Before the walk today Emily and I saw a rather bedraggled fox on the powerline cut.
We had a very large group today, 23 people.
Jack read a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "This Lime-tree Bower, My Prison." http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173248
We started down the walk to the Dunson garden and stopped by a Bottle-Brush Buckeye to refresh our memory of leaf structure and terminology. These leaves were palmately compound and they were arranged opposite on the twig. (Later we would see alternate, pinnately compound leaves when we found some hickory saplings.)
Next stop was to examine Witch Hazel Conical Galls. Earlier Emily and I saw a squirrel helping itself to a nibble of one of the galls. The tree was well-infested -- almost every leaf bore one or more of the conical structures. They are produced by aphids, which can be seen if you cut a gall open and examine the hollow interior with a hand lens. Some of the inhabitants have wings and are capable of flying out to seek out an alternate host plant, a Birch. The Birch is infested by the aphids in late summer and autumn. They lay their eggs on the Birch and die. The eggs overwinter, and the new generation of aphids fly off to find the Witch Hazel in the spring.
At the beginning of the Dunson garden we found Solomon's Plume (Smilacina racemosa) in flower. Further along the path we found two hickory saplings near on another. These enabled us to see what alternate leaved, pinnately compound leaves look like. One of the small hickories had a stout, fuzzy petiole and 9 leaflets on each leaf. This is Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa); the other had thin, smooth petiole and only 7 leaflets on each leaf -- a not-Mockernut hickory (probably Carya glabra, Pignut Hickory).
Our big surprise: we found Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia ashei) in bloom. Some authorities consider this to be a variety of Big-leaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla). Several people sniffed the huge blossoms with their floppy, elongated petals, each with a reddish purple blotch on the bottom.
Along the way we examined several ferns: New York Fern (Thelypteris novaboracensis), Netted Chain Fern(Woodwardia areolata), Southern Grape Fern (Botrychium biternatum ) and Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis). There were also many fresh leaves of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) covering the ground. The Goldenseal () was no longer in bloom, but many plants had developing fruits. We were also surprised to see a Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum canadense) with its maple-like leaves and nearly-gone-by flowers. Next to the Birdfoot violets was a flowering specimen of Fringed Campion (Silene polypetala), a very rare plant that is endangered where ever it is found.
At the bottom of the Dunson garden we noticed that the Yucca (Yucca filamentosa) had finally sent up its flowering stalks, but the buds are still tightly closed. Last year at this time the Yucca were all flowering. These might flower within the next two weeks.
The wooden fence below the Dunson garden and next to the road always has some surprises. Today the blackberries were in bloom and there were a few that had almost ripened. We also found Virgin's Bower (Clematis virginiana) and Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), although they will bloom much later in the summer. Blooming today were a few plants of Heliotrope (Heliotropium europaeum) with their curled inflorescence bearing light purple flowers.
Our next stop was through the fence via the powerline path. The recent rains that produced the immense chorus of Eastern Spadefoot toads left temporary pools to the right of the path. Earlier Emily and I dipped out mosquito larvae and pupae to show to everyone. Many people have seen mosquito "wrigglers," but few have seen their pupal stage. (Insects can be divided into two types: those with what is called incomplete metamorphosis and those with complete metamorphosis. Like butterflies and moths, mosquitoes have complete metamorphosis -- their life cycle includes an egg, a larval stage, a pupa and, finally, an adult. In butterflies and moths the larva is called a caterpillar, the pupa a chrysalis or cocoon. With mosquitoes the larval stage is the wriggler and the pupal stage is, well, the pupa. The wriggler is a longish organism that hangs from the surface of the water and, if disturbed, twitches back and forth. The pupa also hangs from the surface but looks like a small, rounded lump. When it is disturbed it detaches from the surface and darts around until it tires. Then it floats back to the surface. The adult mosquito will emerge from the pupa in a few days.
Due to the overcast there were few flowers open on the path to the river. We managed to find a patch of Venus Looking Glass (Triodanis perfoliata), with pretty purple flowers, 1 per stem. At the end of the bridge on the White trail we saw the white flowers of Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) open in small inflorescences.
Then it was back to Donderos' via the Orange spur trail where we relaxed with our favorite beverages.