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.

Today's route:
From the Arbor down the Shade Garden walkway to the White Trail; White Trail across the Power Line ROW into the woods to the Yellow Trail. Yellow Trail to the White Trail to the Red Trail back to the White Trail and back to the Arbor.

Don Hunter's facebook album with all his photos from today's Ramble.

Today's reading was by Dale from: An Almanac for Moderns (entry for May 1) by Donald Culross Peattie:

· .. Thoreau has made New England springs immortal, and a host of lesser writers have followed him; indeed, most of the popular wildflower books emanate from the northeastern states where a rather bleak flora has been better loved, sung, and made decipherable than that of the richer lands to the south.
South of the Potomac spring comes on with balm and sweetness, with a peculiarly Appalachian fragrance, commingled of forests and mountains. It comes without treachery, without taking one step back . . . for every two steps forward. It sweeps up from Florida, past the sea islands of Georgia, through Hall and Habersham, through Charleston where the tea olive sheds its intense sweetness on the air, over the Carolinas, wakening the wild jasmine in the woods, filling the Blue Ridge with azalea and many kinds of trillium and the strange, earth-loving wild ginger, till it opens the bird-foot violet, and the redbud and dogwood of the two Virginias.

The high winds of yesterday's storm knocked down many twigs and attached leaves and
Oak Apple Gall shell cut away

Wasp grub at the center of the gall
flowers of trees. Emily and I were here and gathered up many of the Oak Apple Galls that had fallen. We found several dozen right at the entrance to the parking lot and passed these out for examination. Don's photographs clearly show the interior of one of the galls with the tissue that encloses the wasp larva suspended in the center of the gall. This places it out of the reach of many insect parasitoids that might attempt to lay their eggs on or in the larva. This gall is probably caused by a tiny gall wasp in the family Cynipidae: Amphibolips quercusinanis. Cynipid wasps were studied by the famous Alfred Kinsey (famous for the Kinsey Report on Human Sexual Behavior) who worked on the gall wasps before turning his attention to humans.

On the walkway through the Shade Garden we stopped to look at the Witch Hazel Cone Galls, caused by an aphid that feeds on the plant from inside the gall.

Just before the White Trail crosses the Power line ROW there is an American Sycamore.
Female inflorescense
We stopped to notice the smooth, camouflage-like bark and to look at twig that had been blown down by yesterday's winds. On the twig was an inflorescense of female flowers

The Power line ROW, because it is in full sunlight, always has an abundance of flowers and today was no disappointment. We saw Lyre Leaf Sage, Toadflax, Small’s Ragwort, and Beaked Corn Salad. The Small's Ragwort is similar in appearence to the Golden Ragwort that we have seen blooming earlier in the Dunson Garden, but the basal leaves are elongated and not rounded as in the Golden species.

Following the White Trail into the woods we paid attention to several of the trees with distinctive bark or leaves: Sourwood, with its wandering growth form and deeply ridged bark; Musclewood, with its smooth and muscular or sinewy bark, and Southern Red Oak with its bell-shaped leaves.

The eastern North American Oaks are divided into two groups, the White Oaks and the Red/Black Oaks. The species in the White Oak group have leaves with rounded lobes, while those in the Black Oak group have pointed lobes. There are other differences between these groups, but we did not discuss them today.

The wind knocked down several twigs of Tuliptree with flowers still attached. Normally
Tuliptree flower

Fused pistils, styles visible
these flowers are high overhead, so we took advantage of the storm and were able to closely examine them The shape of the flower, like a tulip, gives the tree its common name as well as it specific epithet: Liquidambar tulipifera. The tulipifera portion of the name means "tulip bearing." Each flower has many stamens with their anthers that produce pollen. The central column is composed of many female parts all fused together. These are hard to see individually, but the styles (the structures that connect the stigma to the ovary) can be seen as dark projections from the surface.

