Ιούλιος 08, 2019

Cozia National Park

One of the most impressive sights in the Southern Carpathian mountains is the gap through which the Olt river flows from north (Transylvania) to the south. The river flows between the Cozia mountains (east of the river) and Capatinii mountains (west of the river). This area is designated as a national park, called the Cozia National Park.

A network of hiking trails cover the mountains on both sides of the Olt river. I explored two of the easier trails.

East Olt side: Turnu Monastery to Stanisoara Monastery (red vertical stripe on white background). The trail starts down at the Olt River at the Turnu Monastery and climbs up to Stanisoara Monastery, in the Cozia mountains. The trail is 2 hrs long and passes through an area covered with a mix of evergreeen and deciduous trees. Beech (fag) and alder (anin) dominate the latter, along with lindens (tei) which were in blooom at the beginning of July and made the hiking easier with their scent.

West Olt Side: Lotrisor waterfall trail. The trail runs along the Lotrisor river. The path runs along a forest road, and climbs gently up to the Lotrisor waterfall, along a canyon with vertical walls made of Cozia augen gneiss and mica schists. Along the banks of the river grow nettles and burdocks (brusture).

The flora of this region includes a few endemic species. One of them is Garofita de munte, a wild form of carnation (pink colored).

Posted on Ιούλιος 08, 2019 0556 ΠΜ by danp2 danp2 | 9 παρατηρήσεις | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Ιούνιος 21, 2019

Wild flora of Bucharest

The uncultivated lots in Bucharest are populated by a wide variety of plants. I made a few identifications on an empty lot near a construction site in Titan, in the East part of the city.

This particular lot was previously covered by small houses with gardens, and some of the cultivated fruit trees still remain (walnut, cherry-plums (corcodus), apple trees). The houses were torn down and are being replaced by villas and aparment buildings. In the mean time wild plants are taking over the sites. They are probably typical of the native plants growing in the Danube plain, with a few invasives (Heaven tree - Alyantus).

For ages the Bucharest region was part of a huge forest (Codrul Vlasiei) stretching for hundreds of kilometers all the way to the Southern Carpathian mountains. This was cut down over the 18-th and 19-th century and was replaced by grasslands and cultivated fields.

Posted on Ιούνιος 21, 2019 0846 ΠΜ by danp2 danp2 | 19 παρατηρήσεις | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Ιανουάριος 27, 2019

Sargassum in Isla Mujeres

There is an invasion of Sargassum algae on the Carribean beaches, which started in 2011 and shows no signs of abating. The phenomenon is known as Sargassum inundation, and has an environmental impact on sea life which get caught into the masses of algae. It is also a major annoyance for tourists all over the Carribean. The reason is thought to be man-made, a combination of warmer waters and an influx of sewage and fertilizer carried by the Amazon river into the ocean. A recent article about this phenomenon is here .

Sargassum has a venerable history. It was first observed and described by Columbus on his voyage to the Americas. It used to be localized to Sargasso Sea, an area of the Atlantic Ocean delimited by currents but with no actual shores. A second patch appeared off the coast of Brazil and this is thought to be one of the sources of the recent invasion.

In mid-January spent a week on vacation in Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Yucatan Peninsula from Cancun, and had a closer look at this phenomenon. It may be a seasonal thing, but in mid-January the Sargassum was just a modest presence on the beach. The local Q Roo newspaper "Por esto!" noted that the amount was not something to worry about.

I found an in-depth study of the species of Sargassum here . This distinguishes between two species: S. fluitans (two forms) and S. natans (four main forms). The inundation is attributed to S. natans VIII (one of the four forms of the latter).

Jeffrey Schell kindly provided detailed identifications of the algae in the images as a mix of S. fluitans III (dominant) with smaller admixtures of S. natans I and VIII.

