Tuesday, October 7, 2014


If you are driving on Pennsylvania Avenue as it passes the White House and stick with it as it leaves the District of Columbia, it becomes known as Pennsylvania Avenue extended or Route Four and continues all the way to the southern end of Calvert County, crossing over into St. Mary's County very near the Pax River Naval Air Station.

As it passes just south of Upper Marlboro, it crosses the Patuxent River which is less than an hundred yards wide at that point. Route Four also officially demarcates the boundary of the upper reaches of the tidal zone, the point where the river is considered fresh. In truth, the water remains brackish for quite some ways beyond this area.

Although the river is not very wide here, there is a fairly large flood plain where the water occasionally rises so high, it cuts off the highway, causing massive commuter headaches for those who live in Southern Maryland and work in Washington. These wetlands are where this set of photos was taken.

There are close to sixty species of Helianthus in North America. Helianthus giganteus is the one we are most familiar with - the sunflower whose seed head grows so large. The species pictured here may be any one of several that have common names like Muck sunflower, Woodland sunflower or Prairie sunflower.

Before this Fall, I don't think I had ever really noticed them covering the marshy areas but, then, I have not travelled Route four through this area regularly in several years.

The plants grow tall, many reaching ten feet or more. The sheer number of flowers is staggering. It is the same kind of natural "excess" that was once seen with so many species of fish, birds, herds and other types of plants.

We have proven to be poor stewards of the amazing natural resources in this country - the buffalo, passenger pigeon and great prairie of the Midwest immediately come to mind. Hopefully, this wetland doesn't get paved over any time soon.

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