Friday, September 26, 2014

Septermber 25 2014 Ramble Report

Notice of interest to Ramblers:

Sandy Creek Nature Center has two events this week:

Sunday, Sept. 28, 3 -5PM is Pie Day. Come and eat all kinds of pies, including vegan and gluten-free. The pies are prepared by SCNC board members (including Emily) and staff. There will also be musical entertainment
Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 9AM; enjoy a trail walk led by Walt Cook, one of the original founders of the Nature Center.

You can find Don Hunter's photo album for today's ramble at this link.

Twenty-nine members gathered at 8:30AM on a lovely cool morning to hear Terri first read a section from Bartram's Travels, and then read the poem Swimming the Horses from Philip Lee Williams' The Flower Seeker:  An Epic Poem of William Bartram (2010, Mercer University Press, page 163).

The route today was through the International Garden to the Purple Trail, down the Purple Trail to the Orange Trail, then the Orange Trail to its end at the upper parking lot.

There were several stops in the International Garden.  First we saw the deer damage suffered
Triangulate Orbweaver
by the oak leaf hydrangea at the entrance.  Then we stopped in our tracks so as not to knock down a web which turned out to be that of a triangulate orb weaver.  Somehow he escaped before all could get a good look.  Nearby was a sheet web, but no spider was visible.  In the Endangered Plant Garden we stopped to admire the vigorously growing Georgia mint that was the result of tender loving care by the gardeners.  Beside it was the familiar mountain mint that we have seen under the power line right of way.

The Purple Trail stops included an old friend, the hairy poison ivy vine on a white oak tree.  Nearby was the hop hornbeam that has
Sapsucker holes in Hop Hornbeam
been riddled by sapsucker drills. The drilling causes sap to leak out, which attracts insects. Sapsuckers feed on both the sap and the insects.  As we looked at this, someone asked about the plant underfoot.  It was the leaves of partridge berry.  No berries were in sight.  A number of high bush blueberry bushes were seen with their tell-tale green new growth.  Nearby was a horse sugar bush, which tend to grow in patches.  I believe they are clonal.  However, we have never seen any blooms in this patch.  We see a lot of cross vine along the river on the Orange and White Trails, but today we saw one in the upland mesic forest climbing an oak tree.  It had the characteristic four leaflets and two tendrils holding it to the tree.  Not many pines are in this upland forest, mostly hardwoods:  tulip trees, white oaks, northern red oaks, hop hornbeam, and beech trees.  It is the presence of the beech trees that would indicate that this is a mesic forest.  Some pipsissewa was found as we passed through the deer fence gate to ramble down the slope to the river and the Orange Trail.  On this dry slope elephant's foot was still standing with its large basal leaves, but the blue disc flowers were gone.  Beside it was a muscadine vine, which we rarely see in flower or in fruit.  When we do see the fruit or flowers, the vine is climbing high in the tree cover. The really nice find was two blooming plants of Georgia mint.  These plants were lower and not as robust as
Georgia Mint
the ones in the Garden which get TLC.  Nearby was the evergreen lance leaf greenbrier which becomes much more noticeable in the winter.

As we joined with the Orange Trail we stopped to compare the trunks of the hop hornbeam, with bark that looks like it had been scratched by a cat, with the muscle wood (also a hornbeam) with a
Musclewood (AKA American Hornbeam)

trunk that looks sinewy like muscles.  It was fun to find leafy elephant's foot in bloom It has leaves on the stem, but no basal leaves flat on the ground like the other species seen earlier.  Across the trail was the lovely blue mist flower in bloom.  We also found the first of the many jump seed plants in flower along the Orange Trail.  As we turned to go along the path by the beaver pond, we talked about the unusual heath bluff on which mountain laurels grow.  This beautiful shrub is more commonly seen in the mountains, and its beauty is one reason I took up photography.
The New Bridge by Ben Tonks

