Blooming Guts

In the Chesapeake and Choptank tidewater country, a small creek that enters a marsh is called a “gut”. Berry Creek is a marshy gut that meanders through a rich wetland and puts on a marvelous show of wildflowers from late July to September.   Be sure to plan this trip at high tide before the upper creek becomes a mud flat!


2.0 Miles


Lower Choptank


Kingston Landing


Kings Creek Preserve, observation tower

Route Description:

Paddle from the Talbot County public ramp at Kingston Landing a short distance south to Kings Creek. Continue .5 miles up the creek to small dock on the left bank. Follow the grassy path 100 yards east (left) from the dock to the kiosk that marks the entrance to the preserve. Follow the boardwalk .5 miles to the observation tower.  Return to Kingston Landing.


Nature, Environment

Best Seasons:

Summer, Fall


Names &

Description & Details

Arrow Arum,

Peltandra virginica

Height: 1-2 feet
Blooms: May-July
Description: aquatic plant with arrow-shaped leaves; flowers are tiny, located on a slender stem inside a hood
Habitat/Range: Swamps, shores of ponds and slow-moving streams in shallow water or muddy ground.

Common Arrowhead,
Duck Potato,

Sagittaria latifolia

Description: Arrow shaped leaves with radiating veins, three-petaled white and yellow flowers.
Habitat/Range: Wetlands, eastern Unites States.
Details: Native Americans and early European settlers used the starchy tuber as a food source; tubers are a valuable food source for ducks, muskrats, and other wildlife, are called duck potatoes.

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis

Height:  3-5 feet
Blooms:  August to mid-September
Description:  Bright red flowers
Habitat/Range:  Marshes and low, very wet woodlands; Atlantic coastal plains to Great Plains wetlands.

Cattail, Broad-leaved,
Common Cattail,
Great Bulrush

 Typha latifolia

Height: 3-7 feet
Blooms: June; fruiting late July-September
Description: Leaves are erect 2-3” wide; stiminate and pistillate dark brown, 4-7”.
Habitat/Range:  Wetter areas of wetland; common throughout North American.

Cattail, Narrowleaf

 Typha angustifolia 

Height:  3-7 feet
Blooms:  June; fruiting late July-September
Description:  Leaves are erect 2-3” wide; stiminate and pistillate dark brown, 4-7”.
Habitat/Range: Wetter areas of wetland, shores, stream banks, ditches and margins of lakes and ponds, usually in shallow water, more tolerant of brackish or saline conditions; probably non-native, located in the northeastern range of T. latifolia (common cattail), Maine to Montana, Kentucky and Missouri to Texas.
Details:  Considered an invasive non-native species.

Climbing Hempweed

Mikania scandens

Height: Up to 15 feet
Deciduous, climbing, herbaceous vine, often blanketing nearby vegetation; whitish-pink flowers and triangular leaves.
Habitat/Range: Perimeter of lakes, swamps, wet woodlands, freshwater marshes, stream banks in the Atlantic coastal plain.

Common Reed 

Phragmites australis


Height:  Up to 20 feet.
Description:  In July or August, reed grass develops a dark brown, feather shaped inflorescense (up to about five inches wide and almost one foot high) at the top that changes to a lighter brown when the seeds have developed.
Habitat/Range: Dominates less flooded areas of the marsh; worldwide distribution.
Details:  Grows from both seeds and underground stem with shoots (rhizomes). Found in many other places in the world, reed grass has been used in the production of paper. In Atlantic coast wetlands, often spreads rapidly and crowds out other native grasses.


Height:  2-5 feet
Blooms:  June to August
Description: Trumpet-
shaped orange flower.
Habitat/Range: Marshes and low, wet woodlands; from Newfoundland to Saskatchewan, from Florida to Nebraska.
Details:  Juice from the stem is folk remedy for poison ivy itching; ripe seed pods burst and scatter seeds when touched (hence, the name “Touch-Me-Not”).


Lizard's Tail
Water Dragon

Saururus cernuus

Height:  2-5 feet
Blooms:  June to September
Description:  Tiny flowers in a 4-6 inch curved spike.
Habitat/Range: Swamps, shallow water.
Details: Lizard's-tail is an endangered plant in some Atlantic states.

