Today we started with a recording of the Eastern Spadefoot frog calls that occurred in the flood plain at the beginning of the week. It really brought back the machine like calls. One or two frogs was interesting, but the chorus was incredible.
Bob Walker brought a reading from Daniel Chamovitz, WHAT A PLANT KNOWS: A Field Guide to the Senses. (New York: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2012)
The ramble today was long. Through the Shade Garden out the White Trail to the power line right of way. Up the power line right of way to the fence, along the fence to the white trail again at the deer fence gate, through to the right, past the radiation control site, down the hill past the wetlands to the White Trail again. Then turning right on the White Trail we went to the Yellow Trail (cutoff), connected up with the White Trail again. Turning left we followed the White Trail through the ravine to the Red Trail. Going left up the Red Trail, connected up with the White Trail, which we used to return to the Arbor in the lower parking lot.
The day was gorgeous so everyone lingered over our finds. Right in the Shade Garden were some native plants: Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), Black Cohosh (Actea racemosa), and Pale Yellow Trillium (Trillium discolor). The trillium is restricted in the wild to the Savannah River drainage. Next were Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens). Followed by the yellow sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus) 'Athens.' Michael Dirr heard of this plant in the Brumby's yard in the Bedgood neighborhood in Athens. He got a cutting and developed the cultivar we saw today. Before leaving the Shade Garden we went by Alumroot (Heuchera villas) and the sweet spire (Itea virginica).
As we went by the old flower garden we noted the spiderwort (Trandescantia virginica) and an Iris cultivar blooming. Where we connected up with the White Trail coming down from the upper parking lot we found One-flowered Hawthorn (Crataegus uniflora) in bloom. At the power line right of way, we stopped to admire the Southern (or Small's) ragwort (Packera anonyma). Up the right of way we looked for the Annual Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium rosulatum), but they were closed up and hard to see. Beside the trail, however, a larger blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp) prevailed, but it was also closed up. The flower of the day to remember were the robust patches of Nettle-leaf Sage (Salvia urticifolia). It has opposite nettle like leaves, and blue to lavender petals, two lipped corolla, upper lip hood like, and a white stripped lower lip with three lobes. At the relatively dry site where we saw Birdfoot Violet several weeks ago, we discussed the lichens: Dixie reindeer lichen (Cladonia subtenuis), Pixie Cups (Cladonia chlorophaea). and British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella). Just before leaving power line, we stopped to discuss Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis). One can distinguish it from the Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex) by the fact that Dwarf Cinquefoil's first flower usually comes off the axil of the first well developed stem leaf. The Common Cinquefoil's first flower usually comes of the axil of the second well developed stem leaf. These flowers are also known as Five Fingers.
Approaching the radiation site on the other side of the deer fence, we passed cat's ears (Hypochaeris radicata). Going down the hill we talked about the blackberry in bloom and the ugly Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellata) now considered to be an invasive plant, but which has been extensively used as wildlife food and cover. James Miller and Karl Miller, in their FOREST PLANTS OF THE SOUTHEAST AND THEIR WILDLIFE USES, notes that the fruit provides food for Northern Bobwhite, Mourning Dove, Ruffed Grouse,Wild Turkey, and numerous songbirds. The fruit is also consumed by Raccoon, Stripped Skunk, Virginia Opossum, BlackBear, and other mammals.
Dale discussed the spittle bug. This bug sucks juice from a plant and obtains more than it needs. The surplus is used as a white foam cover for the bug to avoid the attack by parasitic wasps.
At the wetland we noted the sedges and the beginning of cattails and the dried stems of wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus). Turning right on the White Trail there was lyre-leaf sage (Salvia lyrata), summer bluet (Houstonia purpurea). Needle grass (Piptochaetium avenaceum) was also in bloom.
Our next stop was for rattlesnake weed (Hieracium venosum). Then to the resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides). This fern usually grows on trees, but can grow on rocks. The rock cap fern (Polypodium virginianum) grows only on rocks. The distinguishing characteristic is that the resurrection fern stipe (stem to the first leaf) is densely scaled, whereas the rock cap fern is smooth and green. Turning round we found the first of a number of deer berry (Vaccinium stamineum) shrubs that had just bloomed overnight. We noted that the leaves of the crane fly (Tipularia discolor) orchid has now disappeared. The flower will bloom in the summer. At the turn for the yellow trail we discussed whether a tree there is a Red Mulberry or Basswood tree. The consensus was that it is a Red Mulberry tree.
At the bridge across the ravine connecting again the yellow trail with the White Trail, Emily and others found a plant we never did identify. Here though we found Solomon plume (Maianthemum racemosa) blooming. Along this stretch of trail through the ravine we also saw the fertile fronds bearing sporangia of the Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). Just before the next bridge, tucked in beside a tree trunk was giant chickweed (Stellaria pubera).
As we climbed out of the ravine, green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) was tucked on the backside of a beech tree. After crossing the power line and returning to the woods we discovered in bud Pipsissiwa (Chimaphylla maculatum) also known as Spotted Wintergreen.
Turning left up the Red Trail we noted Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum). Connected up with the White Trail again. Returned to the deer fence, and then scooted back to the Arbor along the White Trail.
It was way past time for visiting Dondero's where we reviewed all the wonderful things we saw. Gary and other birders did spot several Indigo Buntings and a Bluebird. They also heard a Red-eyed Vireo.