Friday, August 15, 2014

August 14 2014 Ramble Report



It was a beautiful morning with temperature in the 60s, and 22 ramblers showed up.

Don Hunter's photo album of today's ramble is here.

Ed Wilde read a few selections from the book Keeping the bees : why all bees are at risk and what we can do to save them by Laurence Packer (Harper Collins, Toronto, 2010) (The author was recently interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.):

"There are more species of bees than there are of birds and reptiles combined; there are more species of bees and wasps combined than there are of plants. We can better estimate changes in ecological conditions with insects than we can with the more popular birds and mammals simply because there are so many more species to give us the information we need." pg 15

" ... bees may be the proverbial canaries in the coal mine of the globe's terrestrial habitats ...I believe they are particularly good at indicating the state of the environment in areas that have been considerably influenced by human activity." pg 4

"Less than 5% of [all bees] make any honey at all, and only a small fraction of those make honey in large enough quantities for us to be able to use it." pg 42

"The single most bee-diverse couple of hundred square kilometers on the planet . . . is in the Sonoran Desert on the Mexico-Arizona border ... over 500 hundred species." pg 141

Rosemary read the Mary Oliver poem: Look and See, from the collection Why I Wake Early, Beacon Press, 2004.
Look and See

This morning, at waterside, a sparrow flew
to a water rock and landed, by error, on the back
of an eider duck; lightly it fluttered off, amused.
The duck, too, was not provoked, but, you might say, was
laughing.

This afternoon a gull sailing over
our house was casually scratching
its stomach of white feathers with one
pink foot as it flew.

Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us, if we
only look, and see.

~ Mary Oliver ~


The route today was out the mulched trail to the Dunson Native Flora Garden, then out the white trail under the power line to the river. There we took a left on the Orange Trail which we followed to the Orange Spur bridge and trail to the Flower Garden and back to the Visitor Center.

Our first stop was a line of dead tree branches arranged through and around trees. Natalie, an education specialist with SBG, told us it was an art installation created during a recent "Festival Day."

Horse balm flower buds
We stopped to discuss the northern horse balm, which has yet to bloom.  Its straggly yellow flowers are slow in coming.  Carol and I saw them in full bloom last weekend along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The curator was thinking that the plant had suffered a good deal of caterpillar damage, but the plants in the mountains had also suffered that damage.  Insects seem to like the leaves.

Soapwort Gentian
Currently there are few flowers blooming in the Dunson Native Flora Garden but the curator, Joey Allen, is trying to plant some that will flower at this time of year.  One recent planting is harvest bells, or soapwort gentian, Gentiana saponaria, that was in full bloom.  Someone asked if its closed flower ever opened up, and the answer was that it does not. Bumble bees that pollinate it have to push their way in. Somehow we got to talking about the fringed gentian, Gentianopsis crinita, that grows on the road verges around Track Rock Gap near Young Harris.  At least it used to do so.  Even though the Department of Transportation marked off the plant areas with posts to prevent mowing during its growing season, recent retirees moving into the area are neatniks and want the verges always mowed.  They mowed the verges themselves and just about wiped out the plants in that area.  Other safeguarding sites have been found.  Hugh commented that some believe the fringed gentian to be the most beautiful of our native wildflowers.  Later Dale challenges that with his belief about the most beautiful wildflower.

We stopped by the devil's walking stick which was past blooming.  The leaves on this plant are the largest in North America.  The leaflets themselves are small, but the whole doubly-compound leaf can be up to 64" long. Next to it was a silky dogwood in fruit, and below it was sweet spire, Itea virginica, in bloom. A nearby dogwood seemed to be attacked by the disease affecting dogwood trees in the Southeast.

A passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) drew lots of discussion.  Dale said that to him this is the
Nectar droplets on Passionflower extra-floral nectaries
most beautiful native wildflower. We talked about the three lobed shape of the leaves, and the fact that a flower only opens for a day. Both the Variegated fritillary and the Gulf fritillary butterflies lay their eggs on this plant. The chrysalis of the Variegated fritillary can survive our winters, but the Gulf fritillary cannot. So in spring only the Variegated fritillary is present. The Gulf fritillary population is replenished by migrants dispersing out of Florida, where the chrysalis stage can survive over winter.  The passionflower has a way of defending itself from the caterpillars of these fritillaries. It recruits ants by means of nectaries located at the base of each leaf blade. These nectaries secrete a sugar solution like the one found in the flowers, attracting ants.  Once on the plant the ants roam about and kill and eat any eggs or small caterpillars they find. They are not 100% effective, otherwise we would never see any Gulf fritillaries.