A tree with palmate compound leaves, Painted Buckeye, still had a couple of light yellow flowers. Compound leaves are made of two or more leaflets. When learning to identify trees by their leaves many people have difficulty figuring out the difference between a leaf and a leaflet. The leaf is the part that falls off the tree as a unit in the fall. It is also the part that has a bud at its base, although the bud may be difficult to see in some trees. Compound leaves are called palmately compound when all the leaflets radiate out from a single point of attachment. If the leaflets are arranged along the sides of a stem the leaf is described as pinnately compound.

Along the way we found a single specimen of Solomon's Seal in bloom and some fresh, green Resurrection Fern growing at the base of a tree. Later on we found Pussy Toes, Blue Eyed Grass and Rattlesnake Hawkweed all blooming.

Someone discovered a "Fern ball" made by a mystery organism. Whatever creature
The mysterious fern ball
made it had carefully rolled the end of a Christmas fern frond into a ball, folding the pinules so that they overlapped and holding them in place with silk. The silk was a hint. Of the animals that produce silk only two kinds are likely to have tied up this ball: a caterpillar (moth or butterfly) or a spider. We carefully pulled open the "ball" and discovered a mass of caterpillar frass (poop), but no caterpillar. So the mystery is partially solved. Check here for more details.

The exciting animal of the day was a moderate size Black Ratsnake. All Ratsnakes have
Black Ratsnake
a blotched pattern when they are young. As they mature the lighter gray areas between the blotches becomes darker, as on the individual we saw today. But in many Ratsnakes found in this part of Georgia the blotched pattern often remains failntly visible on old snakes, whereas in other parts of the country older snakes become uniformly black.

Continuing on we found Wild Geranium, Perfoliate Bellwort, Wild Yams, Little Brown Jugs, Green and Gold, and Needle grass all in bloom.

Emily noticed a spittlebug enclosed in a frothy mass on the stem of a plant and told us about how the froth protects the nymphal stage of a leafhopper while it is sucking juice from the plant.

We also found a group of Rattlesnake Ferns w/ith fertile fronds.

Yellow Star Grass
Passing through the Deer fence we turned left to the Power line ROW and walked downhill looking the Yellow Star Grass. Along the way we took note of Blackberries, Indian Strawberry and Common Yellow Wood Sorrel before finally locating the Yellow Star Grass blooming among a group of Green-and-Gold plants. Yellow Star Grass is not a grass -- it is in the Lily family.

We then rushed back to the visitor's center, only to discover it was closed today. Some of us drove over to Donderos' in-town location and had lunch.

Common Name
Scientific Name
At the Arbor
Oak apple with grub

Witch Hazel galls in Shade Garden

White Trail, Power Line ROW
American Sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

Lyre Leaf Sage
Salvia lyrata

Nuttallanthus canadensis

Small’s Ragwort
Packera anonyma

Beaked Corn Salad
Valerianella radiata

White Trail, in woods
Southern Red Oak
Quercus falcata

Oxydendron aboreum


Northern Red Oak
Quercus rubra

Tulip Tree
Liriodendron tulipifera

Solomon's Seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Painted Buckeye
Aesculus sylvatica

Resurrection Fern
Pleopeltis polypodioides

Pussy Toes
Antennaria plantaginifolia

Blue Eyed Grass
Sisyrinchium sp.

Fern ball

Rattlesnake Hawkweed

Wild Geranium
Geranium maculatum

Perfoliate Bellwort
Uvularia perfoliata

Spittlebug Discussion

Wild Yams
Dioscorea villosa

Little Brown Jugs
Hexastylis arifolia

White Trail, Power Line ROW
Needle grass

Green and Gold
Chrysogonum virginianum

Rubus sp.

White Trail, back in woods
Indian Strawberry
Potentilla indica

Common Yellow Wood Sorrel
Oxalis stricta

Eastern Ratsnake
Pantherophis obsoletus

Rattlesnake Fern w/fertile frond
Botrypus virginianus
Fertile frond
Yellow Star Grass
Hypoxis hirsuta

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