Friday, October 3, 2014

October 2 2014 Ramble Report

Twenty four Ramblers were present for today's walk, including David and Diona's three girls. It's always fun to have children on our rambles and we appreciate their eager participation (and sharp eyesight).

Don Hunter's album of photos from today's ramble can be found at this link.

Upcoming events:

·         Dan Williams will offer his free tree id course, beginning Tues., Oct. 7 at 5:00PM. at the Oconee Forest Park boardwalk parking lot (same place as last year), and will continue through November. Dan has this to say:

"Based on comments from folks like you, we have a new book for the sessions. This book, called Tree Facts and Folklore has information on tree identification, but it also tells you about the tree's ecology (like shade tolerance, canopy preference, fire resistance, etc), the ways the tree has been used by Indians, Pioneers and modern man, and includes interesting tree stories and folklore from Americana and other countries."

Dan will have copies of the book available for sale at the sessions.


·       An exhibition of photography by Hugh and Carol Nourse, "Wild Flowers, Wild Places" will be on display in the Visitor Center of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia from October 12 thru November 23. Opening reception will be held in the Visitor Center, October 12, 2-4pm.  The Nourses have selected 33 Images drawn from over 20 years of photographing native plants and their habitats, mostly from Georgia and the southeastern U.S., with a few from the western U.S. and Newfoundland.

If anyone would really like to bring some finger food to the reception, just let Carol know.she has no idea how many people will show up. So far she has lots of carrot cake in the freezer. (Send email to hughandcarol [at] att [dot] net)

Today's reading:
Bob Ambrose recited his new poem, Weeds Have Names; you can read the poem at this link.

Today’s Route:  From the parking lot, down the paved walkway in the Shade Garden to the Dunson Native Flora Garden, then across the road and up the White Trail spur to the power line ROW, where we went up the hill on the ROW to the gated fence at the top of the hill.  From here, we followed the fence into the woods and passed thru the deer gate on the white trail. Then we turned right and followed the same fence back to the power line. (This detour is made necessary because the gate at the top of the hill is locked.) We continued down the ROW access road and up the hill to the White trail.  From here, we took the White Trail west into the woods and continued on it back to the top of the hill, where we again accessed the ROW and returned back to the parking lot the way we came.

Paved Path Through Shade Garden:
We stopped by the American Witch Hazel to check on the progress of its developing flower
Witch Hazel flower buds
buds. Witch Hazel is unusual in that it is a late fall blooming plant, one of the last to begin flowering. On the other side of the walkway are several Japanese Witch Hazels that also bloom in the late fall. These are well in advance of the native in the size of their flower buds. We'll continue to monitor the progress of both these plants throughout October and November.
At this time of year the nut bearing trees begin to drop their fruits, much to the pleasure of the local rodents. We frequently find partially chewed fruits on the sidewalk and today was no exception. One of the girls discovered the fruit of a Pignut Hickory with the husk chewed down to expose the hickory nut inside. 

Shade Garden:
At the bottom of the Shade Garden we passed the area where we saw a large number of
Hurrican lilies on 8/28/14
red-flowered lilies on August 28. These are known by many names, Surprise Lily, Hurricane Lily, Magic Lily, Red Spider Lily and probably a few others. They surprise by sending up a flowering stalk without leaves and topped by a mass of magnificent flowers. We also saw these flowering here on September 5, 2013. But how does a plant not have leaves? Today we saw the answer. After the flower dies back the plant sends up leaves to make the food to store in the bulb for next year's flower. This native of China and Japan has become naturalized in the southeast since its introduction the early 19th century.

White Trail Spur/Power Line ROW:
At the beginning of the White trail, at the edge of the road, we saw a clump of large sedges. We left the identification at that. Someday I will learn how to identify sedges. But not this year.

The plants in flower today were mostly ones that we have seen in recent weeks so you can consult earlier posts if you want to see photos of them when they were at their peak. Today we found:
Yellow crownbeard, Dog fennel, Golden aster/camphorweed, Rabbit tobacco, Coffee weed/Sicklepod, Bitterweed, Blue aster, Common mullein, Daisy fleabane, White crownbeard, Dixie reindeer lichen, Pixie cup lichens, Creeping lespedeza, Broomsedge bluestem, Purple top grass/Grease grass, Foxtail Bristle grass.

Dog Fennel
The Dog fennel is in full bloom this week; each plant is loaded with thousands of flowers. Unlike other species of Erigeron,
Closeup of Dog Fennel flowers
the flowers of Dog fennel are wind-pollinated, which is why they are so inconspicuous -- why bother to produce fancy petals if you don't need to attract bees? In fact, petals might just get in the way if you're pollinated by the wind. Each flower produces a single tiny seed on a piece of fluff that is born away on the wind, making it both wind-pollinated and wind dispersed.

