Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 2, 2013, Ramble Report


We had a large group on this misty, almost drizzly, morning.  Don read an excerpt entitled Extinction by Flowers from The Year of the Moon Goose by T. W. Burger.  We then left the Arbor for the Dunson Native Plant garden to see what changes had occurred since we last visited it.

There were still some Trillium in bloom; especially the Pale Yellow Trillium (T. discolor). There are many of these scattered throughout the garden. We were surprised to see a few bunches of Chattahoochie Trillium (T. decipiens) still in flower. Some Solomon's Plume (Smilacina racemosa, a.k.a. False Solomon's Seal) have almost mature inflorescences. Emily noted the differences between this species and "true" Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum). The latter has 1-3 flowers hanging below the stem at each leaf axil while Solomon’s Plume has an inflorescence at the end of the stem. The stem of Solomon's Plume is also more "zig-zaggy". Also flowering in this part of the garden is False Garlic (Nothoscordum bivalve). Nearby the Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum) has lost its flowers, but it looks like some seed will be set. We also noticed that the Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) has appeared, but the flowering stalk is nowhere to be seen as yet. We were also surprised to see a few flowers on the Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum).

Further along the garden a few Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon meadia) still had rather ratty blossoms, but, for the most part, these have all gone by and only the flowering stalks remain. Scattered through this bed are two color forms of Hairy-stemmed Spiderwort (Tradescantia hirsuticaulis); one has purple flowers, the other,pink. Avis spotted a lonely Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) flower.

We puzzled over the distinction between Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) and Netted Chain Fern (Woodwardia areolata). Discrimination of these two species hinges on whether the pinnae (fern-speak for leaflets) are nearly opposite (Sensitive) or alternate (Netted Chain). Our assessment  of this character seemed to be very subjective and inconclusive. The arrangement of the spore-producing structures on the fertile fronds is also very different between the two species, but the fertile fronds are just beginning to emerge we couldn't come to any decision. I guess we'll have to wait until next week.

Another surprise was a group of Birdfoot Violets (Viola pedata), freshly planted. (The Birdfoot Violets we saw two weeks ago on the power line are no longer blooming.)

The Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) inflorescences (which bear pale yellow flowers here) are nearly gone.
We also spotted a Strawberry Bush (Euonymus americanus) in bloom. The flowersare green and not nearly as noticeable as the fruit from which the wonderfully evocative regional name, "Hearts-a-Bursting-With-Love," is derived. If you didn't get a good look at this flower today it's worth a separate trip to the garden just to examine them.

As we passed the "tip-up" (the root ball of a fallen tree) we noted the Green-and-Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) in full flower next to a Yellow Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)that has many developing fruits. The juxtaposition of colors and textures of the leaves, flowers and fruits of these two plants is wonderful to look at.

The Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) has finished blooming and there are developing fruits on the plants that have two leaves. We also saw Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea) – no flowers yet.

At the bottom of the garden we looked for the flowering stalks on the Yucca (Yucca filamentosa), but failed to find any. (Several of the Yucca in our yard have sent up stalks already.)

We then headed up the power line and stopped to look at the more abundant plants of this disturbed area. Due to the overcast sky some were not open but both Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis) with the tiny pink-purple flowers and Low Hop Clover (Trifolium campestre) with the small, yellow clover blossoms were very conspicuous. Barbara asked if the Field Madder could be used to dye cloth, as the name implies. The Wikipedia entry states that its root gives a red color that is inferior to that of true Madder.

The Hop clover is so-named because as the individual florets in the flower head turn brown they resemble dried hops. This plant was introduced to North America from Eurasia as fodder and for soil improvement. Like other clovers, which are legumes, the roots harbor nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This plant-bacteria symbiosis takes nitrogen gas from the air and "fixes" it into nitrogen compounds that are released into the soil when the plant dies.

On the way up the power line we saw many Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata) in bloom. This is a common plant in the mint family, often seen along roadsides and other disturbed areas. Off to the side someone located Wild Chervil (Chaerophyllum tainturieri) which can be confused with Corn Salad (Valerianella radiata) because both have small clusters of tiny white flowers. But the Chervil has lacy, carrot-like foliage and Corn Salad does not.

Yellow Crownbeard (Verbesina occidentalis) was just starting to come up. The plants are only about one foot tall but the combination of opposite leaves and"wings" on the stem make identification easy. The other two wingstem species that grow in the power line have alternate leaves.

Two exotic trees were seen at the edge of the power line, but we were unable to identify them. Both were flowering. One was almost certainly in the bean family -- it had doubly pinnate leaves similar to Honey Locust (Gleditsia sp.)and an inflorescence of large, bright yellow flowers. The other tree was tall, with white flowers high up on the trunk and branches. It had compound leaves lacking the terminal leaflet. This area of the garden is near the old part of the garden that is no longer maintained. It was filled with horticultural varieties and many non-native species. These trees are probably escapees.

The reason for going up the power line was to see an addition to the Garden’s list of species: Annual blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium rosulatum). But due to the cool, overcast weather the plants were not cooperating – all the blossoms were tightly closed. This is a very pretty species and worth a visit on a sunny day just to see it.

We returned back to the White trail where two weeks ago we saw the egg of a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly(Papilio glaucus) on the leaf of a Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). That egg has hatched and we saw the caterpillar on the same leaf today. It is only about 1/8 inch in length, dark brown with a white saddle. Some think this is protective coloration and that the caterpillar resembles a bird dropping when it is motionless on a leaf.
As the caterpillar grows it will molt its skin. After the 2nd or 3rd molt the color will change from brown with a white saddle to green with two false eyespots. Then, after two or three more molts it will metamorphose into a chrysalis (the pupal stage) from which the adult butterfly will emerge after a few weeks.

Then it was time to visit Donderos’ for beverages and conversation. It’s a nice day when you see almost 30 species!

Dale

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