Friday, February 28, 2014

February 27 2014 Ramble Report




Todays Ramble Report was written by Don Hunter. All of Don's photos of today's ramble can be see here.

What a difference a week makes.  Last Thursday we gathered twenty-five strong, enjoying a balmy 60 degrees at the beginning of the Ramble.  This morning the turn-out was fourteen, somewhat smaller than the average Ramble crew, but the fourteen were ready and willing Ramblers, dressed for the brisk 28 or so degrees that greeted us when we stepped out of our vehicles.  We all met at the Arbor, talking about the cold, while we gave everyone a chance to arrive.  When it looked like all had arrived, a reading was provided by Dale.

Click here for todays reading.

Today's route:

From the arbor through the Shade Garden and into the Dunson Native Flora Garden. Then out of the Dunson Garden toward the Power line ROW fence and left, before the fence, to the junction of the White trail and the Orange trail alternate. We then returned to the lower parking lot via the White trail.

From the Arbor through the Shade Garden:

We admired the growing numbers of red flowers that are present on the large Red Maple visible past the west end of the parking lot. The sub-freezing temperatures of last night may have taken a toll on already emerged blossoms. Only time will tell.
 
Emily finds a Ragwort
As we made our way down the Shade Garden path, Emily stopped to point out the new foliage of Golden Ragwort and its incipient flower buds. Not too much farther down the path, we stopped to look at the blooming Camellia 'Monah Johnstone', a cultivar named after the wife of the first director of the Botanical Garden.

Chinese Witch-hazel
We soon passed by several Witch-hazels (Genus Hamamelis), one a native species, the Common or American Witch-hazel located above the path and not blooming at this time, and, opposite them, two blooming non-native species.  The yellow blooming example is most likely Chinese Witch-hazel, a native of Central and Eastern China.  The red blooming example may be Hamamelis x. intermedia “Diane”, a hybrid of H. mollis and Japanese Witch-hazel (H. japonica).  The blooms were beautiful, with clusters of brilliantly colored, strap-like petals drooping from the burst remnants of
Hybrid Witch-hazel
the fruit of the shrub.  The genus name Hamamelis means “together with fruit”, describing the arrangement of petals and the fruit remnants.

The Witch-hazels are examples of a common plant distributional pattern: the nearest relatives of many eastern North American plants are found in China. This peculiar pattern is a consequence of glaciation. Before the glacial age the North temperate zone of both the new and old world was populated with a single community of related plants. Then the glaciers appeared, covering North America well into the United States. The plant communities retreated into refugia south of the advancing glacial borders. This split the formerly continuous north temperate plant community into two large groups, one in southeastern North America and one in southeast Asia. When the glaciers retreated the now disjunct plant communities moved back, producing the modern day distributions.

Dunson Native Flora Garden:

As we arrived at the Dunson Native Flora Garden, we stopped briefly at a large Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), pointing out the distinctive white-capped and flat-topped ridges of bark running up and down the trunk.  Nearby we looked for the new foliage of Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) but only some leaves were seen.  It should not be too long, however, before we start seeing this “Beauty”.

Chattahoochee Trillium
Only the Chattahoochee Trillium was budding at this time.  Down near the foot bridge in the garden we saw several small Ashe's Magnolia trees in bud.  The buds looked much like they had been painted white and, upon closer examination, were seen to be somewhat fuzzy or hairy.

 
Nearby, Dale pointed out that several of the small aluminum identification signs are being gnawed on by the squirrels.  Squirrels' teeth grow very fast and they have to continuously sharpen and shorten them, so they chew on hard things like twigs, and obviously aluminum signs, to sharpen, clean and trim their long teeth.

We stopped on the foot bridge to look at the American Sycamore tree.  The bark of old, mature Sycamore trees is typically dark and rough from the ground up to 6 or more feet. Then it becomes smoother and interestingly patterned. This change is due to the age of the bark. In young trees the bark is smooth from the ground upward. The youngest parts of a tree are at the ends of the trunk and branches and these parts do not have the dark, rough bark of more mature parts. Some Sycamores on the Garden grounds are a little unusual in that they have little or no rough bark near the ground, being mostly smooth in their entirety.

Nearby is a large Florida Torreya, also known as a Stinking Yew or Stinking Cedar, and a Winged Elm (Ulmus alata).  We stopped briefly to look at the bark of the Winged Elm.

Leatherwood flowers & bud
Next we stopped to enjoy the Leatherwood shrubs.  We were fortunate to see the bright yellow anthers of the stamens hanging from the flowers blooming on the shrub.  The blooming period for this shrub is fairly short and we caught it at the right time.  The stamens droop in clusters from the golden brown stems.  The leathery stems of this shrub were used by Native Americans to fabricate thongs and ropes.  After leaving the little grove of Leatherwood shrubs, Hugh stopped by to see the first hint of the appearance of a near legendary Trout Lily.  This lily has persevered at its location for years, even surviving the disturbance associated with the loss of the tree where it is growing.
Virginia Bluebells
The Virginia Bluebells have begun to add their pastel blues, pinks and purples to the garden.  Only a few plants were blooming but soon this section will be awash with these colors.
White Oak bark
We stopped to look at a White Oak.  The bark of the White Oak is light gray to whitish and broken into shingle-like plates on the upper reaches of the trunk.



Another sign the garden is coming to life is the appearance of the leaves of the
Cut-leaved Toothwort
Cut-leaved Toothwort. 

 
Buckeye leaves expanding
Numerous buckeye trees were seen along the base of the hill as we were leaving the Dunson Native Flora Garden.  The Painted Buckeyes had begun to open beautifully red palmately compound leaves, A few Yellow Buckeyes were also seen but their buds were unbroken.
At the base of the Dunson garden, near the Yucca planting Dale pointed out a garden ornament that is sold as a “butterfly house.” It is a birdhouse-type structure that has several narrow vertical slits cut into one side. Although supposedly designed for butterflies to hibernate or shelter in, the butterflies do not read the advertisements and they ignore the houses. Such "butterfly houses" should be renamed for what they really are: wasp or spider houses. 
 
Beyond Dunson Garden and back to Parking Lot:

Wintercress

Wintercress flowers
At the edge of the path, bordering the natural area we found some very small plants in the mustard family, Hoary Wintercress.  The flowers of this plant are fairly miniscule and can only be appreciated with the aid of a hand lens or macro photograph. Plants in the mustard family have flowers with four petals arranged in a "+" or cross pattern. This is why they are known by the older name: crucifers ("cross-bearers").

White Avens

Ebony Spleenwort
At this point, the cold temperature had taken it’s toll and everyone was ready to head to Donderos.  Before advancing up the trail too far, we stopped to look at a White Avens (not blooming) and a nearby Ebony Spleenwort fern.




We retired to Dondero’s a little earlier than normal and, after waiting for Dondero’s to open, we enjoyed some warm drinks and refreshment and some great conversation.

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