Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 6, 2013, Ramble Report

Today, we guessed correctly that the 30 percent chance of rain wouldn't occur before we finished our walk.  To avoid mud because of the heavy rain last night we went through the International Garden, the Physic Garden, Heritage Garden, and Flower Garden to the short cut trail to the Orange Trail.  Then we went up the Orange trail to its end at the upper parking lot.  We also took a short side trip along the white trail before going to Donderos’ for refreshment.

Hugh provided a reading from Janisse Ray’s The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.  I think most were a little non-plussed.  It wasn't what they expected:

"A junkyard is a wilderness.  Both are devotees of decay.  The nature of both is random order, the odd occurrence and juxtaposition of miscellany, backed by a semblance of method.  Walk through a junkyard  and you will see some of the schemes a wilderness takes--Fords to one section, Dodges in another, or older models farthest from the house--so a brief logic of ecology can be found.

"In the same way, an ecosystem makes sense:  the canebrakes, the cypress domes.  Pine trees regenerate in an indeterminate fashion, randomly here and there where seeds have fallen, but also with some predictability.  Sunlight and moisture must be sufficient for germination, as where a fallen tree has made a hole in the canopy, after a rain.  This, too, is order.

"Without fail in a junkyard you encounter the unexpected -- a doll's head, bodiless; a bike with no handlebars; a cache of wheat pennies; thirty feet of copper pipe; a boxy '58 Edsel.  Likewise, in the middle of Tate's Hell Swamp you might look unexpectedly into the brown eyes of a barred owl ten feet away or come upon a purple stretch of carnivorous bladderworts in bloom, their BB-sized bladders full of aquatic microorganisms.

"In junkyard as in wilderness there is danger:  shards of glass, leaning jacks, weak chains; or rattlesnakes, avalanches, polar bears.  In one as in the other you expect the creativity of the random, how the twisted metal protrudes like limbs, the cars dumped at acute, right and obtuse angles, how the driveways are creeks and rivers.'"

Our theme for today was ferns, since most forest plants have finished flowering and the meadows have not quite started yet.  Bracken ferns in the International Garden were our first stop.   

First we reviewed the different parts of a fern:  The frond is made up of a blade (the “leafy” part) and a stipe (the stem that holds up the blade.)  The blade has a rachis (the main vein) and is usually subdivided into smaller pinnae (singular: pinna) that are each attached to the rachis by a vein.Sometimes the pinnae are themselves subdivided, partially or completely, into pinnules that are attached to the midvein of each pinna.

Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) is deciduous (meaning the fronds do not persist through winter) and occurs in almost every county in Georgia.

In the Endangered Plant Garden we found New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis) has a blade whose pinnae are shorter at both ends than they are in the middle.  The Botanical Society taught me that people in Manhattan are so busy that they burn their candle at both ends – an easy way to remember New York Fern.  New York Fern is deciduous.

In the Indian Garden there were two ferns of interest: The first is probably the most common fern in the Garden -- Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). It has sori (spore producing structures) on the undersurface of the pinnae at the ends of some fronds (these are called fertile fronds). Each of the pinnae are shaped like a Christmas stocking with the toe toward the rachis. Christmas Fern is also quite common in the mountains and piedmont of Georgia but less so in the coastal plain.  We see it all year as it is evergreen (not deciduous). 

The second was Royal Fern.  Fertile pinnae are absent at this time of year.  The fronds look more like a locust tree than a fern.  Usually found in wet, acid soils (I have found them in the depressed wetland near Track Rock Gap).  Occurs throughout most of Georgia.

The two wildflower and the native grass beds in Flower Garden elicited some comments. Currently blooming are several Coneflowers (Echinacea sp., Rudbeckia sp.and Ratibida sp.) and mints (Monarda sp.).  One of the fun plants blooming was Horse Mint (Monarda punctata).  It did have the usual mint square stem.  I do not believe it was quite in full bloom because I do not remember seeing the yellow petals interspersed between the pink ones.

On the Orange Trail our next find was the Broad Beech Fern (Thelypteris hexagonoptera).  It is described as bipinnatifid,which means that the pinnae are almost “cut” through to the rachis and each pinna is pinnately almost cut through to the midvein. This produces a rachis with “wings” between the pinnae, a diagnostic feature for this species.  It is common in the mountains and piedmont of Georgia but only found in a few counties in South Georgia.

The next fern was the Southern Lady Fern (Athyrium asplenoides).  Someone said that it looked very delicate, and that is a characteristic of this fern.  This fern tends to cluster, each frond arching, and deciduous.  The rachis can be yellowish green to reddish.  The blade is broadest near the base.  It is bipinnate to tripinnate, finely cut and looks delicate.  It is found throughout Georgia, except in the sandy pineland in Southeast Georgia.

A break from the ferns was finding a number of white avens (Geum canadense).  We have seen the rosette that comes in very early spring, but not the flower, which just bloomed this week.

We also noticed the warty bark of a young tree, Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), a type of Hackberry.

We found several Rattlesnake Ferns (Botrychium virginianum) along the Orange Trail.  The blade is ternate and triangular in shape.  It is bipinnate to tripinnate. The fertile stalk arises from the where the blade branches, actually the base of the blade.  You will remember that a fern that looks similar comes up in the fall and the fertile stalk is attached below the base of the Blade, and is called a Grape Fern.

We looked a long time for the common Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron), which was the last fern we found on the Orange Trail. It is common throughout all of Georgia, with the exception of the Southeastern Coastal Plain. One characteristic is the shiny dark brown rachis (almost looks black).  Like the Christmas Fern some of the fronds are partially fertile with sori on the back side of the pinnae.  Each pinna has an ear like projection next to the rachis.  It is deciduous.

There was some time left so we scooted out the White Trail across the road to check out the blooming Wafer Ash or Hop tree (Ptelea trifoliate, which is not an ash).  There was quite a group of them.  We could not name the family at the time.  Looking it up, I found it to be in the Rutaceae, or Citrus family, which includes the Prickly Ash, Hercules Club, and Hardy Orange.

We then retired to Donderos’ for conversation and refreshment.


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