You never really have to go far to botanize. Spending a day in the mountains or in a state park is nice, but sometimes all you need to do is walk to the edge of the parking lot!
This field beside a Lowe’s Foods near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, is a textural sweep of fall color and wildflowers. Beach false foxglove (Agalinis fasciculata) bobs in the breeze at the edge of the muck.
I think my thumb is clearer in this picture than the inside of the flower is, but it’s pretty in there, dotted and luminous.
Fresh succulence dots the sandy path and relieves the melancholic tug of waning light and fading plants.
Grasses and young loblolly pines dominate higher and drier expanses of the field.
Was this poor plant victim of a worker using spray paint to mark something? In his field guide Wildflowers of the Sandhills Region, Bruce Sorrie says that everyone has probably seen this plant, but I had either not seen it or never noticed. It is rustweed (Polypremum procumbens), and that crazy orange is its natural fall color!
A turkeytail fungus (Trametes versicolor) grows on the remnants of a woody stem covered with sand.
Thoroughworts (Eupatorium spp.) and other asteraceous plants have bloomed out, but their fluffy seedheads still provide food for wildlife.
Further along, the plant cover is more dense and shrubby.
That row of palms in the background above is the entrance to a new neighborhood.
Here’s the view of the field from the neighborhood entrance. Plants under the palms leave a little to be desired if you’ve gotten to know the field even a little bit.
Native pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is much better than pruned-to-death (quite literally!) loropetalum, but even that is far less compelling than the wild and wonderful just beyond. Let’s backtrack a little and see what else we can find there.
Sea myrtle (Baccharis halimifolia) opens its foamy white blooms.
Come in close for a view of sea myrtle’s female flowers.
Inkberry holly (Ilex glabra) doles out its black berries to birds all winter long.
A titi (Cyrilla racemiflora)! Dangling strings of beads make pretty plant jewelry, don’t they?
Seedbox (Ludwigia sp.) is more interesting in fruit than in bloom. Those square-topped capsules are worth marveling.
Just look at the incredible diversity in this small field! Is that sumac beside the sea myrtle? And the goldenrods are fabulous. I hope you enjoy the lush view as much as I do. Take a look beyond a parking lot near you soon and see what you can find.
There are hours and hours of happy discoveries here.
Happy botanizing, friends!