Karen asked about all the green plants in the beaver pond.  At one spot we could easily get down to see what flowers were blooming:  duck potato, climbing hemp vine, and orange jewelweed.  Our big moment was crossing the new bridge built by Ben Tonks and the boy scouts.  The Nature Ramblers were one of the sponsors.  As all of us gathered on the bridge, Don took a historic photo, and the bridge is still standing.  
Don Hunter taking the historic photo 

After that we ran into a marbled orb weaver web.
Marbled Orbweaver

In the stream, still in the flood plain we watched minnows  --  chubs and/or daces -- darting very fast.  On the side of the stream was the green headed coneflower, or cut leaf coneflower.  Along the trail was a sad example of the blue-stemmed goldenrod.  Fortunately, we found many good examples later on the trail.

We stopped to talk about the slope where the hepatica may bloom as early as January.  We will be looking for it then.  Around the corner is one of my favorite lichens, the smoky-eyed boulder lichen, which is beautiful to see with a hand lens.
Beech Drops

In fall parasitic beech drops grow on the roots of beech trees.  Many were found on the slope under the beech trees along the trail.   If you look close, you can see a maroon flower, but there is no chlorophyll because their energy is obtained from the beech trees.  Here we also saw sooty mold generated by beech aphids, which has become a regular feature of our forest rambles.
Broad Beech Fern

Grape Fern

Southern Lady Fern

More round lobed hepatica leaves were growing by the trail.
All along the trail was Christmas fern easily identified by its boot-shaped leaflets.  Three other ferns were found today:  broad beech fern with wings along its rachis, the delicate southern lady fern, and the fall grape fern, one of which we found with its fertile frond.

At the deer fence gate near the upper parking lot as we returned to the Garden we stopped to talk about an older black cherry tree.  As these trees age, their bark is broken up and no longer looks like prunus bark.  Emily has called it "mashed burnt potato chips."  We have been told that Dan Williams has rewritten his tree guide and has incorporated this quote in his book.  Black cherries are also typical trees in the successional forest, a forest in which pines are still the canopy tree, but hardwoods are coming up and the pines are beginning to wane.  Pines are the first kind of forest to appear after the end of farming.  Another example can be found over on the Blue Trail.

Just before ending the walk we noted the sparkle berry shrub, which almost looks like a tree, and has reddish bark similar to that of the manzanita shrubs in California.

Many retired to Donderos for chat and refreshment.


Common Name
Scientific Name
Oakleaf hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia
Triangulate orb weaver
Verrucosa arenata
Sheet web spider

Georgia mint
Clinopodium georgianum
Mountain mint
Pycnanthemum incanum
Poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans
Hop hornbeam
Ostraya virginiana
Yellow-bellied sapsucker
Sphyrapicus varius
Partridge berry
Mitchella repens
Highbush blueberry
Vaccinium elliottii
Horse sugar
Symplocos tinctoria
Bignonia capreolata
Pipsissewa/Spotted wintergreen
Chimaphila maculata
Elephants foot
Elephantopus tomentosus
Vitus rotundifolia
Lanceleaf greenbrier
Smilax smallii
Carpinus caroliniana
Leafy elephants foot
Elephantopus carolinianus
Blue mist flower
Conoclinium coelestinum
Persicaria virginiana
Duck potato
Sagittaria latifolia
Climbing hempvine
Mikania scandens
Orange jewelweed
Impatiens capensis
Marbled orbweaver
Araneus marmoreus

Blue-stemmed goldenrod
Solidago caesia
Green-headed coneflower
Rudbeckia laciniata
Smoky-eyed boulder lichen
Porpidia albocaerulescens
Epifagus americana
Sooty mold on American beech
Scorias spongiosa
American beech
Fagus grandifolia
Round-lobed hepatica
Anemone americana
Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides
Broad beech fern
Phegopteris hexagonoptera
Pennsylvania smartweed
Polygonum pensylvanicum
Beech blight aphids
Grylloprociphilus imbricator
Southern Grape fern
Botrychium biternatum
Black Cherry
Prunus serotina

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