Friday, November 22, 2013

November 21 2013 Ramble Report

·        Emily and Dale will lead a trail walk at Sandy Creek Nature Center (Nature Center, not the Park) on Tuesday morning, Dec. 3, at 9AM, followed by coffee, tea and homemade goodies. Everyone is invited!

·        We are suspending our scheduled Rambles during the winter. The scheduled Rambles will resume on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at the usual time and place.

·    Dale or Hugh will be happy to have company whenever they ramble this winter. They will notify all the Ramblers of the date and time by email. (It is likely not to be early in the morning and the days/times may vary, depending on weather. Think of it as a group of friends just spontaneously getting together. The Ramble Reports will also be on winter hiatus.)

This week's report is written by Don Hunter with a few additions by Dale. The photos are sampled from a larger number that can be seen on Don's facebook album. (Be sure to find Don's molasses cookie recipe at the bottom of the post.)

This morning the frigid temps in the lower 20’s of last week were replaced by more seasonable temps in the lower 40’s with a only a slight threat of rain.  Though it had rained lightly this morning in many of the areas surrounding the Bot Gardens,  it remained dry as twenty-five Ramblers arrived at the Arbor for the last official Ramble of the season.  Everyone was greeted with hot coffee and home-made banana bread and molasses cookies to enjoy during the pre-Ramble mingling and several readings.  (The treats were compliments of Don!!)

Today, since it was the last of the year, we had readings by Hugh, Martha, Don, Emily and Dale.  It remained basically dry throughout the Ramble, though we did experience a very light drizzle from time to time near the end of the walk.  This, however, did not interfere in any way with our enjoyment of the walk today. 
Martha read the poem "Seeing My Way" from Dana Wildsmith's One Good Hand: Poems (Iris Press, Oak Ridge, TN, 2005). Martha tells us that the author is a Georgia poet.
Amazing how our woods cleared out without
my having seen the broomsedge fall, the ferns
wilt back, the poison ivy leaves return
to hairy roots banding every oak
and pine of felling size. The undergrowth
was thick as kudzu yesterday, I'm certain,
but winter's here today. For months I've worked
to keep the brush cut back, now nature's mowed it
overnight so I can see the paths
our deer have traveled summer-long, unseen,
as plain as any map. You'd think I'd learn
that always if I wait it out, those paths
I need will show themselves in my tired brain
where they've been waiting for the brush to clear.

Hugh's reading was from the Parish Maps Project, London, England 1987 cited in Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth, Keeping a Nature Journal 2nd ed Storey Publishing, 2003:

It seems only natural that we should value most what we are in contact with every day--local and familiar places, commonplace birds and animals--yet the reverse is often true.  We appear to place a higher value on rare animals and plants and spectacular views and far-flung places.  Of course, both are important because they fulfill different needs.  But the everyday places desperately need our attention--partly because they are changing so fast, and not always for the better, and also because tremendous benefit is to be gained from a personal involvement with your own locality.

Don read two poems, by Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay:
Nature, Poem 28: Autumn by Emily Dickinson, (Published in 1896, Poems of Emily Dickinson: Series One, ten years after her death, by her sister, Lavinia):
The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.
The Oak Leaves  (From Wine from These Grapes, published in 1934) by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Yet in the end, defeated too, worn out and ready to fall,
Hangs from the drowsy tree with cramped and desperate
               stem above the ditch the last leaf of all.

There is something to be learned, I guess, from looking at
               the dead leaves under the living tree;
Something to be set to a lusty tune and learned and sung, it well
               might be;
Something to be learned--though I was ever a ten-o'clock scholar
               at this school--
Even perhaps by me.

But my heart goes out to the oak-leaves that are the last to sigh
"Enough," and lose their hold;
They have boasted to the nudging frost and to the two-and-thirty
               winds that they would never die,
Never even grow old.
(These are those russet leaves that cling
All winter, even into the spring,
To the dormant bough, in the wood knee-deep in the snow the only
               coloured thing.

Emily's reading (from Looking for Mushrooms by Mary Oliver):

Fall: the dry threshold
To the woods, trees blown apart
Leaf by leaf. A black snake,
Coiled in the sun, flutters
Its forked tongue and glides
Like a stroke of oil over
The path. . . .

Dale read a short passage from What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chaimovitz:

So the next time you find yourself on a stroll through a park,
take a second to ask yourself: What does the dandelion in the
lawn see? What does the grass smell? Touch the leaves of an oak
knowing that the tree will remember it was touched. But it won't
remember you. You, on the other hand, can remember this particular
tree and carry the memory of it with you forever.