Ella with Mullein
Common mullein is a biennial, meaning the plant only lives for two years. The first year is spent in a rosette of soft, furry gray leaves that hug the ground. In the second year The rosette grows larger and then sends up a flowering spike that is covered with yellow flowers. These flowers are gone now, but the stalk that bears them is still much in evidence, covered with fruits that contain seeds. The stalks can be quite tall, as seen in the photo to the left.

One of the grasses that is abundant in this part of the power line ROW is hard to pick out against the background of the other green plants. It is one of the most recognized native grasses, but usually only in the fall and winter, when it has dried to a beautiful golden brown, tinged with bronze. It is Broomsedge bluestem or just simply Broomsedge.

Today started out on the chilly side and that is not conducive to seeing a lot of insect activity. If you want to find bugs (insects) you
Buckeye missing part of hind wings
need sunny warm weather. But we did find a torpid Buckeye butterfly hidden in the grass. It was so cold that could barely move, so it was easy to pick it up and perch it on my finger. This butterfly had sustained damage to the hind wings -- large pieces were missing. The Buckeye has large pigmented circles on both its front and hind wings. These are called eyespots because they resemble, well, eyes. Such patterns are common in butterflies and are thought to have two possible functions. The first is to elicit a startle reaction in a potential predator. If the wings suddenly open to reveal what looks like the eyes of a larger animal the predator may be startled just long enough to permit escape. The second idea is that the eyespots direct a predators attack to a disposable part of the animal. Butterflies can still fly when parts of their wings are removed, so if a predator attacks the eyespot it gets a mouth full of dusty wing that breaks off and the butterfly flies away, a little bedraggled, but still alive. Our Buckeye had big chunks of its hind wings missing, as if a lizard or a bird had attacked it.

Whenever I see a Fire ant mound I like to open it up to see if there are any reproductives present. Reproductives are winged males and females that fly off and join other reproductives from other nests to mate. This is the wrong time of year to find them, but I can't resist poking into an ants nest. I did find one winged ant in one of the mounds, but that is going to be one lonely insect if it leaves the nest.

By the way, Fire ants love to set up nests in warm, sunny places with short grass. Sounds like a mowed lawn, doesn't it? If you have Fire ants in your yard here is a way to get rid of them without using pesticides. Fill a gallon bucket with water and add 1/2 cup or so of liquid dish washing detergent. Pour the entire contents on the nest. Check back in a couple of days to see if the nest is still active. If it is, repeat until no more ants are in evidence. This won't harm your lawn like pouring boiling water on it will and you won't be contaminating the environment with harmful pesticides.

As we neared the top of the hill some of us noticed two White tailed deer in the woods to our right.

Power line ROW past landfill:
We detoured around the fence at the top of the hill and continued on the power line ROW. Just down the hill on the east side of the ROW is a fenced off area with a warning sign. It contains radioactive waste that was dumped in the area years ago when regulations were lax or non-existent. Don Hunter, who is a retired EPA employee, told us about the methods used to isolate and monitor the contaminants in such places.

Downy Lobelia
We continued walking north on the power line ROW to locate the special flower of the day. On the way we found Mountain mint,Yellow crownbeard,Dog fennel, Daisy fleabane, Tiny daisy fleabane, Downy lobelia and, finally, near the top of the hill where the White trail crosses, we found today's prize: Blue Curls.

Blue Curls is a mint and, like most mints, it has opposite leaves and a
Blue Curls
square stem, but the flower has an unusual feature that gives the plant its name. The stamens (the male structures that bear the pollen-producing anthers at their ends) are exceptionally long. When the flower first opens these stamens are curled up to form a semi-circle projecting in front of the flower. They are blue in color, hence the plants common name: Blue Curls. As the flower matures the stamens extend the anthers outward to a position that can brush pollen onto any bee that visits.

White Trail:
Taking the White trail back we started to examine the trees. This part of the trail has a lot of saplings so they make it easy to see the leaves. But, as we discovered, trees are like people: they change as they age. The young saplings don't always look like the more mature tree, especially the in the bark characteristics. This is particularly the case with young Hop hornbeams. Their bark resemble that of young Black cherry trees. It is smooth and has lenticels. As the tree matures it develops the "cat scratch" bark texture, but when young it looks like the other hornbeam, American hornbeam. So how can you tell the young saplings of these apart? Habitat is the best clue. American hornbeam (AKA Musclewood) is usually found growing in moist areas near streams and rivers. Hop hornbeam occurs in a broader range of habitats ranging from moist to dry. This part of the White trail is pretty dry so any hornbeam we encounter her is most likely to be a Hop hornbeam.