By this time we were at the wet area of the Dunson Garden where the clustered stems of horsetails, among the oldest plants in evolutionary development, were growing.

Cardinal flower
The next point of interest was the dramatic red cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis.  Crossing from the road into the Garden we checked out the seashore mallow, Kosteletzkya virginica, but it was only in bud, and not blooming.  The swamp rose-mallow was still vigorous.  It came in shades from pink to white, but they all had the red blotch at the center of the petals with the typical hibiscus column of style and attached anthers.  Behind us someone was asking about the mint, which was Monarda punctata, horsemint or
Wild Senna flowers
spotted beebalm, and which was just budding.  Avis asked about the rattlesnake master, Eryngium yuccifolium next to the swamp mallow.  Sue Wilde wanted to know about a yellow flowered plant she had found in the area which is not cultivated.  Wow!  I had been looking for this plant for weeks.  It is southern wild senna, Senna marilandica.  Next to it was a beautiful rose pink, Sabatia angularis, and all around it was the first blooming of white wingstems. They turned out
Rose Pink
to be white crownbeard, Verbesina virginica with its straggly white flowers.  Also on the same slope was the still-blooming mountain mint, Pycnanthemum incanum.

Don pointed out an example of spittle bug covered with a large mass of its white foam. He challenged Dale to sample it, but Don himself tried it and thought it tasted bland.

On our way to the white trail under the power line, Dale found Virgin's Bower, Clematis virginiana, and pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, in all stages from flower to fruit.

Under the power line along the white trail Andie showed us the yellow flag where she had marked the spot where she had observed a box turtle laying its eggs in a hole.  The turtles don't seem to have hatched yet.  We also saw more southern wild senna, as well as golden aster, Heterotheca latifolia, that was just starting to bloom.

Going through the gate to the floodplain we observed the beautiful, but small red morning glory, Ipomea coccinea.

In the flood plain the late flowering boneset was just beginning to bud everywhere.  Camphorweed, Pluchea odorata, was also starting to bloom.  We could just see the faint pinkish color to the buds at the top of the plant.  Someone pulled off from one of the plants both a leaf-footed bug and a Lynx spider.  Dale put them in the same box, so I asked whether they were friends or enemies.  No, they were indifferent to each other.

There was so much to see and talk about here.  St. Andrews Cross, Hypericum crus-andreae, was blooming low to the ground.  Although not in bloom, we could recognized the opposite leaved wing stem, Verbesina occidentalis.  We decided the huge thistles were native because the leaves were grey underneath.  The sunflowers were Helianthus hirsutus.  Then there was a cricket.  One long lasting false dandelion, or Carolina desert chickory, Pyrrhopappus carolinianus was still blooming.  Also low to the ground were a number of blooming leafy elephants foot, Elephantopus carolinianus.

Toward the river it seemed like we were walking in a canyon created by the 12 foot high giant ironweed, Vernonia gigantea.  The staff will probably have to cut down much of the vegetation in the flood plain because a number of tree saplings have sprung up.  One in particular that pioneers in the floodplain is box elder, Acer negundo.

Privet has been removed!
We made the left turn to go down Orange trail.  The big reason for rambling along here was to see the huge effort that has been made by the contractor hired to remove the privet.  Large tree-like stumps that were left after sawing down the privet were painted with a kind of Round-up that would not poison the amphibians inhabiting this environment.

After leaving this environment we entered the area still
Cross vine
surrounded by privet.  Nevertheless, there was lots to see:  cross vine (Bignonia capreolata),  Virginia dayflower (Commelina virginica), sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) [which differs from the Virgin's bower by having only one leaflet
Virginia dayflower
instead of three], greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia), river oats or fish on a pole (Chasmanthium latifolium), and river cane (Arundinaria gigantea).  One person suggested that river cane was very aggressive.  One wishes it were really true because that would be a wonderful substitution for the privet.  But as I understand river cane it spreads slowly and blooms only rarely and then dies.  At the time of Bartram there were wonderful
Sweet Autumn Clematis 
canebrakes along streams.  Other findings along the river were poison ivy, and a green ash sapling, which enabled us to point out the opposite compound leaves for the green ash, which is the dominant canopy tree in the floodplain.  It was a good way to see the leaves up close.  Other trees identified were musclewood, hop hornbeam, and chalk maple.

