An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

October 28, 2012

Before a Storm

This weekend we had planned on traveling to my parent's place on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary and to spend time with family.  We still went, but Sandy cut our time short, as we had to come home and prepare, plus we did not necessarily want to be on the road today.  Normally we do not find ourselves on the Shore during the fall, primarily because my previous schedule prevented it, so it was a treat for me to see one of my favorite landscapes in transition.

Yesterday morning the dogs and I walked to the shore of Metompkin Bay.  I had my camera with me, because you never know what you might see, but I was not expecting anything special.  My assumption was wrong.

Metompkin Bay (12)

Metompkin Bay (14)

Metompkin Bay (18)

Metompkin Bay (11)

Metompkin Bay (13)

Metompkin Bay (7)

Metompkin Bay (4)

Metompkin Bay (5)

Most of the color and interest was coming from the the marsh grass (Spartina alternifolia and S. patens), seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia), American glasswort (Salicornia virginica)and something I could not ID.

The white flower below is Baccharis, and right now all the local marshes are rimmed by clouds of the stuff. It truly is one of our under-appreciated native shrubs, very tough and very salt-tolerant.  The plant in front of it with the pink stems and pink seeds or fruit is a mystery to me, but I think it is some variety of Rumex.  If anyone has a better guess, please tell me.  Mystery solved, thanks to Brian.  It appears to be Atriplex prostrata, commonly known as triangle orache. The stems are fleshy, not woody and the foliage is hastate.  Sorry the picture is not clearer, I was focusing on the Baccharis. Metompkin Bay (6)

The most surprising color came from the Salicornia, which is an interesting plant in that salt water does not phase it, it is edible to humans and livestock, can be processed into a biofuel, and look at the unreal fall color!
Metompkin Bay (2)

Metompkin Bay

Metompkin Bay (21)

Monday's forecast for the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore calls for anywhere between 4-10' tides depending on who you believe, so all of this will likely be flooded over. The area is no stranger to hurricanes  and the landscape will recover in time, maybe even a little quicker than some of the people Sandy will touch. It appears it will be a life-changing event for some.


  1. Beautiful.

    The storm is supposed to pass right over us here, but the worst of the forecast at this point is a couple of inches of rain and winds gusting into the 50s. That's a lot of wind for up here. And if that drops trees and causes long power outages we're going to be up the proverbial creek when it comes to keeping the cellar pumped out.

    Oh well.

    Hope it's not too nasty down your way.

  2. Lovely photos Les.

    We are hoping our old neighbors on the Eastern Shore of MD come through without extensive flooding. Our house there was an island during Isabel -- the water came within an inch of coming in the house. We didn't have contents covered with our flood insurance at the time because our insurance agent said such a thing would only happen every 100 years. Fingers crossed for all in peril.

  3. Les,
    Hope the storm stays off shore as much as possible. That Salicornia is the host plant for the tiniest butterfly, Eastern Pigmy Blue, recorded as far north as SC, never in VA. If you should see a very tiny coppery butterfly in the marsh, it would be a state record.

  4. Extraordinary photos--for quality and content. I agree Baccharis is very under appreciated shrub. I've admired it since my childhood in Mississippi. I saw several in the pond garden at Chanticleer this week. And the Salicornia is amazing. I've never seen anything like it. Is it related to Equisetum?

  5. Beautiful foliage, amazing plants. I would never have seen this without your camera, so I thank you.

  6. Never seen Glasswort!! I adore the basket shot!!

  7. Les,
    These photographs are stunning. Good luck with the storm.

  8. Hey Les. I was curious too about this mystery plant so I had to do some digging. I think I found your plant: Atriplex prostrata. Although, I admit this is coming from an amateur of the topic.

  9. Great color shots. Hope your gardens (home and work) make it through the storm OK! (One of the few times when I feel lucky to live inland...!)

    Pam in CO

  10. The winds are starting to kick up here in Nova Scotia and of course it's raining.

    I hope Sandy does not turn out to be as nasty as predicted.

  11. It is good you got your beautiful images before the storm set in. I can only hope that your area does not sustain much damage. We are far from the center, but the winds and rains are terrible and we will not see the worst of it until tomorrow.

  12. Les, you are hereby forbidden to go ANYwhere without your camera! Stay safe.

  13. I nominated you for the beautiful blogger award....because your blog is awesome...anyway if you want to do ti its 7 things and 15 recommendations!

  14. So glad Virginia was spared the worst of the storms. Wonder how structures on the Eastern Shore fared. Like you said, the wonderful vegetation will survive the ravages of the sea. Your photos make me homesick.

  15. Hi Les, Storm certainly can be life changing. We were only touched by the outer edges of the storm here. Our 100 year old house creaked and groaned in the high winds.
    One tends to think of fall color as being the primarily the domain of shrubs and trees, but you have shown how beautiful fall can be along the shore. The white Baccharis is such a pretty shrub. We don't respect native plants enough. The pink color of the Salicomia is quite incredible.

  16. We have lots of groundsel trees in our area. They, along with willowleaf aster, are the chief sources of food for pollinators in November.

  17. Stunning fall images Les! What a lovely walk!! Sandy was gentle on my hillside and the valley below. You are so right about it being a life-changing event for many.

  18. Hi Les, what a wonderful pallet of colors, each photo looks beautiful!
    Wonderful display of mother nature.
    How are you Les, hopefully fine after the heavy storm? Bless you!

  19. I am late to the comments, but love love love the colors of the marsh. The mysterious pink plant I think is Smartweed, Polygonum pensylvanicum? I had it big time throughout my garden in Seaford.

  20. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to comment. I want to thank Brian for an ID on my mystery plant, which is Atriplex prostrata.

    We were fortunate here in that Sandy left us with no bad leaks, the basement stayed dry, no trees down and the power stayed on. Some of my neighbors were not so lucky, they had tidal water come into the house, but all and all we were lucky here. Where these pictures were taken is at my parents house, which is about 80 miles further north of here on the coast. They evacuated to a more in-town location, but they too fared well. The water did come up and covered their yard, but stayed out of the house.

    I hope all of you who were effected by Sandy are in recovery mode and nothing serious happened.