Friday, August 29, 2014

August 28 2014 Ramble Report



As Mr. Rogers said, It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and that certainly described this morning as 22 Ramblers gathered to seek what we could find. The temperature today was in the mid 60s, marvelously cool for our early ramble. 



The link to Don Hunter's album for this ramble is here.
Reminder: All the rambles for the remainder of the year will begin at 8:30 AM. Don't forget to update your schedules. 

Reminder: There is a trail walk at Sandy Creek Nature Center this coming Weds., Sept. 3, at 9:00 AM. Meet at the Education & Visitor's Center. Coffee and homemade goodies afterwards.

Announcement:

Ben Tonks' Eagle scout project to construct a walkway over the muddy marsh at the lower part of the Orange Trail still needs about $400 more to purchase materials. If you've already sent Ben a check he thanks you, but if you've put it off or forgotten, here's what you need to do: Please send your personal check made out to: Benjamin S. Tonks, 270 Hunnicutt Dr., Athens GA 30606-1708


Today's Reading was supplied by Dale; an excerpt from an essay by Jeffrey Lockwood entitled Here Are My Conditions, p. 4, in his collection of essays, Prairie Soul: Finding Grace in the Earth Beneath My Feet, 2004, Skinner House Books, Boston. (Lockwood is a professor of natural science and humanities at the University of Wyoming and has written several books that would appeal to nature lovers.):
If you close your eyes and throw a dart at a world map, there's a seven-in-ten chance that you'll hit an ocean. But if the dart strikes land, the odds are the same that it will be hit a grassland. Oceans of water and seas of grass are the leit motif of our planet. And just as oceans have unique qualities and personalities, not all treeless landscapes are the same. The grasses of the North American prairie once reached to the shoulders of the bison, and the blackness of the soil crept deeper than graves of the pioneers. The tall grasses—gentle, vulnerable, mortal—rippled in the wind. Fire and drought could not rend the living fabric but plows and pavement proved lethal. After surviving four million sunrises, this sea of grass is drained of its vitality, shriveled to a pathetic remnant of its former glory. In contrast, the North American short-grass prairie, or steppe, perseveres. Its grasses are too stunted and sparse to conceal even a prairie dog, and its shallow, alkaline soils are geological newborns. But this land persists. Settlers tried to tame the sere basins that stretched between the snow-capped mountain ranges. Farmers plowed and planted the shortgrass prairie and harvested despair and dust. We might drain an inland sea, but the steppe has oceanic power that is unrelenting and unforgiving. Like seasoned sailors, a few ranchers adapted to, rather than struggled against, the land.
Today's route:  The route was through the Shade Garden, across the road on the White Trail to the Power Line Right of Way. We wandered up the right of way to the top of the hill at the fence, then back down the right of way, across the Service Road and through the gate nearly to the the river.  From there it was to the wetland area of the Dunson Native Flora Garden, and finally up the mulched path to the parking lot.

Hurricane Lily
Our first stop was in the Shade Garden to admire the red surprise lilies, often called hurricane lilies.  There were quite a few.

An unidentified sedge caught our eye as we crossed the road and started up the White trail.  Although we could not identify it, we could feel the edges and recite the doggerel "Sedges
Unidentified Sedge
have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have knees all the way to the ground."  The statement is not 100 percent true, but is a good first cut.  Also along the path was opposite leaved wing stem, which had to be yellow crown beard (Verbesina occidentalis) even though the flowers were not quite out yet.  The white
Frostweed (White Crown beard)
crown beard (Verbesina virginica) with its ragged-looking flowers, alternate leaves and winged stem was nearby.  The wings were not very prominent and one had to look toward the bottom of the stem to see them. Nearby were several clumps of river oats (Avis's fish on a stick) (Chasmanthium latifolium).  A nonflowering shrub was Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria).

