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.


We stopped first at the power line to observe where herbicide has been applied to remove the numerous Wingstems (Verbascum sp.) and other broad-leaved plants, making way for the development of the Piedmont prairie. Looking down the hill you could see that many of the large trees between the White trail and the road had also been removed.

Before entering the woods we examined the flowers of Dallisgrass (Paspalum sp.). Many people don't think of grasses as having flowers, but they do. Their flowers are inconspicuous and lack petals, but they do have the usual complement of male and female (staminate and pistilate) parts, just like other flowering plants. The female part , visible with a hand lens, looks like a tiny, black bottle brush. The spiky projections provide a large surface area on which air-born pollen can land. Only a few of the flowers had exposed anthers, brown in color, also visible only through the hand lens.

Corn is also a grass and some of us were surprised to learn that the silk on the ear of corn is the part of the pistil called the style. Pollen lands on the very tip of the silk (the stigma) and each strand of silk is connected to an ovary where one ovule awaits its pollen. The pollen grain germinates on the stigma, sending a pollen tube through the silk down to the ovule where the sperm cell in the pollen tube joins the ovule. Voila! A seed is produced! But where does the pollen come from? At the top of each corn plant is a tassell which produces the pollen. Sue told us that she grew up in Indiana and one of her jobs as a child was to cover the tassels to prevent the corn from self-pollinating. (I might not have gotten that right. Sue, please correct me in the comments.)

Entering the woods our first discovery was several Cranefly Orchids (Tipularia discolor) in full bloom and beautifully illuminated by a beam of sunlight. Everyone got a good look at the nectar spur on each flower. This spur can be very long, in some cases it is longer that the diameter of the flower itself. It produces and holds the nectar that is the attractant/reward for pollinators.  The chief pollinator is a small moth. To get to the nectar at the bottom of the spur it must push its face into the flower, coming in contact with the pollen sacs in the flower proper. These little bags of pollen are glued to the moth's eye and then transferred to the stigma of the next flower it visits. Nature can be weird!

Mushrooms were in abundance due to the continuing rain this year. We are still seeing Chanterelles, Turkeytails and Coral mushrooms. New, to us today, were the fascinating Earthstars, a type of puffball. They resemble an acorn surrounded by what looks like a lighter colored jester's collar shaped like a star. The central "acorn" is really a thin-walled spore chamber. When a drop of water hits it a puff of spores is expelled from the central opening. Some of us had fun poking this delicate structure and being rewarded by a tiny spurt of dust.

There were also several other kinds of unidentifiable (by us) mushrooms, as usual.

Gary brought some specimens of Cinnabar Chanterelles to show us. They are really tiny, much smaller than the comparatively huge Chanterelles that we see in the woods here. They are so small that Gary mentioned that they are not worth gathering, even if they are edible. In a previous report I misidentified the larger, orange colored Chanterelles we saw all over the woods as Cinnabar Chanterelles. Mea culpa!

Hugh pointed out a tree with many patches of Common Script lichen (Graphis scripta). It's always fun to examine these with a hand lens and try to decipher the message.

A yellowish bolete mushroom was identified by Hugh as Ornate-stalked Bolete (Boletus ornatipes).

We stumbled across an American Beech with one branch covered with a huge number of Beech Blight Aphids (Grylloprociphilus imbricator). We have seen this insect previously and it's always fun to watch them do the "boogie woogie" on their branch. You can find more information and short video at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beech_blight_aphid

Another good find was an unusual plant that we first thought was Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), but on reflection, now think was Pinesap (Hypopitys monotropa). The plant was pale white like Indian Pipe, but had two flowers on a single stem. Indian Pipe is supposed to have only a single flower per stem. Whatever name is applied the plant is interesting -- it's a parasite feeding off a mycorrhizal fungus that is in a mutualistic relationship with the roots of another plant. The parasitic mode of life is reflected in the lack of chlorophyll in its tissues.

Hugh located a single individual of Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) -- it has a tiny white flower.

On the way back we stopped to look at the developing inflorescence of Winged Sumac (Rhus copallina), and the still-blooming Wild Petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis).

Finally it was back to Donderos' and relaxing conversation. Another great walk with wonderful companions.

Dale


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