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.
We rambled into the woods by the lower parking lot to go down through the Dunson Native Flora Garden. Our first find was a lot of Black-footed Marasmius (Marasmiellus nigripes), which we have found on previous rambles. Next was a group of single fingers of white coming up from the ground. Avis described them as dead fingers. From the mushroom books they looked like White Worm Coral (Clavaria vermicularis) . it could be C. akinsoniana, which is more common in the Southeast.
Spiderwebs were everywhere. We saw garden spiders, sheet webs, and bowl and doily webs. We were wishing for Dale to enlighten us about the many different ones we saw.
The next plant was crane fly orchid (Tipularia discolor). During our rambles last winter we saw many of the rosettes of this plant with accordion pleated leaves, green on top and purple underneath. This one was in bloom,at which time the leaves disappear. It is so camouflaged by its brown yellow coloration that it is very hard to see just walking along the trail.
In the Dunson Native Flora Garden we stopped to talk about the horse balm (Collinsonia canadensis), which was just starting to bud. Up on the Blue Ridge Parkway they were in full bloom last week. These may not have received enough light and too much water to blooms so late.
From here we walked up the white trail to the power line right of way. Along the way we found more spiders, as well as Saint Andrews Cross (Hypericum crux-andreae). The hypericums with only four petals are called St. Peterswort. The other species on our trails is Hypericum strangulum.
At the Powerline we turned up the road through it. In spite of the herbiciding of the area, we found lots of interesting plants:
False dandelion (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus)
Rabbit tobacco (Gnaphalium obtusifolium syn Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium)
Boneset or throughwort (Eupatorium sp.) was starting to bud
Sensitive brier (Mimosa microphylla) was fruiting
Rose Pink (Sabatia angularis) was still in bloom
Golden aster (Heterotheca latifolia)
Purple top grass was actually switch grass (Panicum spp.)
A puddle in the road has been there for weeks with all of this rain. Small water striders were visible in the pool. Gary pointed out the mosquito larvae. Beyond this point we noticed the Dixie reindeer lichen (Cladonia subtenuis). It is grey green compared to the much whiter reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina). Also it tends to fork in twos, whereas the C rangiferina forks in threes or more. Here was a lone summer bluet (Houstonia longifolia).
At the top of the hill near the fence was bitter weed (Helenium amarum), which actually was on both sides of the fence.
Going around the fence at the white trail and over to the road by the radium site and down the road, we stopped at the wetlands to see the cattails (Typha latifolia). All around us on the road Sericea Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) was blooming. This plant has been introduced from Asia for planting along roadsides.
Rejoining the white trail and entering the woods we passed a sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) and a mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa). Amazingly we spotted grapes from the muscadine plants ((Vitus rotundifolia)!
At the creek we noted the cane brake with (Arundinaria gigantia).
On the way back to the lower parking lot beech aphids were found as well as a strange growth on the underside of beech leaves. A strange mushroom with tall yellow stem and red top was discovered.
It was time to retire to Dondero's for snacks and conversation.