eventually be part of the park.  Orange line indicates where we wandered.
Parcel to south of ‘lake’ may eventually be part of the park. Orange line indicates where we wandered.

 

This was taken in February.  Click here for sound effects...
Edge of new development. This was taken in February. Wish we could include sound effects…

As a new development adjacent to a ‘nature’ park, standards for design and site preparation should be better tuned to conservation.  Ding dang it.  No vegetation, pure de-nudement. Denouement…?!

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scary times for some swallowtails

Spicebush Swallowtail, taking a VERY brief pit stop in the collection of 'yard weeds.' Thank you BugGuide for identification!
Spicebush Swallowtail, taking a VERY brief pit stop in the collection of ‘yard weeds.’ Thank you BugGuide for identification!
Same individual...departing moments later.
Same individual…departing moments later.

Spring has sprung, finally!  And it seems like there more butterflies than usual.  It was fun to chase this Spicebush Swallowtail, Papilio troilus, across the yard for a photo.

This photo was taken from a car, but this looks like what we're starting to see all over town. Sad times.
Redbay victim of Laurel Wilt.  This photo was taken from a car, but this looks like what we’re starting to see all over town. Sad times.
New growth on Swamp Redbay, Persea palustris. This plant was grown from a 3" cutting to 4'...
New growth on Persea palustrus, Swamp Redbay. This 4′ plant was grown from a 3″ cutting.

Host plants for this species include, of course, Spicebush, Lindera benzoin,  Pondberry, L. melissifolia, Pondspice, Litsea aestivalis, Sassafras, S. albidum,  and our local Redbays, Persea borbonia and P. palustris.  These members of the Lauraceae family are now potential victims of  Laurel Wilt, a fungal disease delivered by the Redbay Ambrosia beetle.  Xyleborus glabratus.  Spicebush Swallowtails, fortunately, also count Tulip Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera, and Sweetbay, Magnolia virginiana, among their larval host plants…