Looking at the man-made dam in the old beaver pond area, Hugh talked about why the Garden installed the dam after the beaver left.  The reason was to purify the water coming down the stream along the Orange Trail.  At that time there was a University pig farm near the headwaters of the stream, so the water definitely needed purifying.  Today Horticulture has taken over that land and the pig farm is gone.  In the middle of the swampy area were a large number of water hemlock, Cicuta maculata.  Dale and Hugh had a discussion about whether this was the poisonous plant used to provide the drink which killed Socrates.  Hugh thought it was; Dale thought it was the poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).  After returning home, we both looked it up and Dale was correct.

Clambering over the piled wood at the very muddy spot going around the beaver pond area, Hugh talked about Ben Tonk's eagle scout project to build a board walk here.  At this point he is looking for financing for the project which will cost $1739.01.  So far, he has received almost $500.  I suggested that the Ramblers might want to provide some money for the project.  There seemed to be general agreement to do that.  As soon as we receive from Ben a PDF of his project and design with where to send money, we will send it out to everyone, so that those who wish to contribute can do so.

Here we spotted a netted chain fern. Carol identified it by the fertile frond with its linear, alternate, widely spaced segments. The spores were still green, not brown yet, so hard to distinguish at a distance. On the way upstream we saw jump seed, Polygonum virginianum..  Jumpseed gets its name from the way in which the mature fruit jumps from the plant when its persistent style is pushed. As we passed the stand of green headed or cut leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) we wondered why it is not blooming so much this year.  it looked like there had been a few blooms, but they were gone.  Speculation is that the canopy is closing over and reducing light to this spot.  A greenbrier (Smilax bon-ax) that has leaves that look like cinnamon vine, but this smilax has thorns.

On the way up the slope to the Flower Garden the most excitement was generated by the crane fly orchid, Tipularia discolor.  During the winter we see its leaves, which are green on top and purple underneath, everywhere,.  The leaves disappear in late spring, and the flower pops up in July.  Since the color of the flower is a yellowish tan it blends easily into the background and is easily missed walking by it.

In the Flower Garden we were all enthralled by the beautiful purple berries on a cultivar of beauty berry (Callicarpa sp.).  From there it was just minutes to Donderos' and refreshment and conversation.

Hugh

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:
Common Name
Scientific Name
In the Dunson Garden
Northern Horse Balm
Collinsonia canadensis
Harvestbells
Gentiana saponaria
Devil’s Walking Stick
Aralia spinosa
Silky Dogwood
Cornus amomum
Sweet Spire
Itea virginica
Assassin bug
Family Reduviidae  
Passionflower
Passiflora incarnata
Horse tails
Equisetum sp.
Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis
Spittle bug
Superfamily Cercopoidea
Swamp rose-mallow
Hibiscus moscheutos
Spotted Beebalm
Monarda punctata
In the Power line ROW
Mountain mint
Pycnanthemum incanum
American senna
Senna marilandica
Common rose pink
Sabatia angularis
White crownbeard
Verbesina virginica
Virgin’s Bower
Clematis virginiana
Pokeweed
Phytolacca americana
Late blooming thoroughwort
Eupatorium serotinum
Camphorweed
Heterotheca latifolia
Leaf-footed bug
Family Coreidae
Green Lynx spider
Peucetia viridans
Reclining St. Andrews Cross
Hypericum stragulum
Opposite leaved wingstem
Verbesina sp.
“Giant” thistle
Family Asteraceae
Hairy Sunflower
Helianthus hirsutus
Cricket
Acheta sp.
Carolina desert chickory
Pyrrhopappus carolinianus
Leafy elephants foot
Elephantopus carolinianus
Giant ironweed
Vernonia gigantean
Box Elder
Acer negundo
In the Orange Trail
Crossvine
Bignonia capreolata
Virginia day-flower
Commelina virginica
Sweet autumn clematis
Clematis terniflora
Common greenbrier
Smilax rotundifolia
River oats
Chasmanthium latifolium
River cane
Arundinaria gigantean
Poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans
Green ash sapling
Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Musclewood
Carpinus caroliniana
Hop Hornbeam
Ostrya virginiana
Chalk maple
Acer leucoderme
Water hemlock
Cicuta douglasii
Beech blight aphids
Grylloprociphilus imbricator
Netted chain fern
Woodwardia areolata
Lady fern
Athyrium filix-femina
Jumpseed
Polygonum virginianum
Saw greenbrier
Smilax bona-nox
Cranefly orchid
Tipularia discolor
Beauty berry
Callicarpa americana

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