Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 29 2014 Ramble Report

Today 30 Ramblers turned out to enjoy a sunny morning stroll.

All of Don Hunter's photographs of today's ramble can be found here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 29 2014 Readings

We had three readings today to commemorate Rachel Carson's birthday (May 27, 1907).
Bill Pierson read from his cell phone:

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?

Don Hunter and I (Dale Hoyt) chose selections from Carson's posthumously published book, A Sense of Wonder
Don's selection:

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thought can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

Finally, my selection:

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful an awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

. . .

 I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

May 22 2014 Ramble Report

The turnout today was astonishing, almost 30 (28) people joined us. Today's report is authored by Hugh Nourse, with photographs selected from Don Hunter's facebook album.

The reading was supplied by Hugh and is from John Burroughs, "The Art of Seeing" as printed in American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, p. 153,

Friday, May 16, 2014

May 15 2014 Ramble Report

Despite the drizzle and threat of thunderstorms fifteen Ramblers met this morning, equipped with umbrellas or other rain gear. It wasn't a real rain although it was persistently moist. But that didn't dampen our enthusiasm -- there was still a lot to see.

Friday, May 9, 2014

May 8 2014 Ramble Report

Today 26 people met by the arbor in the lower parking lot to begin our ramble.  Today's report was written by Hugh Nourse. Hugh brought today's reading from Ann Haymond Zwinger, Downcanyon:  A Naturalist Explores the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, page 93.:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 1 2014 Ramble Report

The highlights of today's Ramble were a handsome Black Ratsnake, a mysterious ball at the end of a Christmas Fern frond and an uncommon plant, Yellow Star Grass.

Fern ball mystery

The "fern ball" is a structure found at the end of a Christmas fern frond. It is made of the terminal leaflets (pinnae) that have been rolled up and tacked together by silk. 
A mysterious "Fern ball"

Over at BugGuide there is a single photograph of a fern ball posted in their "unidentified leaf shelter" category.
Caterpillar frass inside fern ball

We collected three fern balls today and all contained quantities of frass, but not caterpillars. The caterpillar occupant had left the house.

I consulted an online database of lepidopteran food plants and found only a single species recorded as having fed on the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), namely, a moth, Herpetograma aeglealis. Googling this name led, indirectly, to a recent paper describing a new species of Herpetogramma, H. sphingealis.* 
The following quotation from that paper reveals a University of Georgia connection

Larvae of a species of Herpetogramma were reared on Christmas fern in Athens, Georgia (Ruehlman et al. 1988)**; the species was identified as H. aeglealis, but through the courtesy of Dr Matthews, one male specimen was loaned to the CNC, and a complete dissection including the vesica was prepared by Don Lafontaine, and it proved to be a specimen of the new species. All specimens for that study were determined to be a single species, due to their larvae, habits, host plant, and appearance of the adults, we believe they all belong to Herpetogramma sphingealis and not to H. aeglealis. According to these authors, the larvae are solitary leaf rollers and live on the terminal leaflets of young fronds, passing the winter as eggs, emerging at the beginning of the spring and eating the fronds within a silk shelter for around a month, and then pupate to emerge about 12 days later.

The reference to Dr. Matthews is to Dr. Robert Matthews, now a Professor Emeritus in UGA's Entomology department.

So the caterpillar we never saw is likely to be the newly described moth species Herpetogramma sphingealis (there is no common name).

* Handfield L, Handfield D (2011) A new species of Herpetogramma (Lepidoptera, Crambidae, Spilomelinae) from eastern North America. In: Schmidt BC, Lafontaine JD (Eds) Contributions to the systematics of New World macro-moths III. ZooKeys 149: 5–15. doi:10.3897/zookeys.149.2344
** Ruehlmann TE, Matthews RW, Matthews JR (1988) Roles for structural and temporal shelter-changing by fern-feeding lepidopteran larvae. Oecologia (Berlin) 75: 228–232. doi:10.1007/BF00378603]