Saturday, June 9, 2018

Ramble Report June 7 2018

Today's Ramble was led by Dale Hoyt.
Here's the link to Don's Facebook album for today's Ramble. (All the photos in this post are compliments of Don.)
Today's post was written by Dale Hoyt.
28 Ramblers met today.
We were happy to welcome Don back. He’s looking slim and healthy and is ready to go!
Today's reading: Dale read part of the May 31 entry from An Almanac for Moderns, by Donald Culross Peattie.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Ramble Report May 31 2018

Today's Ramble was led by Dale Hoyt.
All the photographs of today’s ramble, except where otherwise credited, were taken by Ted LaMontagne; they can be seen on the SBG Nature Rambling Facebook album.
Today's post was written by Dale Hoyt.

26 Ramblers met today.

Today's reading: KathyLynne read a poem by Maxine Kumin:

Friday, May 25, 2018

Ramble Report May 24 2018

Today's Ramble was led by Linda Chafin.
All the photographs of today’s ramble, except where otherwise credited, were taken by Ted LaMontagne; they can be seen on the SBG Nature Rambling Facebook album.
Today's post was written by Linda Chafin.
25 Ramblers met today. 
Today's reading: Bob Ambrose recited a poem, In Perpetual Spring, by Amy Gerstler.
Announcements: The starting time for our Nature Rambles will change to 9:00 AM, beginning on June 7, 2018. This will remain our start time for the foreseeable future.
Show-and-Tell started with Dale passing around the twigs of two oaks:
Scarlet Oak acorns on last year's new growth
Scarlet Oak, with second-year acorns continuing to develop on last year’s growth; 2018 acorns on new twig growth will be ripe in the fall of 2019; and,
White Oak acorns beginning development on this year's new growth
White Oak, with its acorns developing only on this year’s twigs and ripening this fall.

Southern Magnolia flower (missing 1 "petal")
Linda passed around a Southern Magnolia flower, with its heavy white petals and rich lemony fragrance. Magnolia Family flowers have been found in the fossil record from 95 million years ago–before bees evolved. It’s thought that the flowers co-evolved with beetles. Magnolia flowers have several traits considered to be “primitive” or ancestral to the whole taxonomic division of flowering plants. These include: beetle pollinators, a lack of difference between sepals and petals, presence of both female and male reproductive structures that are spirally arranged, and radial symmetry. So, Southern Magnolias are not just representatives of the Old South, but of old everywhere.

Empty Polyphemus Moth cocoon
Richard brought an empty cocoon of one of the large Silk Moths. The most likely candidates are the Luna Moth or the Polyphemus Moth. Because the cocoon was firmly attached to its twig it is most likely of the latter species. (The Luna moth wraps its cocoon inside a leaf of the host plant, unattached to the twigs. In the fall the leaves drop and the Luna cocoon winds up in the leaf litter.)
Some ramblers were perplexed about the name, Polyphemus. It’s an allusion to the name of the giant that attacked Odysseus’ men on the island of the Cyclops. Look at this picture of a Polyphemus Moth and see if you can guess why the name was appropriate:
Polyphemus MothBy [User:Kadoka1]Template:Stephen Lody Photography [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Today's route: Today’s ramble started at the aquatic plant fountain on the Visitor Center front plaza, then proceeded into the International Garden, through the Threatened and Endangered Species Garden, over the Pawpaw Bridge into the Heritage Garden, and thence to the air-conditioned splendor of the Visitor Center.

The aquatic garden is really coming into its own now, with White Water-lilies (Nymphaea odorata) in full bloom and the Mississippi Mud Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica kohni) sunning itself on the mossy rim of one of plant displays.
Spider Lily
The Spider-lily is also in flower. Its flowers opened last evening and stayed open all night, releasing a wonderful scent that attracts night-flying moth pollinators. By early afternoon today, the flowers will have withered away, having been open less than a day. The flowers consist of six long, narrow, curved petals that are attached to a cup-shaped membrane that also support the filaments of six stamens that are also fused to the membrane. Despite the common name, these plants are not actually lilies, but are in the Amaryllis Family.

Oakleaf Hydrangea
On our way to the International Garden, we stopped to admire a showy cultivar of Oakleaf Hydrangea. Many cultivated species of Hydrangea have large or colorful sterile flowers that visually attract pollinators. However, sterile flowers have neither nectar or pollen to reward insect visitors, nor do they have stamens or pistils to give or receive pollen. These hydrangeas, with their large blue or pink “pom-pom” or “mophead” flower heads, are “food deserts” for insects.
Fertile Oakleaf Hydrangea flowers below the showy, sterile flowers
Our native hydrangeas, such as the Oakleaf, sport showy sterile flowers, but they also have lots of small, fertile flowers that actually provide pollen and nectar for pollinators. This particular specimen has been “doubled” so that the sterile flowers have 8 - 12 petals that almost hide the inconspicuous fertile flowers. However, a resourceful bee will find the fertile flowers and be rewarded for its efforts.

