This week I'm featuring some macro images from my evening trip this weekend out to Great Falls National Park, VA. This is a great park, with lots to see in terms of wildlife and natural splendor, despite being just a few miles from downtown DC. The picnic area and falls overlooks were jammed this Saturday evening (in fact I don't think I've ever seen it so crowded), but if you know the right spots or get out on the trails, it is pretty easy to have a peaceful natural experience. Once I got out on the Swamp Trail, I pretty much had the place to myself (except for the Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Squirrels, and the Barred Owl that suddenly decided to let loose with some raucous calls).
The first two images here are of the same Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) fiddlehead (or crozier), just at different magnifications. Christmas Fern got its name because it is one of our few evergreen ferns and was often used for decoration or given at Christmas. The fiddleheads are absolutely gorgeous and a lot of fun to photograph.
The final image is of one of my favorite spring wildflowers, Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). This flower is actually an inflorescence with the spadix (the inside part) being composed of multiple male or female flowers (sometimes both) and a spathe (the hood, actually a modified leaf called a bract) covering the spadix. Jack-in-the-Pulpits have a fascinating biology, including sequential hermaphroditism, where a given plant can be just vegetative, or have male flowers, or have female flowers, depending on age and nutrient availability. They also have calcium oxalate crystals present, which will cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat if you eat it raw, as well as toxic levels of oxalic acid and asparagines. But these toxins can be removed by drying and/or cooking and the corm (storage stem) and roots of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit can be eaten in several ways, including making a flour to make bread or cereal (I'll have to try it someday, apparently it has a chocolate-like flavor).