The walk up the hill along the Power line Right of Way turned out to have a rich diversity of flora.  Here too the opposite leaved yellow crown beard was in
Rabbit Tobacco
bloom.  In the last few days the golden aster (Heterotheca latifolia) has become more fully flowering and was on show.  On the other hand, the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum incanum) with its whitish bracts was coming to an end.  Rabbit tobacco, which those growing up in the south remember as a plant that young people smoked, was in full bloom.  One of the few grasses easy to identify is purple top (Tridens flavus).  While most of the late summer flowers were
Purpletop grass
blooming, dog fennel still has not bloomed.  Low to the ground in amongst the tall vegetation, here and there, could be seen the bright rose pink (Sabatia angularis).

White crown beard showed up again.  Before the day was out we saw all three wing stems: white crown beard (Verbesina virginica) with alternate leaves. yellow crown beard (Verbesina occidentalis) with opposite leaves, and wing stem (Verbesina alternifolia) with alternate leaves and yellow flowers.

Slender Ladies' Tresses
Don was roaming off the trail and found several gems.  The most interesting was an orchid, slender ladies tresses (Spiranthes gracilis).  There were at least three of them hidden amongst the grasses and other vegetation.  He also
Flowering spurge
found several flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata).  Amazingly a single Carolina desert chickory (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus) was still blooming.  Dale congratulated me on changing to his common name for this plant which in the past I had called false dandelion.

Bitterweed
Bitterweed (Helenium amarum) was still all along the trail,  though It had been mowed over at the beginning of our ramble up the hill.  Coffeeweed, or sickle pod (Senna obtusifolia) was also scattered about.

Some ramblers walking under spiderwebs got tangled in the lower pieces of the web, but that got them looking up to see the spiders.  While looking up someone saw the muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia) ripening in a tree that the vines were crawling all over.

Elephant's foot
Elephant's foot (Elephantopus tomentosus) was right along the trail.  Here up the hill were drier conditions that this plant prefers.  The stem is almost leafless; there may be a few small ones.  Later when we were in the wetter floodplain area we found the leafy elephant's foot (Elephantopus carolinianus).

In the driest area at the top of the hill, plants that like those conditions were found:  grass leaf golden aster (Pityopsis graminifolia),
Grassleaf Golden Aster
creeping bush clover (Lespedeza repens), and pine weed (Hypericum gentianoides), as well as Dixie reindeer lichen.  Other plants included St. Peterswort (Hypericum crux-andreae), reclining St. Andrews Cross (Hypericum stragulum), and summer bluet (Houstonia longifolia).  At the edge of the woods, Lee pointed out the sourwood tree going to seed.
Gulf Fritillary
Sandra found a gulf fritillary in this vicinity. In the closeup to the right you can clearly see the coiled up "tongue" under the head of the butterfly. The tongue is really a pair of hollow straws with which the butterfly sips up nectar. It can be uncoiled for drinking and then re-coiled for storage.

Note coiled tongue

At this point we turned around and retraced out steps down the hill to the service road.  We stopped at the two huge trees with poison ivy and trumpet vines.  The trumpet vines were still blooming, so we stayed awhile to see if hummingbirds would show up.  We were also waiting for everyone to catch up.  Yes, we did see hummingbirds.

Camphorweed
On the other side of the road in the floodplain we found plants not seen at the top of the hill.  At the first one, Hugh passed around a leaf for everyone to smell.  Its odor was very strong. George was not even close to the leaf and he could smell it.  The plant was camphor weed, or marsh fleabane (Pluchea camphorata).  Next to it was late flowering boneset (Eupatorium serotinum) and golden aster (Heterotheca latifolia).  Someone asked where the name boneset came from. It was used in relieving pain in limbs caused by influenza.  George found a plant not seen yet and wondered
Spotted St. John's wort
what it was.  It was one of the St. Johnsworts.  Getting out the hand lens, we could see the black spots on the back of the leaves, and the black/brown markings on the back of the petals, which made it spotted St. Johnswort (Hypericum punctatum).  Another interesting plant was the beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens) introduced from India.  It was used
Beefsteak plant
as a condiment to season meat.  Nonetheless, "ingesting large amounts can cause fluid on the lungs." [Tennessee Wildflower Book] Tea made from the leaves was used for abdominal pains and other ailments.  Crushing the seeds one could make an oil that could be substituted for linseed oil.  Finally, "an application of fresh leaves rubbed on a wart for 10 to 15 minutes a day can remove warts in 2 to 6 days."

