Notes from the Island
The best way to see the August flowers is to paddle around
the Island, thus avoiding the nettles, poison ivy and general
underbrush as well as the insects and spider webs.
If you launch from the canoe float, head upriver and notice
the clump of jimsonweed above the ferry. This native nightshade has
large white or lavender trumpet-shaped flowers and a spiny poisonous
fruit. Its name is a corruption of "Jamestown", where colonists first
encountered the plant.
Farther along you will reach a channel which is dry in low
water. This year that corridor is full of swamp candles, which have
attractive yellow flowers with tiny red centers. You can also find
wood sage, a member of the mint family, which ironically does not have
aromatic leaves. However, the plant does have a square stem and a
pretty cluster of lavender-pink flowers.
At the lower end of the first island in the northern swamp
there is a small black walnut tree, already bearing fruit. Underneath
the tree you can find swamp milkweed. Be sure to examine the tiny
beautiful pink flowers up close and not just from far away.
Other blooming plants on this small island include the blue
asiatic dayflower and the morning glory. Watch out for the horse
nettle, which is actually a nightshade and not related to the nettle
family. The white star-like flower with a yellow center is beautiful,
but the plant has thorns and prickles.
When you paddle to the next small island, be sure to look up
at the reddish flowers of the aptly named trumpet vine. Two nearby
persimmon trees have green fruit which will turn orange and then be
edible after the first frost.
The next small island close to the Maryland shore has a nice
button bush, which is an aquatic shrub known for its resistance to
floods. The fragrant ball-like flower often attracts bees and
As you double back, notice the weeds in the channel that
separates Sycamore from the small islands in the swamp. These are
called water willows because of their leaves and they have wonderful
tiny violet and white flowers.
As you canoe around the top of Sycamore you will see clumps
of Joe Pye weed and several varieties of wild sunflower. The tall
plant with deep purple flowers is called ironweed.
As you paddle down towards the swim float, look closely and
you will find a couple of cardinal flowers with their clusters of
bright red blooms. Please, do not pick them. Also on your left, there
is a garden of yellow fringed loosestrife.
Continue on to the lower tip of Sycamore. Last year morning
glories, ageratum and jimsonweed were blooming profusely, but this
year nothing is flowering yet. However, on the lower end of nearby
Box Elder Island, there is a beautiful stand of swamp rose mallows.
This member of the hibiscus family has large pink flowers and can
grow up to eight feet tall.
If you are lucky you may see a great blue heron or a green
heron on your journey around the Island. Sometimes cormorants sit
and dry themselves on the two rocks near the swim float. Come at
dusk and you may even see beavers as they cruise up and down the
-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker