Friday, March 14, 2014

March 13 2014 Ramble Report

All of Don's photos of todays ramble can be see here.

We continued the Thursday curse with a temperature in the low 30s. One of the drawbacks of Daylight Savings Time is that 8:30 is really 7:30 as far as sun time goes. Nevertheless, fifteen ramblers showed to brave the chilly weather.

Today's reading was the famous quotation from Baba Dioum, the Senegalese conservationist: "In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."

Today's route:
From the arbor through the Shade Garden onto the White Trail (WT) to the power line right-of-way (ROW). Then up the ROW to the fence and left along the fence to the WT. Turn right, through the gate, and follow the WT to the second intersection with the Red Trail (RT). Follow the RT to the WT, then turn left on the WT and follow it to the intersection with the Green Trail (GT). Take the GT back to our starting point on the WT and then back to the Arbor.

Arbor through Shade Garden:
As we made our way down the Shade Garden path, Emily stopped to point out
Golden Ragwort
the new blossom on the same Golden Ragwort she showed us two weeks ago. The "-wort" suffix is an old English word that simply means "plant," and has no relationship to the near homophone "wart." The ragworts, of which there are many species, all used to be encompassed in the genus Senecio. But recent analyses of the DNA sequences showed that the Old World ragworts all more closely related than any of them were to the New World species. Since our classification is supposed to reflect evolutionary relationships it became necessary to provide the New World ragworts with a different genus name, Packera, much to the irritation of New World plant lovers who had been happily calling them Senecio for many generations. You will still see garden signage with the old name.

The ragworts are also known as "groundsels" and M. Grieve, at, A Modern Herbal, has this to say about the origin of the name:
The name Groundsel is of old origin, being derived from the Anglo-Saxon groundeswelge, meaning literally, 'ground swallower,' referring to the rapid way the weed spreads. In Scotland and the north of England it is still in some localities called Grundy Swallow - only a slight corruption of the old form of the word - and is also there called Ground Glutton. In Norfolk it is often called Simson or Sention, which has by some been considered an abbreviation of 'Ascension Plant.' It seems more probable that 'Sention' is a corruption of the Latin, Senecio, derived from Senex (an old man), in reference to its downy head of seeds; 'the flower of this herb hath white hair and when the wind bloweth it away, then it appeareth like a bald-headed man.'
The Golden Ragwort has certainly spread far and wide in the Dunson garden and is fully consistent with the English name groundsel.

Chatahoochie Trillium
Further down the Shade Garden we noticed a Trillium, standing tall and in bloom. The Trilliums in the nearby Dunson garden have been spreading and hybridizing, so it is not certain what species this is, but the leaves retain the silvery-white stripe in the middle that is characteristic of the Chatahoochie Trillium.

Barbara asked: "If the Trilliums are hybridizing does that mean they are not distinct species?" 

Species concepts still provoke a lot of vigorous discussion among biologists. Botanists and zoologists also differ in how they apply species concepts to the organisms they study. Perhaps the most widely used definition is that species are "reproductively isolated" populations in nature. This means that, in natural situations, plants or animals that do not interbreed should be considered separate species, even if they can interbreed when placed together in an unnatural environment, or artificially hybridized, as in a garden or a zoo.

White Trail to Powerline ROW
In the open, disturbed area at the intersection of the White Trail and the ROW we discovered many wildflowers in bloom. Some are native, others naturalized. Naturalized is a term applied to a non-native plant that has become established in an area where it does not naturally occur. Established means that the plant population reproduces sufficiently to maintain itself in that area.

Small Bluet

Quaker Ladies
First, the natives. We found two types of bluets, easily distinguished by the color of the central part of the flower. Both have tubular, four-lobed petals that vary in coloration from white to blue, or blue to purple. The Small Bluet has a reddish colored center with blue or purple petals. The dainty Quaker Ladies has a yellow center and petal color ranging from blue to white. 

Field Pansy

White Dooryard Violet
Two native violets, Field Pansy (also called Johnny-Jump-Up) and Common Blue Violet (Dooryard Violet, Confederate Violet), were starting to bloom. We found one white form of the Dooryard Violet; the light purple variety were more common.

The non-natives seen are two plants in the mint family and one in the mustard family. The two mints are sometimes confused, but closer examination and side-by-side comparison will reveal the obvious differences.
Hen Bit
Hen Bit has long, reddish-purple flowers that are angled upward, toward the sky. The upper leaves have no petioles; they clasp the square stems that are characteristic of most mints.

Purple Dead Nettle
In contrast, the other mint, Purple Dead Nettle, has light purple flowers that are shorter and not as upward oriented. Its leaves have petioles to attach to the stem and the whole plant, when viewed from the side looks like a pagoda.

Mustard family plants are also called crucifers, which means, literally, "cross bearer." This refers to the flowers, which have four petals arranged in a "+", or cross shape. We found a tiny cruciferous plant, Hoary Bittercress, with a few tiny flowers and several slender, elongate seed pods. This type of seed pod is also characteristic of the mustard family. When ripe they will explode on touch, hurling the seeds considerable distances.