Field Thistle
A really tall thistle was hard to identify.  But the whitish underside of the leaves that were deeply pinnately lobbed, and the uppermost leaves just below the head would make it a field thistle (Cirsium discolor).

The bright yellow sunflowers just past the gate were probably Helianthus hirsutus.  But since
Ironweed
the last time we were here the brilliant purple ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) had come into bloom.  Climbing over these plants and the wing stems was climbing hempweed (Mikania skandens).  In the wettest area were mild water pepper (Polygonum hydropiperoides).  They looked like white smartweed.

It was time to head back to the parking lot.  On the way there were still things to see.  At the wetland area of the Dunson Native Flora Garden, southern wild senna (Senna marilandica) in an uncultivated area was mostly bloomed out and gone to seed.  But in the
Seashore Mallow
cultivated area the seashore mallow was finally blooming (Kosteletzkya virginica) and the swamp mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)  was still going strong.  But the most interesting find was in a newly planted area.  Nearby we had looked at the rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) that we had seen before.  Then going around on the road we saw the newly planted marsh eryngo (Eryngium aquaticum).  If  you
Marsh Rattlesnake master
did not look closely, you might think they were the same plant.  However, the marsh eryngo has blue flowers instead of green and its leaves are smooth and go up the stem, whereas the rattlesnake master has yucca-like basal leaves with spines.

It was past time to get to Donderos, where many of us gathered for conversation and snacks.

Hugh

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:

Common Name
Scientific name
Red surprise lily
Lycoris radiata
Unidentified sedge

Yellow crownbeard
Verbesina occidentalis
White crownbeard
Verbesina virginica
River oats
Chasmanthium latifolium
Yaupon holly
Ilex vomitoria
Golden aster
Heterotheca latifolia
Mountain mint
Pycnanthemum incanum
Rabbit tobacco
Gnaphalium obtusifolium
Purple top grass
Tridens flavus cupreus
Dog fennel 
Eupatorium capillifolium
Common Rose Pink
Sabatia angularis
Bitterweed
Helenium amarum
Slender Ladies' Tresses
Spiranthes gracilis
Carolina Desert Chickory
Pyrrhopappus carolinianus
Flowering Spurge
Euphorbia corollata
Muscadine Grapes
Vitis rotundifolia
Elephant’s Foot
Elephantopus tomentosus
Coffeeweed
Senna obtusifolia
Grasssleaf golden aster
Pityopsis graminifolia
Sourwood
Oxydendron arboretum
Creeping bush clover
Lespedeza repens
St. Andrew’s Cross
Hypericum hypericoides
Reclining St. Andrew’s Cross
Hypericum stragulum
Summer bluet
Houstonia longifolia
Pineweed 
Hypericum gentianoides
Gulf fritillary
Agraulis vanilla
Trumpet Vine
Campsis radicans
Camphorweed/Marsh Fleabane
Pluchea camphorata
Late-flowering Boneset
Eupatorium serotinum
Golden aster
Heterotheca latifolia
Spotted St. John’s Wort
Hypericum punctatum
Common camphorweed
Heterotheca latifolia
Stiff haired sunflower
Helianthus hirsutus
Field Thistle
Cirsium discolor
Alternate leaf wingstem
Verbesina alternifolia
Tall Ironweed
Vernonia gigantea
Climbing hempweed
Mikania angulosa
Virgin’s Bower
Clematis virginiana
Goldenrod
Solidago sp.
Southern Wild Senna
Senna marilandica
Virginia saltmarsh mallow
Kosteletzkya virginica
Rattlesnake master
Eryngium yuccifolium
Marsh Rattlesnake master
Eryngium aquaticum
Beefsteak Plant
Perilla frutescens

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