Posted on Ιανουάριος 27, 2019 0834 ΜΜ by danp2 danp2 | 1 παρατήρηση | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Ιούλιος 09, 2018

South Mountain Reservation, Millburn NJ

South Mountain reservation is just one hour away from NYC by NJ Transit train. The eponymous mountain is a basalt ridge, and is part of the Watchung mountains aligned from north to south. Although it is located a densely populated area of NJ, there are not many people on the trails and it feels like remote wilderness.
The park is crossed by the Rahway river, and one point of attraction are the Hemlock waterfalls, where the river falls over vertical basalt walls.

I had been there many times, but now I ran the photos of the place through the iNaturalist species identification machine. It was surprising to learn that many of the plant species in the park are invasive species, not native to North America. The dominant species is the Japanese knotweed which grows vigorously along the wet areas, and the Japanese barberry which dominates the sunny spots. Indeed, there are still the rhododendrons and the occasional hemlock trees but they are not that widely spread.

It would be interesting to monitor the spread of the invasive species, and see how the native species are holding out. I will be taking iNaturalist along the way at the next visit.

Update (2019). In the fall of 2019 I spent almost every weekend with good weather hiking the Lenape trail in this reservation. This is marked with a yellow vertical band and runs north-south along the ridge of the mountain. More careful observation revealed that the native flora is still alive and well, although in places it is obscured by the invasives.

Starting in the parking lot near the Millburn train station one climbs among beech trees with a few tulip trees (with Batman-like leaves) near the water reservoir close to the top. With some luck one can find a tulip tree flower on the ground. Late in the fall there are many of them but they have already turned to seeds, still arranged in a cone-like flower.

At the top of the climb, along the asphalted road loop there are pin oaks and red oaks, but if one follows the yellow marked trail among the trees one finds a small group of hickories, near two benches close to the top of the mountain. There are shagbark and pignut hickories, full of nuts in the fall. Eventually they ripen and fall to the ground later to the delight of the chipmunks and squirrels. The ground is covered with their shells split into near thirds. Near the Washington Rock there are more shagbark hickories, one of which is shown in one of the observations.

Another interesting sight around Washington Rock is a small group of post oaks, with cross-shaped leaves, which I have not seen elsewhere in the park.

The trail continues downhill from that point, and passes along a few other interesting trees. More hickories, but also an American Hophornbeam, full of the characteristic looking flowers/seeds. Observation attached.

Deep in the woods there are many witch hazels which seem to come in two types: with more rounded and with pointed leaves. In the fall they have small nut shells which are full of surprises . After a few days of storage they explode suddenly with a loud bang (preferably at night, to maximize the surprise effect), and eject the seeds to the most unexpected places. The phenomenon was described by Thoreau and is as surprising now as it must have appeared to him. Quite a Walden Pond moment. Even later in the fall they bloom and produce the nice delicate green-yellow flowers unlike anything else (saffron perhaps?)

Closer to the waterfalls there is a group of sassafras trees on the right side of the trail. Worth trying chewing on a green twig which has a very pleasant flavor. Native Americans must have used them as chewing gum.

On the slope leading down to the waterfalls there are many rhododendrons which bloom earlier in the fall and display beautiful flowers. More rhododendrons on the Rahway trail (white marked) which can be used for the return to the southern end of the park.

Some illustrations of these plants are shown in the observations linked.

Posted on Ιούλιος 09, 2018 0137 ΠΜ by danp2 danp2 | 9 παρατηρήσεις | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Ιούλιος 01, 2018

The Jersey City Reservoir

I discovered recently a remarkable but little known nature place in the city of Jersey City. This is the Water Reservoir off Summit Avenue. It was built in 1880s, with a massive retainining wall resembling an Egyptian temple. Inside is a lake surrounded with overgrown vegetation, and a few rusting pumping stations which do not seem to be in use.

The JC Reservoir volunteer association maintains trails around the lake, and it is open during the day 3:00-7:00 pm during the week and longer on Saturday.


The place is remarkable for the biodiversity of the vegetation and wildlife. I spotted two swans, geese and wild ducks. I hope that this will help spread the word, and more people can enjoy this oasis of wilderness in the middle of the city.

Posted on Ιούλιος 01, 2018 0952 ΜΜ by danp2 danp2 | 4 παρατηρήσεις | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο