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,

The book of nature is like a page written over or printed upon with different-sized characters and in many different languages interlined and cross-lined, and with a great variety of marginal notes and references.  There is coarse print and fine print; there are obscure signs and hieroglyphics.  We all read the large type more or less appreciatively, but only the students and lovers of nature read the fine lines and the footnotes.  It is a book which he reads best who goes most slowly or even tarries long by the way.  He who runs may read some things.  We may take in the general features of the sky, plain, and river from at the express train, but only the pedestrian, the saunterer, with eyes in his head and love in his heart, turns every leaf and peruses every line.  One man sees only the migrating waterfowls and the larger birds of the air; another sees the passing kinglets and hurrying warblers as well.  For my part, my delight is to linger long over each page of this marvelous record, and to dwell fondly upon its most obscure text.

Our ramble today started on the white trail down thru the Dunson Native Flora Garden, thru the Power Line Right of Way, and then out the tree trail.  We short cutted the tree trail by taking the red trail cut-off, met up with the white trail, and returned on the green trail.

Our first stop was to notice that a lot of the greenery along the trail are actually tree saplings, not
Hearts-a-Bustin' developing fruits
new shrubs we have to learn.  In a five foot square area there was a sourwood sapling (Oxydendron arboretum), a strawberry bush in bloom (well it had shed its petals), also known as "Hearts-a-bustin" (Euonymous americanus), oak saplings (Quercus sp.), muscadine grape(Vitis rotundifolia), hickory saplings (Carya spp.), virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquifolia), redbud (Cercis canadensis), chalk maple (Acer leucoderme), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and more.

Farther down the trail we found the remains of pale yellow trillium (Trillium discolor).  The black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) from last week had not
Wild Ginger
changed much, still budding.  Then we looked up at the
Indian Pink
champion (for Clarke County) mockernut hickory tree (Carya tomentosa).  The deciduous wild ginger(Asarum canadense)  was in a huge patch, and in amongst, Ronnie and Tim saw the remains of the perfoliate bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata).  Horse-balm (Collinsonia canadensis) was up, but its bloom will come much later.  On the way out of the Dunson Native Flora Garden, we wondered what the big white flower was on top of the shooting stars (Primula meadia).  They were little netted bags to catch the seeds, so the research group at the Garden could propagate these plants.  The best was left for last, well maybe; it was a blooming Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica).

Going up the hill from the road on the way to the power line right of way we talked about the flower garden moving from this area over to the more formal gardens near the Visitor
Ragwort and Mullein
Center--the rose garden, the butterfly garden, the day-lily garden, and the dahlia garden. Things left behind included Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana), Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis), something that resembled a thimble weed (an anemone?) and bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora).  We are looking forward to when they start planting the prairie plant beds in this area.   Crossing the power line right of way, we stopped to think about the plants fading in the meadow:  field madder (Sherardia arvensis), Venus looking glass (Triodanis perfoliate), hop clover (Trifolium campestre),  and Small's ragwort (Packera anonyma). The mullein (Verbascum thapsus) was just a rosette, but will shoot up later.

Entering the woods, redbud saplings (Cercis canadensis) lined the path.  Our first big stop here was to observe the difference in bark between the mockernut hickory and the pignut hickory (Carya glabra).  Actually, foresters think of the forest in the natural areas of the Garden as a swarm of hybrid hickories (Carya glabra x C. ovalis). Along the path are lots of hop
Spittlebug inside spittle
hornbeam trees (Ostrya virginiana) with their bark that looks like a cat scratched it.  During this last section a spittle bug was found.  Dale said that the spittle probably had sugar from the plant sap in it, so that it might taste sweet.  He tried it, but it didn't, and he also had to spit out the spittlebug nymph.  The spittle is protective covering to keep predator wasps from getting to these insects. Going up the white trail, Ronnie found an american toad.  Dale became magician palming the toad and appearing to eat it.  We thought we had found a turkey tail mushroom on a downed log, but Dale said it was a false turkey tale after looking at the back side for pores. We also talked about the difference between the white and red oaks (Quercus alba and Quercus rubra). Leaves of the white oak do not have bristles on the tips, but red oaks do.  A Carolina wren serenaded us along this stretch of the white trail.  The dead black cherry (Prunus serotina) gave us a chance to talk about the way the bark changes with age on black cherries from smooth bark with lenticels to burnt mashed potato chips.  Also black cherries are more common in the successional forest with more pine trees than in the later hardwood forest.  Before going through the gate we admired the fresh shiny green leaves of sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua).  I love the latin name Liquidambar, which describes the leaves in fall.

Walking down the slope we stopped at a scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) to note that it has the
Scarlet Oak
same ski slopes on the bark as the northern red oak (Q. rubrum), and we looked around the ground for leaves to show how the scarlet oak leaves are much more incised than the northern red oak. The scarlet oaks tend to grow on the drier ridges than in the ravines or lower slopes as the american beech (Fagus grandifolia) does.  Looking down on the ground Avis found a partridge berry (Mitchella
Partridge berry
).  Usually, they make a nice ground cover, but there were only a few, and only one in bloom. However, this gave us a chance to talk about the two forms of the flowers.  Some have dominant anthers (four) with a hidden forked pistil; others have a dominant forked pistil and hidden anthers.  The purpose here is to keep pollinators from pollinating the same plant with its own pollen.  Had to stop for the common script lichen (Graphis scripta).  No one seemed to be able to translate the Egyptian hieroglyphics.  With a wonderful slope of beeches and a ridge with sourwoods, the ramble here was gorgeous.  Did stop for a black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), and talked about the way the sourwood twists and turns in the woods to reach the light.  Tim told us that many places in the mountains are named Bee Gum Gap, or have bee gum as a name.  The reason is that the trunk is hollow and made a good place to
Shortleaf Pine pitch pockets 
raise bees.  At the short-leaf pine (Pinus echinata), we stopped to look at the resinous pits in the bark that distinguish it from the loblolly pine (Pinus taeda).  Looking on the ground we found small cones which you can squeeze in your hand without getting stuck with prickles. The loblolly pine cones are bigger and have prickles that you would not want to squeeze.  Also the loblolly's longer needles are in bundles of 3, whereas the short-leaf needles are shorter and are in bundles of 2 or 3 on the same tree.  Avis noticed a nice patch of mosses, probably some of it was Bryoandersonii with whitish tips, the rest was a type of star moss.  With the mosses was another of many galls (Oak Apples) that we found today.  The insects in all of them had departed.

We turned on the red trail spur to the giant sourwood, noticing a number of black gums along the way.   But right at the beginning of the red trail Ed showed us an autumn olive plant (Eleagnus umbellata). The leaves are silvery on the back side.  The plant is very invasive.  So much so, that the Garden has established a group of rangers, including Ed and Gary, that roam the trails, cut off these plants and paint the stems with roundup, trying to eliminate this pest.  After oohing and aahing over the  size of the sourwood we found a young black gum with the typical perpendicular limbs of this species. Next was a tuliptree. I was taught not to call it a yellow-poplar, but I notice that Duncan in his tree book gives yellow-poplar as the first common name.  Dale thought that it was called poplar because the soft wood could be worked in the same way as poplar trees.

Hickory Leaf Galls
Getting to the intersection of the spur with the white trail again. we counted the rings in a fallen northern red oak tree that had
Aphids inside gall
been sawed through exposing its rings.  It was at least 75 or 80 years old.  More excitement, however, was generated by Emily's find of hickory galls and fallen leaves partly rolled up with caterpillars enclosed.  With some difficulty Dale opened the gall to reveal quite a lot of aphids inside.  Some of the galls showed holes on the underside where the aphids escaped.  It seemed okay to unroll the caterpillars because the leaves had fallen from the trees.

A dead oak tree had lots of sawdust around the base.  Someone wondered it that was termites, but Dale said that would not happen with termites because they digest the wood and use what is left over in their tunnels, so it would have to be wood-boring beetles or carpenter ants, etc.

