Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27, 2013, Ramble Report

The reading this week, a poem by Walt Whitman (1819-1892), was provided by Hugh Nourse: 

The Dalliance of the Eagles

SKIRTING the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.

This morning we took the White trail to the power line cut, turned left and went downhill to a Trumpet Vine and then returned uphill, pausing to examine some insects where the White trail enters the woods. Then we continued up the power line to the fence, turned left, following the fence to the White trail and returned in the woods back to the Arbor.

The Trumpet Vine (also called Trumpet Creeper), Campsis radicans, has conspicuous red trumpet-shaped flowers – just right for attracting hummingbirds. But pollinators are not the only animals attracted to these flowers. Careful examination will reveal numerous ants hanging out on the surface of the flower buds and, later in the season, on the surface of the long, bean shaped seed pods. The ants are in search of nectar, but not from inside the flower. The nectar they find is secreted by the plant on the surface of the flower buds and the seed pods. These “extrafloral nectaries” are thought to attract ants to defend the plant from attack by herbivorous insects and especially those that might try to eat the developing seeds. There is currently no direct evidence that this is the case for the Trumpet Vine, but many other plants have extrafloral nectarines and in some of these the evidence for ant defense is quite good.

Walking up the hill we passed a stand of very healthy Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, with a developing inflorescence. Most parts of this plant are poisonous, but the young shoots and leaf tips can be eaten if properly prepared (boiling with at least two changes of water).

Where the White trail enters the woods we found several different types of insects feeding on the freshly emerged leaves of a Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera). Viewing them with a hand lens is an exciting experience. We saw aphids and the nymphal stages of a treehopper as well as several forms with fuzzy, waxy secretions that conceal part of their bodies. (Yesterday I found a aphid lion, the larval stage of the Green Lacewing (Chrysopa sp.). It has sickle-shaped jaws that pierce the skin of its aphid prey and suck them dry. It then sticks the husks of its victims on its back, apparently to serve as camouflage.) Lacewings are Neuropterans, related to Doodlebugs.

It took us over an hour to walk up the rest of the power line to the fence, there were so many plants in bloom – summer has finally arrived! Perhaps it’s best to just list the plants seen: 

Common Name

Scientific name
Rose Pink
Sabatia angularis
Yellow Star Grass
Hypoxis hirsuta
Stiff-haired Sunflower
Helianthus hirsutus
Curly Milkweed, Bluntleaf Milkweed
Asclepius amplexicaulis
Spinypod Milkvine
Matelea decipiens
Bitterweed, Sneezeweed
Helenium amarum
Sensitive Brier
Mimosa microphylla
Deptford Pink
Dianthus armeria
Carolina Wild Petunia
Ruellia carolinensis
Hypericum gentianoides
Wild Bergamot
Monarda fistulosa
Whorled Coreopsis
Coreopsis major
White Horsemint
Pycnanthemum incanum
Common Yellow Wood Sorrel
Oxalis stricta
Common Mullein
Verbascum thaspus
Longleafed Bluet
Houstonia longifolia
Leafy-stemmed False Dandelion
Pyrrhopappus carolinianus

The Wild Bergamot was especially abundant. 

As we wandered up the path we met several Botanical Garden workers engaged in plant rescue efforts. This part of the Garden is being converted to a Piedmont Prairie and the initial steps involve removal of much of the broad leaved herbaceous vegetation. (This means, in large part, the Wingstems that grow so abundantly in the power line cut. We’ll miss their colorful yellow and white flowers that provide masses of color during the summer before the goldenrod and ironweed begin blooming.)

Finally, into the woods to cool off and look for mushrooms! And there were mushrooms galore, especially Chanterelles which glowed orange against the light and dark browns of the leaf litter. Besides the Chanterelles we encountered Amanitas and Russulas as well as others that perplexed us. We need an experience mushroom collected to join us some time and give us a little guidance.

On the way back we noticed the fruits of two plants in the shade garden: Camellia and Sweet Shrub. Both surprised us – none of us had ever seen the fruits of these plants before.

Then it was on to Donderos’ for iced beverages and the reconstruction of the list of plants we had observed.

Note: There will be no Nature Ramble next week (next Thursday falls on July 4). Hope to see you all again on July 11.


  1. We also identified the "Old Man in the Woods" mushroom, Strohilomyces flocopus, my nomination for the ugliest mushroom in the kingdom. I'll never forger the bergamot as seen through a hand lens. Looks just like a pack of anemone.
    Thanks for a great ramble.

  2. Changed one plant i.d.; it is now Matelea decipiens -- Spinypod Milkvine (changed from Matelea obliqua)

  3. Martha: Thank you for identifying my namesake fungus! You make me feel like a fun guy.


  4. No doubt about how much fun you are--man of the woods. I forgot to mention the bird's nest found on the grass and repositioned in a dogwood tree by Gary. Gary also dispelled the myth that birds will not return to a nest handled by humans. He said one can even touch baby birds and the parents will return. I'm hoping some nestless bird finds Gary's motel.


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