Friday, April 19, 2013

April 18, 2013, Ramble Report

We began with the great book give away -- the winner was one of our visitors from Conyers. Larry read a piece from The Conservation Movement by Scott Russell Sanders.

Two Notices:

  • Scott Russell Sanders will be reading at the Day Chapel at the Botanical Garden in Athens on Monday, April 22, at 7:00 PM. For more information see:
  • Everyone is invited to join a trail walk at Sandy Creek Nature Center at 9:00 AM, Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

Please check back on Monday to see photos of things seen on today's walk.

We needed to cover a lot of ground to see things today, so we bypassed the Dunson garden and took the White trail to the powerline cut. As we rushed past the native shade Garden we saw Trillium discolor on the right (yellow flower), a native plant that grows along the Savannah River in SC and GA, especially around Toccoa. Further along we passed a black cherry tree in bloom.

Turning right, up the powerline cut, our destination was near the top of the hill where several Birdfoot Violets were blooming. This plant is named for the shape of its leaves, which, to some, resembles a bird's foot. Surely they who named it were not ornithologists!

Species seen on the Power Line Cut:
  • Bowl and Doily spider (Frontinella pyramitela) webs
  • Needle Grass (flowering)
  • Toad Flax  (flowering)
  • Yellow Star Grass (flowering)
  • Field Madder (flowering)
  • Corn Salad (flowering)
  • Green and Gold (flowering)
  • Pussytoes (flowering)
  • Yellow Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata)
  • Solomon's Seal
  • a mint
  • Mallow
  • Yellow Ragwort
  • Vetch
  • Wingstem
  • Whorled Coreopsis
  • Blue-eyed Grass (flowering)
  • Birdfoot Violet (flowering)
Hugh pointed out that Birdfoot Violets are usually found in the sun, on a slope and in poor soil. These Birdfoot Violets have been reading the same books.

Returning down the hill to the White trail we heard and saw a Brown Thrasher. The call of the Brown Thrasher differs from that of the Mockingbird in that each phrase is repeated twice instead of the three times. Gary also mentioned that Brown Thrashers have much larger repertoires than do Mockingbirds.
As we started back on the White trail Martha found a small cedar tree with apple rust and blackberry vines in bloom.

We took the White trail extension to the upper parking lot. Just before the trail crosses the road we stopped at a Black Cherry to examine the egg of a Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), the state butterfly of Georgia. I observed the female deposit her egg yesterday at 11:15 AM, so we know how old the egg is. In subsequent weeks those who are interested can play "find the caterpillar." Tiger Swallowtails in this part of the country lay their eggs on two kinds of trees: Cherry and Tuliptree (AKA Tulip Poplar, Yellow Poplar).

On the Orange Trail spring has progressed a lot since we last visited it three weeks ago (Feb. 28). Some of the spring ephemerals were still blooming and others were producing fruits.

Species seen on the Orange Trail

  • Perfoliate Bellwort (in fruit)
  • Bloodroot (in fruit)
  • Rue Anemone (flowering)
  • Mayapple (flowering)
  • Three-part Violet (flowering)
  • Christmas Fern (fertile frond tips developing)
  • Common Grapefern (fertile fronds developing)
  • Broad-beech Fern
  • Pink Azalea (flowering)
  • Sweet Shrub (flowering)
  • Solomon's Plume (flower buds)
  • Wild Geranium (flowering)
  • Wild Potato Vine
  • Atamasco Lily (flowering) !!
Perhaps the most astonishing sight was a large Barred Owl seen sleeping in a small tree near the trail. It continued to drowse, ignoring the oohs and aahs of our large group.

A side trip to a rotting log that yesterday had a bright yellow slime mold showed that you had to be there at the right time - today the color was a dirty brown. This slime mold is probably the one called Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica., a reference to its foul odor.

Returning to the garden via the bridge shortcut we noticed more Three-part Violets and a gall on the stem of a small White Oak. This gall is probably a Wool Sower Gall. It is produced when a very small wasp in the family Cynipidae inserts an egg (or eggs) into the stem tissue. The fuzzy growth that results is caused by substances injected with the eggs into the plant's tissues and/or by material produced as the wasp larvae feed on the plant. The plant responds by producing a gall - each species of Cynipid wasp can produce a different-appearing gall. (An interesting side note: Alfred Kinsey (yes, that Kinsey), who gained fame studying human sexual behavior started his career as a gall wasp specialist, describing over a thousand new species.) I'm keeping this gall in a plastic bag and I'll report back if any wasps emerge.

As we came out of the woods we saw Dwarf crested Iris, both maroon and green Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Goldenseal and Baptisia alba (all these have been planted by garden personnel). We identified Carolina Cranesbill (Geranium carolina)and a Black Willow (Salix niger) as we crossed the bridge. Some of us saw a young rabbit on our way to coffee.