Turning on to the green trail we found a muscadine grape actually budding.  There was only one cluster of buds.  Avis remarked that she didn't think they would bloom or produce grapes so low on the ground.  They need to be higher in a tree, or with more light.  We will come back to this.

Through the gate of the deer fence we stopped to discuss the southern red oak (Quercus falcata).  The leaves are bell shaped toward the base and often crescent shaped with a terminal lobe that is strap shaped.  Nearby were more black gum trees.

Proceeding down the green trail we came to an opening in the canopy with a great deal of light.  Amazingly there was a muscadine vine crawling over the top of a sapling hop hornbeam.  Sure enough as Avis predicted there were many clusters of buds on the vine.  This one might actually produce grapes!

Next was the shaggy bark of the shagbark hickory (Carya ovata).  Toward the end of the green trail a beech had brownish leaves that Dale thought might be some kind of fungus.

As we passed through the power line right of way, the birders spotted a Mississippi Kite and a
Black rat snake descending tree
hawk.  The hawk was probably the immature red shouldered hawk that hangs around that area.  Carol and I have often seen it there.  We stopped at a tree by the old flower garden to observe an oyster mushroom.  Gary confirmed that that was what it was, but it was too high to get to.  I am sure he was thinking about how he might get it, but the tree is covered with poison ivy.  Then best of all, as we stood there, not moving as usual, a black rat snake was observed climbing down the tree.  Dale tried to catch it, but failed this time.

We returned to the Arbor and retired to Donderos' for refreshment, thinking what a great ramble we had today.


Common Name
Scientific Name

Oxydendron arboreum

Vitis rotundifolia

Sweet gum
Liquidambar styraciflua

Cercis canadensis

Chalk maple 
Acer leucoderme

Euonymus americanus

American beech
Fagus grandifolia

Pignut hickory
Carya glabra

American holly
Ilex opaca

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

White oak
Quercus alba

Faded Trillium or Small Yellow Toadshade
Trillium discolor

Black cohosh
Actaea racemosa

Mockernut hickory
Carya tomentosa

Deciduous Wild Ginger
Asarum canadense

Perfoliate Bellwort
Uvularia perfoliata

Indian Pink
Spigelia marilandica

Digitalis sp.

Thimble Weed
Anemone virginiana.

Cercopidae Family

Bottle brush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora

Tradescantia sp.

Smalls Ragwort
Packera anonyma

Venus’ Looking Glass
Triodanis perfoliata

Carduus nutans

Common mullein
Verbascum thapsus

Field madder
Sherardia arvensis

Low hop clover
Trifolium campestre

Smilax rotundifolia

Rattlesnake fern
Botrypus virginianus

Red Maple
Acer rubrum

Wild Yam
Dioscorea villosa

White Oak
Quercus alba

False Turkey Tail mushroom
Stereum ostrea

Black Cherry
Prunus serotina

Scarlet Oak
Quercus coccinea

Partidge Berry
Mitchella repens

Pencilmark lichen
Graphis scripta

Vaccinium sp.

Maple Leaf Virburnum
Viburnum acerifolium

Black Gum 
Nyssa sylvatica

Short Leaf Pine
Pinus echinata

Autumn Olive
Elaeagnus umbellata

Tulip tree/Yellow Poplar
Liriodendron tulipifera

Southern Red Oak
Quercus falcate

Hop Hornbeam
Ostrya virginiana

Black rat snake 
Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta


  1. Wonderful blog! Amazing how detailed! I also remember learning about how the Paw Paw tree leaves smell like green bell peppers when crushed or rubbed. (Bill Pierson)

    1. Thanks, Bill. It's so nice to be appreciated. This blog is the collaborative work of three people, Hugh Nourse, myself and Don Hunter. Don takes notes and photographs during the rambles. Hugh and I take turns leading the rambles and sharing our knowledge of what we discover each week. The posts are composed by each weeks leader, although in the past Don Hunter also wrote up many of them. I take care of the computer end of things -- linking Don's photos to the text, etc.


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