Power line ROW to gate:
Green and Gold
We walked up the ROW looking for Green and Gold, a pretty, ground hugging plant with yellow flowers. Earlier in the week Emily and I found a single plant blooming, and today the group found several more nestled at the base of the embankment next to the path.

Dixie Reindeer Lichen
Toward the top of the ROW, where the poor, red clay soil is exposed we found two Lichens: numerous Dixie Reindeer Lichens looking like flattened white hemispheres made of stiff string, and tiny Pixie Cup Lichens hidden among the mosses growing on the bare soil.

Serviceberry or Bradford Pear?
Also at the top of the hill, before the gate, was a tree/large shrubcovered with white flowers. At first I thought this might be a Serviceberry, Amelanchier sp., but, on further reflection, I think it might be an old Bradford Pear, escaped or left over from before the Garden existed.

White/Red/White Trail:
In the woods we saw no more wildflowers blooming but encountered several interesting trees, shrubs and even animals.

A Red-headed Woodpecker was sighted. It is nice to see this species in the Garden again. There was once a large number of them nesting in the Beaver pond, but as the dead trees in the pond decayed and disappeared the Red-headed Woodpeckers did so also.

Look at the wings on that Elm!
Usually when we see a Winged Elm we have to strain to see if the branches far up in the canopy bear the lateral corky growths that give the tree its name. But we sighted a young tree near the trail that had branches with the corky wings about chest high. At last everyone was convinced that Winged Elm does have wings.

Black Jelly Oyster Mushroom
Don, always keeping a keen eye out for tiny lichens and mushrooms found a group of tiny Black Jelly Oyster Mushrooms growing on a small, dead Sweetgum twig. Each mushroom was only 1/4 inch or less in diameter!

The Beech trees still have not dropped their leaves and the long, pointed buds don't show any signs of opening.

Blueberry blossoms
One of our sharp eyed ramblers, Avis, spotted a Blueberry with a few flowers. Without Hugh and Carol present to tell us what kind it is we have to call it just Vaccinium sp.

Don called our attention to a Witches Broom on a small Hophornbeam. This strange growth is found on several species of tree and is by a fungal infection
Witch's Broom on Hophornbeam

(or by the activity of insects that might introduce a pathogen into the tree). The result is the rapid proliferation of short, weak stems in one area of the tree. The dense, shrubby growth resembles a bundle of twigs used to make a broom, thus the name.

But why does the tree respond in this peculiar way? Just under the bark of a tree are living tissues that can produce new branches. They are held in check by the production of a plant hormone called auxin, which is produced by the growing tips of each tree branch. When a branch is damaged, or cut off, the supply of auxin is interrupted and the inhibition of the buds further down the branch is released. There is another plant hormone, called cytokinin, that stimulates cell division. Cytokinin can activate cell growth, even when auxin is present. The Witch's Broom is caused by the production of excess cytokinin by the infectious agent. This releases the surrounding tissue from auxin inhibition and rapid, uncoordinated growth ensues

Betsy Beetle
The final surprise of the day was the discovery of a large beetle -- a Bess Bug (or Patent Leather Beetle, or Bess Beetle or Betsy Bug, take your pick). Emily turned over a rotting log and, digging around in the crumbling wood came up with a very cold, inactive Betsy Beetle. Placing it on my cold hand was enough to warm it up and it began to walk about, although very slowly. These Beetles are very interesting -- a colony develops in rotting wood and the parents actively feed their young. They also communicate with the young and other adults by making a squeaking sound, caused by rubbing the tip of their abdomen against their hard wind covers. We returned the beetle to its family in the log and proceeded to return to Donderos'.

On the way back we stopped to briefly admire a small Buckeye, its leaves freshly emerged from the buds and just barely out of the ground. Buckeyes seem to be the first of the deciduous trees to break bud in the spring. And the first to shed their leaves in the fall. Is there a correlation?

Summary of Observed Species:
Common Name
Scientific name
Golden Ragwort
Packera aurea
Chattahoochee Trillium or Chattahoochee Wake Robin
Trillium decipiens
Small Bluet
Hedyotis pusilla?
Quaker Ladies
Hedyotis caerula
Field Pansy
Viola rafinesquii
Dooryard Violet or
Confederate Violet
Viola sororia
Hoary Wintercress
Cardamine hirsuta
Lamium amplexicaule
Purple Deadnettle
Lamium purpureum
Tradescantia sp.
Green and Gold
Chrysogonum virginianum
Dixie Reindeer Lichen
Cladina subtenuis
Pixie Cup Lichens
Cladonia sp.
Service Berry
Amelanchier Canadensis
Winged Elm
Ulmus alata
Black Jelly Oyster Mushroom
Resupinatus applicatus
on Sweet Gum
Liquidambar styraciflua

Vaccinium sp.
American Beech
Fagus grandifolia

Hop Hornbeam
Ostrya virginiana
with Witches Broom
Patent Leather Beetle
Odontotaenius disjunctus

Aesculus sp.

Red-headed Woodpecker
Melanerpes erythrocephalus

1 comment:

  1. re: above "Serviceberry or Bradford Pear?" question. I am pretty sure it's our native Serviceberry. The nasty invasive Bradford/Callery Pear has flowers and flower buds that are "rounder" and more compact.


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