Stokes' Aster
This unusual member of the Aster Family is Stokes’ Aster, native to wet pine flatwoods and savannas (and roadside ditches through these habitats) in the Coastal Plain from North Carolina west to Louisiana. Fairly common in most of those states, it is known from only a dozen sites in Georgia, and is tracked by Georgia DNR as a Special Concern species. It is widely cultivated and available in the horticultural trade under several cultivar names, such as 'Blue Danube' and ‘Rosea,’ a pink-flowered version.

Bottlebrush Buckeye
Inflorescence with numerous flower buds

Bottlebrush Buckeye is just coming into bud on the long spikes that will mature in a few weeks to two-foot-high, erect “bottle brushes” of white, fragrant flowers. This shrub is native to Alabama, southwest Georgia, and the Fall Line of South Carolina but flourishes here in the Piedmont. It is rare throughout its range. For a buckeye, it is a late bloomer, sometimes flowering as late as July. Stay tuned for more photos and info as the flowers develop.

Indian Pink
One of our most spectacular native wildflowers, Indian Pink (Spigela marilandica) ought to be named Firecracker Plant, in my humble opinion, but that name is already dedicated to several other plants, so I won’t confuse things further by insisting on a new name. Both the leaves and the roots of Indian Pink are loaded with alkaloids and calcium oxalate crystals, making them unpalatable, even toxic, to animals. Officially included in the United States Pharmacopeia, its roots were used medicinally to expel tape worms and round worms, but there were enough scary side-effects, that that use has fallen out favor in the U.S. During the ramble, I stated that the plants contain strychnine (they are in the so-called Strychnine Family, Loganiaceae) but Dale discovered that the toxic compound is actually a different alkaloid named spigeline, which will also make you very sick. Those gorgeous red flowers are pollinated by – surprise! – ruby-throated hummingbirds. The Georgia Native Plant Society has good cultivation info at this website:

Blue Wild Indigo seed capsules
Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis) is the only Baptisia in Georgia to have blue flowers; others have white, cream-colored, or yellow flowers. This plant flowered about a month ago and has since set a nice crop of its inflated legume fruits.
Blue Wild Indigo
split open to show developing seeds

As with all Wild Indigos, the seeds inside will harden and turn dark as they mature on the inner wall of the pod; the pod itself will dry and turn black or brown by late summer. At that point, the seeds can be shaken easily inside the pod, earning these plants the nickname of “rattle pod.”

Monarch butterfly nectaring on Verbena sp.
We were treated to the sight of two Monarch butterflies nectaring on colorful Verbena flowers (Verbena sp.) in the Medicinal Herb garden. They may also be laying eggs on nearby milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.). The offspring of these particular Monarchs may continue to fly northward or they may continue to reside in the southeast. Most of what is known of Monarch migration is based on northern and midwestern butterflies. Some southeastern Monarchs appear to be non-migratory and others are thought to possibly migrate to southeastern coastal areas or peninsular Florida.

Bumblebee visiting flowers of Indian Hemp (Common Dogbane) in the Medicinal Herb garden

Rough Daisy Fleabane was tucked under the Tall Pawpaw trees.

Daddy long legs
Immature Daddy long legs are starting to be seen in the garden. Daddy long legs are a type of Arachnid, the group of arthropods that includes spiders and scorpions. The formal name for their group is the Order Opiliones; informally they are better known as Harvestmen (in England) or Daddy long legs (in the US). They are quite harmless and, no matter what the internet says, they are not venomous -- they don't even have venom glands.

Lauren Muller in mosquito-proof fashions
On our way back to the Visitor Center, we ran into Lauren Muller, recently graduated with her Master’s degree in Conservation Horticulture under the direction of the Garden’s Director of Research and Conservation, Jim Affolter. Last time the ramblers saw Lauren, she was deep into her study of milkweeds and her work with the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plants. Lauren just started a wonderful job as Invasive Plant Management Coordinator for the NE Georgia Invasive Plant Cooperative. She was at the Garden today, scoping out Japanese Stilt-grass infestations for future work days – and she came well prepared for the current onslaught of mosquitoes at the Garden. We are lucky to have Lauren working on behalf of native plant communities in Clarke County and beyond!

Common Name
Scientific Name
Scarlet Oak
Quercus coccinea
White Oak
Quercus alba
Southern Magnolia
Magnolia grandiflora
Polyphemus Moth
Antheraea polyphemus
White Water-lily
Nymphaea odorata
Mississippi Map Turtle
Graptemys pseudogeographica kohni
Daddy long legs
Arachnida: Order Opiliones
Hymenocallis sp.
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia
Stokes’ Aster
Stokesia laevis
Bottlebrush Buckeye
Aesculus parviflora
Indian Pink
Spigelia marilandica
Blue Wild Indigo
Baptisia australis
Danaus plexippus
Verbena sp.
Asclepias spp.
Bombus sp.
Indian Hemp/

Common Dogbane
Apocynum cannabinum
Tall Pawpaw
Asimina triloba
Rough Daisy Fleabane
Erigeron strigosus