Winged Elm with corky ridges ("wings")
Another tree commonly encountered in the Gardens is Winged elm, so named for the "wings" on the twigs and branches. These wings are really corky ridges that grow out from the sides of some of the twigs and branches of the tree. They would be diagnostic of Winged elm but for one problem. Not every Winged elm has them and not every branch has them. And, another problem: Sweetgum also has wings. Fortunately Sweetgum leaves are very distinctive and easily told apart from those of Winged elm. 

No one really knows if the wings have a function or what it might be. Some features of living organisms don't seem to be either adaptive or non-adaptive. They just are. Perhaps they are a by-product of a developmental process and, as long as they don't decrease the plants fitness it doesn't matter if they are there or not. If that is the case you might expect that such traits would be highly variable, and such is the case with the wings on Winged elm. I'm inclined to vote for the non-adaptive hypothesis, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

False Turkeytail
We saw some fallen branches heavily covered with Turkeytail-like mushrooms. By examining the lower surface we confirmed that they were False Turkeytails. The lower surface is smooth in False Turkeytails but has pores in true Turkeytails.

We noted that the Sourwood leaves have not yet begun to turn color. They and Black Gum are usually the first to change.

Further along we found an Oak with "ski-trail" bark and some thought it was a Northern Red Oak. We searched the ground and found evidence that it was a Scarlet Oak. The leaves of the latter are more deeply lobed than in the Northern Red Oak.

Amanita mushroom
One of the surprises on the trail home was an extremely large Amanita mushroom. These are quite poisonous and should never be eaten. The characteristic feature of Amanita mushrooms is the bulbous base, like an egg, from which the mushroom emerges. They also usually have ring of tissue on the stem, just below the cap. This specimen did not have the ring, but it is not always present as it is delicate and often falls off with age.

Further along the trail we found a Triangulate orb weaver, a Southern grape fern and a log with a crusty white slime mold.

Paved Path in Shade Garden:
I almost didn't include this because it's not a native species and it's
Toad lily stamens and pistil
not in the natural areas of the Garden, but it was interesting and I already mentioned the Hurricane lilies. Just below the parking lot there is a small group of Toad lilies in bloom. When you look closer you'll notice that the arrangement of the stamens and pistils is very similar to that of Passion flower. Lilies are monocots and the Passion flower is a dicot, so these two are only very distantly related. Another surprise!

Unfortunately Donderos' was not available today due to the Romeo and Juliet production at the Garden. Some ramblers met at Jittery Joes for coffee and conversation.

American witch hazel
Hamamelis virginiana
Pignut hickory
Carya glabra
Surprise lily
Lycoris radiata
Sedge, not identified

Yellow crownbeard
Verbesina occidentalis
Dog fennel
Eupatorium capillifolium
Golden aster/camphorweed
Heterotheca latifolia
Rabbit tobacco
Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium
Coffee weed/Sicklepod
Senna obtusifolia
Helenium amarum
Blue aster
Aster spp.
Fire ants
Solenopsis spp.
Common mullein
Verbascum thapsus
Daisy fleabane
Erigeron annuus
White crownbeard
Verbesina virginica
White-tailed deer
Odocoileus virginianus
Dixie reindeer lichen
Cladina subtenuis
Pixie cup lichens
Cladonia spp.
Creeping lespedeza
Lespedeza repens
Buckeye butterfly
Junonia coenia
Broomsedge bluestem
Andropogon virginicus
Purple top grass/Grease grass
Tridens flavus
Foxtail Bristle grass
Setaria italica
Mountain mint
Pycnanthemum incanum
Tiny daisy fleabane
Erigeron sp.
Blue curls/Forked blue curls
Trichostema dichotomum
Downy lobelia
Lobelia puberula
Winged elm
Ulmus alata
False turkey tails
Stereum ostrea
Hop hornbeam 
Ostrya virginiana
Oxydendrum arboretum
Scarlet oak
Quercus coccinea
Amanita mushroom
Amanita spp., tentative
Triangulate orb weaver
Verrucosa arenata
Crusty, white slime mold
Brefeldia sp?
Southern grape fern
Botrychium biternatum
Toad lilies
Tricyrtis spp.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Dale! I've seen several of the same amanita mushrooms off of the purple trail by the deer fence at the bottom of the flower garden. Some of the biggest I've ever seen and a few popping up all together. very neat!


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