After the readings, we headed down the paved walkway to the Dunson Native Flora Garden, then across on the White Trail and to the Georgia Power right-of-way (ROW).  We followed the White Trail across the ROW, into the forest, and we remained on the White Trail until we arrived at the Red Trail, where we took it to the left, back to the White Trail briefly, before taking a left on the Green Trail, which we followed back to the White Trail and out into the ROW and back up the hill to the parking lot.  Much of this route is what is referred to as the “Tree Trail”.

Witch Hazel flowers, happier than last week
We first stopped at the Witch Hazel tree (Hamamelis virginiana), located on the paved walk down the hill.  This is the same tree at which we stopped last week.  The yellow flowers, which were crumpled by the freeze last week, were today as they should be, with long and slender bright yellow petals, springing forth from buds at the ends of reddish brown twigs.  

Moss sporophytes
While we were looking at the Witch Hazel tree, Martha pointed out some brilliant, deep red sporophytes growing from a small patch of moss not far from the tree.  It was a shame that Bob could not make the Ramble today,   He surely would have appreciated this sight.

Mockernut Hickory bark

Pignut Hickory bark
We crossed up the hill and through the ROW and into the woods, continuing on the White Trail.  Just past the Green Trail, but remaining on the White Trail, we stopped at a large American Beech tree (Fagus grandifolia).  Here Dale pointed out the near total absence of pine trees in the surrounding forest. There was an abundance of other species in the canopy: beech, various hickories and oaks.  The lack of pines is an indication that the land was probably not farmed or was farmed a long time ago, compared to other areas of the Botanical Garden, which have many Short Leaf and Loblolly pines and where past terracing is still evident.  Hugh also pointed out that approximately one foot of topsoil has been lost from much of the surrounding area, the result of poor farm practices, and that all of this topsoil is now in the various rivers that drain the area.  As an example, there is nearly a 30 feet thickness of sediment behind the dam on the Oconee River off of Barnett Shoals Road, comprised primarily of this eroded topsoil.  An interesting conversation followed, regarding past agricultural practices, the economy of agriculture at the turn of the twentieth century and the real price that was paid, in terms of damage to the land, of farming decisions that were made based on this economy.  Before leaving this location we also saw two species of hickory, the Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa)and the Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra).  The bark of the Mockernut Hickory had the obvious diamond pattern formed by the ridges and furrows of the bark.  The bark of the Pignut Hickory also had the diamond pattern but it was not nearly as obvious, being somewhat obscured by the elongated pattern and platy nature of the bark ridges.

Upper & Lower surface of Tipularia leaves
After leaving the beech and hickory trees, Dale mentioned that he has been reading a paper on the Crane Fly Orchid (Tipularia discolor) and the fact that their existence appears to be dependent on the presence of rotting wood.  We kept a keen eye open to look for Tipularia leaves so that we could ascertain if they were growing on or near rotting limbs, twigs or fallen trees or stumps.   Crane Fly Orchids are unusual in that they can remain dormant under the leaf litter for many years, then reappear when conditions permit.  They grow from underground corms, tuberous organs whose purpose is vegetative reproduction.  Corms are short, vertical, swollen underground plant stems that also serve as a storage organ used by some plants to survive winter or other adverse conditions such as summer drought and heat (estivation). (Wikipedia) As we moved on up the White Trail, we spotted many more examples of Tipularia emerging from the leaf litter, pointing out the coloring (green on top and purple underneath) and saw several  examples of Spotted Wintergreen or Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata).  We continued to see most of the Tipularia associated with rotting wood of one sort or another.

Grape Fern foliage

Grape fern sporangia
Near the top of the hill on the White Trail, we came upon a cluster of Southern Grape Ferns (Botrychium biternatum) and another fern that appears to be a grape fern but not the Southern Grape Fern.  All had fertile fronds, some with intact sporangia and some with burst sporangia.  It is possible that we were seeing the Alabama Grape Fern (Botrychium jenmanii), as well as the Bronze or Cut-Leaved Grape Fern (Botrychium dissectum).  Alas, no one brought their fern field guide today!

False Turkey Tail mushrooms

Two False Turkey Tails showing variation
After passing through the gate, we saw a large double-trunked Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) or Scarlet Oak tree (Quercus coccinea), one trunk alive, the other dead.  The dead trunk was covered with what appears to be False Turkey Tail mushrooms  (Stereum ostrea).  Two different color variations were present, with different colorations, one having the red or reddish brown stripes and the other much lighter colored, almost bleached looking.  These mushrooms were created as the mycelium grew through the bark, rotting the wood and sending out the fruiting bodies or mushrooms.  These mushrooms are not highly specific as to which tree they colonize but they do prefer hardwoods over pines.   Another unidentified mushroom was present about eight feet up in the tree.  It was thick and fleshy, red capped, with a creamy yellow underside and grew as a stacked cluster. 

