Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 29 2013 Ramble Report

We started today with an announcement: Emily and Dale will lead a walk at 9:00 AM next Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, at Sandy Creek Nature Center. Everyone is welcome to attend. This is the first of a monthly series of walks at the Nature Center. Emily plans to have them on the first Tuesday of each month.

We had three readings today; Hugh read an excerpt from Sean Beeching's book, I Like You But What Can You Do Can You Be A Bird, pp. 45-46.

Inland is a low forest of oaks and gums, holly and willow, the floor is mud, muddy roots and soggy leaves, it is composed of low mounds and water-filled hollows, and it is dark, even in winter, under the live oak leaves.  The history of the Ohoopee's past wanderings is here, these are the old channels and banks, oxbows and meanders, I suppose, but it is too confused and too dim to be read by me.  The two great trees here are live oak on the banks and cypress in the swamps.  Both are covered with the other great player in the coastal landscape:   Spanish moss.  Does this bromeliad cast (a) spell of lethargy over the South?  Fully developed on a big oak, ancient, shaggy, overextended. it billows in the breeze, supported not by its own efforts but by the oak, dormant as often as not.  Should some fall, so what?  There's plenty more.  Perhaps it exudes a substance, Tillandsiadol, an invisible elixir that seeps into the minds of Southerners, that makes them say, "Aw, it's alright," whether it is or not, and makes them think that living is work enough.  If this potion could be bottled I would carry it on my back and breathe it straight through a tube.

Dale read a piece about scientific names from Alpine Plants of the Northwest Wyoming to Alaska, p. 12:
If we can no longer argue for scientific names on the basis of stability, we can still make an argument for clarity. After all, even after scientific names change, there is still only one official scientific name-the new one. (Numerous common names usually remain.) You can also learn scientific names to impress people, around the barbeque or at other social gatherings. Inexplicably to some, Carla Bruni married former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. She explained that, after a courtship stroll in the Elysee Palace gardens, it struck her that "He knows all the Latin names, all these details about tulips and roses. I said to myself, 'My God, I must marry this man.'"

Terry read a wonderful poem by Janisse Ray:

Where does its fire go
when a monarch dies?
Does it vanish
in smoke,
or turn suddenly to rain?
Does it lay dead
against a mountainside
transforming placidly
to dirt,
which will harbor in its richness
millions of small burning ships
sailing a deep-green forest,
never to be seen?
Or does the fire seep
into the ground,
running in rivulets
toward the blazing core
of the earth,
one day to return:
a volcano spewing wings?

The subject of today's ramble was butterflies. Dale began with a few comments about books and equipment useful for learning about Georgia butterflies. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

August 15 2013 Ramble Report

Around ten folks met at the arbor this morning for the weekly Ramble, led this week by Andie Bisceglia, Director of Children's Programs at the Gardens.  We left the arbor and headed down to the White Trail, then to the Blue Trail, took the access road to the right at the Blue Trail gate, then right on to the Green Trail back to the power line clearing and home to the parking lot.  The weather was overcast, with a cool temps and a nice steady breeze during most of the walk.  The rain that was supposed to move in by 10:00 am stayed to the south.  It was as comfortable a walk as you could want for the middle of August.
We began with the reading, provided by Andie, from Rachel Carson's "A Sense of Wonder", © 1956, pp 42-45. .
            A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful an awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.
                If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in. Parents often have a sense of inadequacy when confronted on the one hand with the eager, sensitive and of a child and on the other with a world of complex physical nature, inhabited by a life so various and unfamiliar that is seems hopeless to reduce it to order and knowledge. In a mood of self-defeat, they exclaim, “How can I possibly teach my child about nature—why, I don’t even know one bird from another!”
                I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.

After the reading, we made our way down the hill and to the White Trail.  At the power line clearing, we played a game.  We divided into groups of two and, taking turns, one partner was blindfolded and led to a tree by the other partner, where the blindfolded partner explored the tree with their hands, sensing bark, moss, lichens, size, etc, and was asked what type of tree it was. The blindfolded partner was then walked back to the trail and, after the blindfold was removed, tried to identify the tree they were led to, based on their observations.  It was an interesting experience.

We then headed out on the White Trail and quickly saw St. Andrew's Cross (Hypericum hypericoides) at the edge of the power line.  Nearby, and also at the edge of the power line clearing, Gary pointed out a white Clematis growing in the lower boughs of a large tree.  It appears to be a Yam-Leafed Virgin's Bower (Clematis terniflora).  From  there,  we took the White Trail to the BlueTrail, where we immediately saw a Chantrelle (Cantharellus cibarius) mushroom (Surprise!). As we rambled along the Blue Trail we came across a small American Beech tree with a limb nearly completely covered with the Beech Blight Aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) (This is the second time this summer we have observed these aphids on an American Beech tree).  Also observed on the ground below the infested limb were deposits of sooty mold caused by the fungus Scorias spongiosa built up below the colonies of aphids and growing on the copious amounts of honeydew the insects exuded.

