Sunday, May 31, 2015


All three ponds in Upper Marlboro are largely covered by a perennial lily-like plant called Spatterdock. In late winter, it was already emerging before the ice had even cleared the ponds. Their presence immediately tells you a pond is shallow since the stems do not exceed six feet in most cases.

Both the leaves and the inflorescence grow from rhizomes which sink their roots down into the mud. Some of the rhizomes are years and years old and can be as much as eight inches in diameter and fifteen feet or more long. This one in the center of the image is the size of a man's upper arm. They act almost as a landmass and the ducks will stand on them to preen and doze.

The small yellow flowers are inconspicuous and do not open much more than a buttercup blossom does.

Spatterdock makes a superb habitat for Wood Ducks since it is very good at concealing them from predators. How many ducks do you see in this photo? There are eight ducks that I can see. Four in the air and four along the edge of the spatterdock.  Once they drop down into the fields, they are almost impossible to spot.

The Wood Ducks swim in the open knowing that they can very quickly find cover if danger approaches.

I enlarged the last photo a little so that you could see the mother duck concealed within the stand of leaf stems on the left ahead of her brood. Notice too the turtle out in the middle.

Spatterdock provides habitat for other fish, birds and mammals as well. There is a female Red-winged black bird that has woven a nest among several spatterdock stems out in front of the spot where I often stand and photograph. When the wind is not blowing them around, you will occasionally see one leaf suddenly reel and pitch around where something like a beaver or carp has bumped into a stem. If the wind is blowing, they will all be moving around.

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