Category Archives: vegetation


This is a time of renewal. Rather than celebrating Spring as a turn of the calendar page, I see Spring coming about in the natural world around me. I spend a lot of time in the wetland behind my house.  Specific plants and animals exist there, highly adapted to this aquatic and terrestrial environment. They are fascinating to watch, living in completely flooded conditions one day, and nearly dry the next.

This time of year, the marsh turns from brown to a rich green color. New growth sprouts from the muddy ground, giving way to new life.

Salicornia, commonly called glasswort is a fleshy, salt-tolerant plant that stores water and salt in its tissues. It springs up from the ground this time of year, growing throughout the Summer. As a young plant it is edible and tasty. I have had it in salads, no salt needed. By the time Fall arrives, it becomes a brilliant red.

Another sure sign of Spring is when the fiddler crabs emerge from their winter burrows.

On another front, this is a unique Spring in that our community is rebounding after a hurricane. Things are getting some state of normalcy. Some old things taken out, to be replaced by something new. Edward and William Hooper’s house was torn down 2 weeks ago. Now that was a tough one.

Things continue to change.


The post storm recovery has been a unique experience. In many ways, it’s much more stressful than the storm itself. Hurricane Irene feels like it was just last week, pummeling the villages of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo. The time of day and the day of the week are remote concepts. It is not business as usual. For me personally, I have experienced emotional highs and lows. One moment I see the devastation of my neighbors’ flooded homes, and then next, I’m witnessing people coming together with incredible support.

Right after the storm, I D Midgett was reunited with his grand-daughter, Bryanna. Both of their homes were inundated with sound tide, and are unlivable. Neighbors have opened up their homes to accommodate them, while they rebuild.

The Volunteer Fire Departments have been instrumental in maintaining everyone’s safety. Hours after the storm’s exit, they were out doing things like checking leaking gas tanks, and later, righting headstones in family cemeteries. Here, Tom Murphy and Jim Shimpach discuss recovery with a rescue squad worker.

Tombstones lay flat on the ground at the ravaged cemetery in the Salvo Day Use Area.

Then there are the volunteers from communities to our south. They came in droves offering a tremendous amount of manpower, stripping houses of water damaged materials, furniture, appliances and cleaning up tons of debris. Russell, Mole and Wolfie (above) drove up from Buxton to lend a hand. They were at my house tearing down plywood underpinning and wet insulation. Then they went on helping many others in need, for several days.

The Salvation Army was here almost immediately, bringing in food and supplies so desperately needed. Not only that but they always greeted us with smiles and uplifting spirits.

The North Carolina Baptist Men brought in portable laundromats and hot showers. And with the Salvation Army scaling back, the Baptist Men are preparing our hot meals every day. Yesterday two of them drove up to my neighbor’s house and offered to spray the underside of her floor to kill any mold that had started. Then they came over to treat the underside of my house, and after that to my other neighbor’s house.

All these selfless people are heros in my book. I could go on and on. From the Dare County Health Department giving out tetanus shots, to Tilghman Gray bringing up a load of fresh bluefish and putting on the best fish fry ever.

The vegetation that would normally be green this time of year, has turned a golden brown from harsh salt spray.

The rack line in the marsh behind my house is deep in washed-up debris.

The landfill at the day use area is enormous, and many of the rental homes have not even been dealt with yet.

A pile of lost hopes and dreams continues to grow.

And the battle for the S-Curve continues to be waged.

Building a line of large sand bags is a first line of defense.

Will man ever be able to tame Hatteras Island?

Weather permitting, the sand dike gets higher and higher.

One load gets dumped, and another empty truck runs to Avon for more sand. They must have trucked over 3,000 loads by now.

Meanwhile at Mirlo Beach, the future looks mighty grim.

Springer’s Point

There’s a very special place on the Outer Banks of North Carolina called Springer’s Point. Located on the island of Ocracoke, it’s one of the area’s best kept secrets, and is situated on the shore of Pamlico Sound near Ocracoke Inlet. Legend has it that Blackbeard the pirate hung out there. It’s also a prime example of a maritime forest…. almost magical.

One of the previous owners was a wealthy industrialist named Sam Jones. He loved it so much that he’s buried there with his horse, Ike. The property was passed to his heirs, and eventually bought by developers who planned to build condominiums. Then the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust stepped in, negotiated and purchased it for preservation. Initially they saved 30 acres, then an additional 90. Since our natural coastal areas are rapidly disappearing, this is truly a great success story.

One of my motivations to photograph Springer’s Point is to support the North Carolina Coast Land Trust in their mission of preservation through stewardship.

A nature trail winds through a variety of maritime vegetation. Grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and trees are designed to survive in this sometimes calm, sometimes hostile ocean environment. One can envision how the forest is shaped by the wind.

I always enjoy the feeling of walking under the canopy of live oak trees and cedars.


Near the end of the trail is my favorite live oak tree. It may have even been there as Blackbeard sailed the nearby waters hundreds of years ago.

My favorite plant though, is actually one of the smallest. It’s called the Georgia Sunrose. I learned about it one day while walking the trail with botanist Richard LeBlond, otherwise I might not notice this beautiful and rare wildflower. Native to North Carolina, the only place on the Outer Banks that it’s known to exist is at Springer’s Point. For some weeks in the Spring of 2007, I made periodic visits to Ocracoke. I could see the new growth sprouting from the ground, the leaves forming and then the buds beginning to set.

In order to photograph the Sunrose, I needed permission to access a restricted area. Then I was able to spend time waiting for the best conditions. The Georgia Sunrose grows on a little hill of sand in an opening in the middle of the forest. Growing only inches off the ground, I photographed on my hands and knees, with my camera on a ball head, mounted on a tiny square of plywood.

Composing shots was awkward. I framed one bloom only to watch a petal fall off. Several seconds later another one fell, then another and another until all five were gone. The timing seemed very precise all in a clockwise rotation. I felt as though I had witnessed a miracle of nature. In full bloom, the Georgia Sunrose is about the size of a penny, and is short-lived, perhaps only a day.