The Press Reads: A Year Across Maryland

Our summer Friday series on the blog, The Press Reads, features short excerpts from recent JHUP books to whet your appetite and inspire timely additions to your summer reading list. First up,  black-eyed susans and a trip Gettysburg from Bryan MacKay’s A Year across Maryland: A Week-by-Week Guide to Discovering Nature in the Chesapeake Region. Bryan is a senior lecturer emeritus in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of Hiking, Cycling, and Canoeing in Maryland: A Family Guide and Baltimore Trails: A Guide for Hikers and Mountain Bikers, both published by JHUP.


Black-eyed Susans in Bloom

The Maryland State Flower (officially, our “floral emblem”) is perhaps our best-known and best-loved wildflower of deep summer. A sun-loving plant, black-eyed susans do well in fields, along roadsides, and in gardens, in poor or rich soil, and regardless of whether the summer has been wet or dry. These lovely plants are annuals or short-lived perennials, but they produce seed in such quantity that they seem present every year. Black-eyed susans spread readily and are common to most of North America.

Black-eyed susans have composite flower heads with bright yellow “petals” and a chocolate to deep purple central disk. What appear to be petals actually are complete flowers, called ray flowers, with tiny reproductive structures present at the base of each. The central disk contains hundreds of very small flower buds organized in a tightly packed whorl. A close look will reveal that each day a few of the buds will bloom as tiny perfect yellow disk flowers, so small that they appear like yellow pollen atop the dark-colored disk.

Where to see black-eyed susans this week: Cultivated black-eyed susans are common in flower beds and on highway median strips where they have been planted. Power line right-of-ways, like those between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., often host the wild variety of black-eyed susans.


Trip of the Week: Gettysburg National Military Park

What to see and do: Perhaps the most significant battle in American history took place during the first three days of July 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, just a few miles north of central Maryland. The large battlefield has been faithfully restored and maintained, and the National Park Service offers the opportunity to learn as much about the battle as you wish. To visit in early July and experience the heat and humidity as the soldiers did 150 years ago (except they were wearing heavy, often wool uniforms) heightens one’s appreciation of their valor and dedication to duty. While the battlefield can be toured by auto, perhaps the ideal way to explore the park is by bicycle, where it is a simple matter to dismount to view monuments, explore rarely visited byways, and enjoy fresh air and the sounds of nature. The Gettysburg battlefield is a strikingly attractive rolling landscape of forest and field that is well worth a visit for its natural features, in addition to its great historical significance

Naturalist’s tip: For years, whitetail deer were protected from hunting in the Gettysburg Park, but they reached a high population density and overgrazed delicate forest vegetation. Finally, when their browsing changed the appearance of the park from what it was in 1863, Park Service officials greatly reduced the herd size. The vegetation responded. Wildflowers soon re-populated the forest floor, tree seedlings began to grow to the sapling stage, and as a result the park now has a more natural appearance.

More information: Visit the National Park Service at