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 11, 2013, Ramble Report

At last a warm day for the ramble! We started by reading an excerpt from Verlyn Klinkenborg’s The Rural Life and then noticed that the Ginkgo next to the arbor had produced cones. (Yes, they are called cones, although they do resemble the male flowers of the other trees that are blooming right now.) The Ginkgo is very distantly related to pines and cycads and is classified by itself in its own plant phylum Ginkgophyta. (Botanists call a phylum a “division.”) Ginkgos are native to China and most that you will encounter are male for the simple reason that the female Ginkgo produces a foul-smelling fruit. Unlike their distant relative the pines the Ginkgo “pollen” releases a motile sperm that must swim through water to fertilize the female egg – just like mosses and ferns.
Since last week’s ramble was cancelled due to inclement weather we had a lot of catching up to do in the Dunson Native Plant Garden. Fortunately, we were accompanied by Ben Fletcher, the curator of the shade and native floral gardens, who helped us locate and identify the many interesting plants we saw this morning.
Dunson Native Plant Garden plants:
1.      Toadshade (Trillium cuneatum) – a sessile-flowered Trillium with purpley-brown flowers and mottled leaves. 
2.      Chattahoochie Trillium (T. decipiens ) – like T. cuneatum but with a distinct light green stripe down the middle of the leaves. 
3.      Yellow Trillium (T. luteum) – many of the “toadshade” Trilliums in the garden have yellow petals, so I think they are T. luteum.
4.      Catesby’s Trillium (T. catesbyi) – just a single specimen with an unopened flower.
5.      Persistent Trillium (T. persistens) – also locally known as Edna’s Trillium. This one was named by UGA’s Wilbur Duncan after Edna Garst found it blooming in South Carolina (it is also found in Tallulah Gorge.)
6.      Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) – not blooming yet, but the plants are up
7.      Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica) – continuing its wonderful blooming all over the garden. It’s especially attractive when displayed with the yellow flowers of the Golden Ragwort.
8.      Three-parted Yellow Violet (Viola tripartita) – a new discovery in the Garden. It has also been found on the Orange and Blue trails.
9.      American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) – two small plants in flower.
10.   Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) – flower buds are just beginning to open.
11.   Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia.) – we only saw one specimen in bloom.
12.   Alumroot (Heuchra sp.) – leaves only; no flowers yet.
13.   Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia) – several plants with this exotic flower.
14.   Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) – flowers are still hanging on.
15.   Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) – many of these small shrubs have flower buds, but none have opened as yet.
16.   Sweetshrub (Calycanthus ) – one specimen with dark purple petals.
17.   Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureum, or Packera aurea) – it’s spread over much of the Dunson garden and in flower everywhere.

There was so much to see that we spent a lot of time in the Dunson garden but after about an hour we staggered out to the powerline cut and took a closer look at the tiny flowers in the disturbed areas. These are mostly non-natives and tend to be despised and ignored by many because they are so common. But I’ve always had an admiration for them. They’ve either been deliberately imported or inadvertently came to this country in the soil with plants brought by the early colonists. From that early introduction they have spread across the country. But they are largely confined to such disturbed areas as lawns, roadsides, vacant lots and plowed fields. In lawns they are regarded as “weeds” because they compete with lawn grasses, which are themselves often non-native. So I say good luck to them – they offer a bit of color and variety to a monoculture of grass and relief from the stereotype of the suburban environment.

Disturbed area plants:

1.      Low Hop Clover (Trifolium campestre) – this small, yellow inflorescence is a tiny clover that fooled me into thinking it was a Pineapple Weed, a plant I knew from the Midwest.
2.      Corn Salad (Valerianella radiata) – Alice discovered this plant with the 4 tiny white flowers in  tight little groups has an unpleasant odor.
3.      Gill-over-the-Ground (Glechoma hederacea) – is a mint with small, purple flowers that scrambles across the lawn. This makes it hard to eliminate by mowing because it grows too low to be touched by the mower blades. You can eliminate it by repeated episodes of hand pulling.
Left: Dead Nettle; Right: Hen Bit
4.      Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) – so called because some people thought it resembled a Nettle, but discovered that it didn’t sting. The small, erect plants have overlapping leaves that remind me of pagodas. The tiny, purple flowers open horizontally, unlike the next species.
5.      Hen Bit (Lamium amplexicaule) – another Lamium mint, but with larger (longer) flowers than Dead Nettle. The flowers also point more toward the vertical. This suggests that they are pollinated by insects with longer tongues.
6.      Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) – a non-native Geranium with tiny, magenta flowers.
7.      Field Pansy, Johnny Jump Up (Viola rafinesquii) – a relative of the cultivated Pansy, but with a much smaller flower. See what plant breeders can accomplish?
8.      Euphorbia sp. – these are growing between the electric fence wires just to the left of the gate (facing the river) and are surely not natural. How and why they got there is a mystery to me.

We were running short of time so we rushed down to the White Trail to see the Silver Bells in bloom.

White trail:

1.      Bird’s Eye Speedwell (Veronica persica) – another non-native, but with pretty blue petals.
2.      Silver Bells (Halesia carolina) – there are several of these trees along the part of the white trail that runs by the river. The first group is found among the Box Elders near the first bench on the trail. The striped bark and white, bell-shaped flowers are unique.
3.      Box Elder (Acer negundo) – when young this subcanopy tree is often mistaken for Poison Ivy. The opposite leaf arrangement gives it away (Poison Ivy has alternate leaves).

 Then we adjourned to Donderos’ Kitchen for some snacks and beverages. We saw a total of 28 species today (not counting the Ginkgo)!