A little further down the trail, Andie pointed out terraces, most likely remnants of cotton farming or other agricultural practices.  Also noted was a "wolf" oak, a large oak tree with many limbs growing relatively close to the ground, something only seen on trees that grew out in the open. The "wolf" descriptor is also given to some pines that also have many lower limbs and is probably a shortened form of "lone wolf" since the trees that display this characteristic are generally solitary specimens, i.e., lone wolves.  Andie referenced Tom Wessel's "Reading the Forested Landscape".
As we moved further down the trail, we saw large numbers of Elephant's Foot (Elephantopus tomentosus), also known as Devil's Grandmother, a pretty little purple Aster.  Nearby Angie noticed a Crane Fly Orchid (Tipularia discolor) near the base of a large oak tree. It has been a good year for Crane Fly Orchids at the Bot Gardens.   As we worked our way back out into one of the clearings, we observed the White or Virginia Crownbeard (Verbesina virginica).blooming.  This is one of the two species of Wingstems that are found along the trails.  Nearby was a stand of what looks like Blunt Leaf Senna or Coffee Weed (Senna obtusifolia), a common, introduced weed and usually found in abundance in tilled gardens in the southeast.  At this point the Ramble turned right up the access road at the Blue Trail gate, where we quickly found some bright yellow green boletes, maybe Ornate Stalked Bolete (Boletus ornatipes).  A little further down the road we saw a small cluster of Cinnabar-Red Chantrelles (Cantharelles cinnabarinus), another of the edible chantrelles.  Right before the turn on to the Green Trail the tiny but beautiful Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) was noticed and pointed out.  It was seen at several other locations further  along the trail.  After turning on to the Green Trail the very striking Elegant Stinkhorn mushroom (Mutinus elegans) was seen emerging from the leaf litter.  It is bright orange, with a white skirt and tapers to a hollow point.  And it does stink.  The last find of the day was a lone Rattlesnake Fern (Botrypus virginianus) then most folks headed up to Dondero's for the after-Ramble refreshments and conversation.  Thanks Andie for very ably stepping in and leading a great walk.
Here is the link to Don's Facebook page with his great photos of some of the things observed today: Don's Facebook photos.

Summary of observed species:
St. Andrew's Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)
Yam-Leafed Virgin's Bower (Clematis terniflora)
Chantrelle (Cantharellus cibarius)
Beech Blight Aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator)
Elephant's Foot AKA Devil's Grandmother (Elephantopus tomentosus)
Crane Fly Orchid (Tipularia discolor)
White or Virginia Crownbeard (Verbesina virginica)
Blunt Leaf Senna AKA Coffee Weed (Senna obtusifolia)
Ornate Stalked Bolete (Boletus ornatipes)
Cinnabar-Red Chantrelle (Cantharelles cinnabarinus)
Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata)
Elegant Stinkhorn mushroom (Mutinus elegans)
Rattlesnake Fern (Botrypus virginianus)
Don Hunter

August 22 2013 Ramble Report

Today we first heard a reading by Carol from Forgotten Grasslands of the South, p. 5 by Reed Noss on the importance of knowing our environment.

Beyond its importance for conservation, natural history provides a way for people to feel at home.  Nothing alarms me more than someone who has no clue about what watershed she lives in and cannot name even five or ten species of plants and animals in her neighborhood.  Such lack of awareness signals a pathological disconnection from nature.  We need to know our nonhuman neighbors and come to see them as friends.  Learning about the geologic history, flora, and fauna of the place we live in helps us feel that we belong here, regardless of our socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or whether or not we were born and raised in this place.  Natural history is democratic--anyone can practice it--and it opens up limitless opportunities for joyful experiences.  These experiences then circle back to conservation.  We become more eager to save plants, animals, and places when they are familiar rather than strangers.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

August 8 2013 Ramble Report

This morning Hugh read from Barbara Kingsolver, "Small Wonder" (2002), anthologized in Bill McKibben, American Earth:  Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, " page 947.

People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do.   We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it.  We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers.  To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar.
Wildness puts us in our place.  It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd.  It reminds us why, in those cases in which  our plans might influence many future generations, we ought to choose carefully.  Looking out on a clean plank of planet earth, we can get shaken right down to the bone by the bronze-eyed possibility of lives that are not our own.

Given heavy rains that have muddied up the nature trails, and the recent herbiciding and cutting down of woody plants in the Power Line Right of Way, we decided to ramble in the Garden hitting the native plant sections.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1 2013 Ramble Report

We had a three book give-away that was won by Martha, Sue and Don. I'm sure they will be happy to share their books with any of you after they have read them.

The reading today was provided by Dale and is from the entry for August 1st in Donald Culross Peattie's book, An Almanac for Moderns:
JEAN-BAPTISTE-PIERRE-ANTOINE DE MONET was born upon this day in 1744 in a gaunt old farmhouse in Picardy, eleventh son of the Chevalier de La Marck. The young Lamarck, while stationed as a soldier at Monaco, first began to question the why and wherefore of life's infinite complexity. Rousseau had interested him in botanizing in a gentlemanly and sentimental way, but Lamarck was made of sterner stuff than Rousseau. He was fortunate, too, in his associates. Buffon procured for him the place of botanist to the King, and the mighty de Jussieu, who can be com­pared to Linnaeus with a compliment intended to Lin­naeus, made a thorough systematist out of Lamarck. Late in life a change in appointments placed him in the chair of a lecturer on zoology, and in order to fulfill it, he made a zoologist out of himself! To Lamarck we owe the dis­tinction between vertebrate and invertebrate animals, which no one before had had the wit to see, snakes, lizards, and alligators having been classed as insects!

When the Revolution came, several great scientists lost their heads in it. The little band at the Jardin des Plantes —Lamarck, Cuvier, Daubenton, Desfontaines, Latreille, Geoffrey de St. Hilaire—clung on, without salary, without appropriations ("the Republic has no need of scientists," were the famous words of the Directory), wondering when the blow would fall. Lamarck's last days were spent in blindness, only his daughter fending for and attending him, taking by dictation the last lines of this imaginative genius of science. He died in direst poverty; at his funeral Cuvier ridiculed his theory of evolution. No one followed his body as it was carried to potter's field.

We traversed the White-Red-White-Green trails today and saw only a few blooming plants, but lots of mushrooms.