Yellow Jacket nest showing attachment pedicels
After moving on, we came upon some more Southern Grape Ferns alongside the trail, and a few other interesting things.  Avis found a  Yellow Jacket nest. Like a paper wasp, the yellow jacket constructs it nest from woody plant fibers, chewing them up to make a paper mache substance that is molded into the nest, one small piece at a time. As the nest grows in size additional layers are often added. Each layer looks like the nest of an ordinary paper wasp and lower layers are attached to upper layers by short stems, called pedicels. Each cell contains a single wasp larva which is fed caterpillar that has been captured, killed and chewed into hamburger by the worker wasps.

Oak Apple gall on oak leaf
Donna found an Oak apple gall, which is the common name for a large, round, vaguely apple-like gall commonly found on many species of oak. Oak apples range in size from 2–5 cm in diameter and are caused by chemicals injected by the larva of certain kinds of gall wasp in the family Cynipidae.  The adult female wasp lays single eggs in developing leaf buds. The wasp larvae feed on the gall tissue resulting from their secretions. (Wikipedia)

A large leaf, possibly from a Mockernut Hickory tree sapling, was seen on the trail.  There was much discussion about the identification of the tree from which the leaf fell and the consensus was, finally, that it was a Mockernut.  We also saw a small oak tree for which we had a similar level of discussion.  It was determined, based on bark characteristics, that it was a Northern Red Oak.

Beech Aphids frozen in place
We saw a medium-sized American Beech tree, located on the edge of the trail, with black, sooty fungal staining on its roots and a small, distressed limb, located above the roots, with several dead Beech Blight Aphids (Grylloprociphilus imbricator), no doubt victims of the hard freeze last week.  We have seen these on most of our rambles this season, seen wherever the American Beech trees are found.

A really big Sourwood
We then turned on to the Red Trail and headed south, up the hill, towards the White Trail again.  It was obvious that the Red Trail does not get a lot of traffic, as the trail was completely covered in fallen leaves, barely visible as we walked along it.  Near the top of the hill is located a very large Sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum), with deeply furrowed and corky bark, a truly amazing tree.

Witches Broom on Hophornbeam

At the top of the hill, we reached the end of the Red Trail and turned left, briefly, on to the White Trail, referred to here as the “Tree Trail”, where we saw what is called a “Witches Broom” on a Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana).  Literally hundreds of small twigs burst forth from the same section of trunk, the site of a previous fungal infection.  It could be that the fungal infection causes the plant to release a growth hormone, causing this proliferation of twigs.  These twigs quickly turn sharply upward, giving the effect of a broom.

Puffballs read to squirt out their spores
We headed on up to the “Rest Shelter” and turned left on to the Green Trail and passed through the gate at the deer fence.  We soon came upon a fallen tree with many Pear-Shaped Puff Ball mushrooms (Lycoperdon pyriforme).  Most all of the specimens observed were fully mature and the log was dusted with the greenish contents of the puff balls.  We have stopped at this same tree several times during the late summer and have observed these same mushrooms as younger specimens, some not capable of producing spores at the time. 

Not far down the Green Trail, we reached its end and turned left on the White Trail to head back to the parking lot, where we quickly adjourned to Dondero’s for our after-walk refreshments and conversation.  I think everyone was a little sad that this was the last official ramble of the season and were already looking forward to February 20, 2014!  We’ll see you then, if not sooner.
Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa)
Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra)
Crane Fly Orchid (Tipularia discolor)
Spotted Wintergreen or Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata)
Southern Grape Fern (Botrychium biternatum)
Alabama Grape Fern (Botrychium jenmanii)
Bronze or Cut-Leaved Grape Fern (Botrychium dissectum)
Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)
False Turkey Tail mushrooms  (Stereum ostrea)
Sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum)
Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
Pear-Shaped Puff Ball mushrooms (Lycoperdon pyriforme)

Beech Blight Aphids (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) (deceased!)

Here is the recipe for the Molasses Crinkle Cookies:
¾ cup shortening                             2 tsp. baking soda
1 egg                                                  ½ tsp. cloves
1 cup white sugar                            1 tsp. cinnamon
2 ¼ cups sifted flour                        1 tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. salt                                          4 tbs. blackstrap molasses
Cream shortening (preferably lard) and gradually add sugar.  Mix well after each addition.  Add egg and beat well.  Sift dry ingredients and add one-third of flour mixture.  Mix, then add molasses and remaining flour.  Mix well.  Shape dough into small balls.  Roll in granulated sugar and place on greased baking sheet.  Bake in a slow oven (275 degrees) until firm…about 15 minutes.  Cookies should flatten out and crack all over.

While we were searching for Cranefly orchids Sue asked me what a corm was. A good discussion of corms is available on Wikipedia. You can wander from there to bulb, tubers, etc. and spend a lot of time learning a lot of new things about plants.

1 comment:

  1. It was a festive finale for a regiment of ramblers. Thanks to all for this wonderful experience . Martha


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