Marsh Hibiscus, Swamp Rose Mallow

Hibiscus moscheutos

Height:  4-7 feet
Blooms:  July to September
Description: Multi-stemmed, shrub-like herbaceous perennial; large white flowers with red centers up to 6” across; large leaves 2-3” wide and 6-8” long, velvety beneath and smooth on top.  Another species, also common, has smaller pink flowers, is called Seashore Mallow (Hibiscus palustris).
Habitat/Range: Grows in swamps, marshes and ditches from Massachusetts to Michigan, south to Texas and Florida.
Details:  A confection was made in colonial America from roots of another plant called the “marsh mallow” (Althaea officinalis).

New York Ironweed 

Vernonia novebora-

Height: 3 feet
Blooms:  July - October
Description:  Tiny, purple flowers in clusters 3-5” across.
Habitat/Range: Marsh and stream edges, wet woodlands.

Olney Three-Square,
American Threesquare,
Salt-Marsh Bulrush,
Chairmaker’s Rush

plectus americanus

Height: 3 feet
Blooms: Summer
Description: Triangular stem (“three-square”),
Habitat/Range: Grows in wet pockets throughout the marsh, throughout North America.
Details:  Once widely used for chair caning; new plants grow both from seeds and rhizomes (underground stems)


Pontederia cordata

Height:  1-4 feet
Blooms:  July - August
Description:  Aquatic plants grow out of shallow water; heart-shaped leaves 3-7” long with parallel veins; small showy mass of flowers on a 6” spike; forms clumps, long fleshy stalks.
Habitat/Range: Shallow water of marshes, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and wet ditches.
Details:  Dormant in winter; young, unfurled leaves are edible in salads or boiled, seeds are edible and nutritious; does well in water gardens, easily controlled by dividing or planting in containers.

Salt-Marsh Cordgrass,
Smooth Cordgrass,
Smooth Marshgrass 

Spartina alterniflora

Height:  1-7 feet.
Blooms: June-October
Description:  Flat leaf blades 12-20” long; highly salt tolerant, salt crystals excreted by glands are often visible on leaves after dry periods.
Habitat/Range: Wetter, mid- to high-tide areas of salt and brackish areas of the marsh;Newfoundland south toFlorida and Texas.
Details:  Most common and widely distributed salt-marsh plant on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts; used extensively for shoreline protection and marsh restoration because it efficiently absorbs wave energy (against erosion), filters sediment, and utilizes sediment nutrients, and provides nursery and feeding grounds for fish and crabs, and food and cover for marsh wildlife and fowl.

Water Hemlock

Cicuta maculata

Height: 2-4 feet
Blooms: July-August
Description: Has tall flower stalks topped with clusters of tiny flowers that look like Queen Anne's Lace.
Habitat/Range: Wet marshlands and woodlands from Texas and Florida to Ontario.
Details: Water hemlock is a highly poisonous  plant. Do not taste  any part of it. Wash your hands after handling it. Contains the alkaloid coniine that was used to poison the Greek philosopher Socrates.

Swamp Dock

Rumex verticillatus 

Height: 3-4 feet.
Blooms:  April - June
Description:  Erect, unbranched, smooth stem; leaves are pointed at the tip, tapering to the base, without teeth, smooth, up to 6” long; greenish 1/8” flowers in whorls on slendar stocks up to 3/4" long.
Habitat/Range: Marshes and wet woodlands, sometimes in water.
Details:  Dry brown fruit clusters form in July, have food and medicinal value;  fruits are valuable food for waterfowl.

Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias incarnata

Height:  2-4 feet
Blooms:  July - August
Description:  Pink or magent flower heads; tough pods after flowers drop; leaves are slender.
Habitat/Range: Low-lying areas at the edges of marshes and ponds; from mid-Atlantic to GulfCoast and Great Plains.

Tickseed Sunflower,

Bidens aristosa


Height:  1-4 feet
Blooms:  August - October
Description: Daisy-like flower up to 2” across; stem is erect, branched, smooth.
Habitat/Range: Open marshes, wet ditches, stream banks; Atlantic coast to Great Plains.

Water parsnip
(Sium Suave)

Greater Water Parsnip
(Sium latifoilum)

Height:  2-6 feet
Blooms:  July - September
Description: Numerous 2-3” clusters of very small white flowers flowers that resemble Queen Anne's Lace; twice-divided leaves resemble water hemlock.
Habitat/Range: Marshes, swamps, wet ditches, and shores of lakes, rivers, and streams; often occurs in the water.


River Trip
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