Friday, November 21, 2014

Ramble Report November 20 2104

Ramblers huddled together to keep warm
On this very cold morning, 28 Ramblers assembled for the last ramble of 2014.  Paige brought us some very tasty pumpkin bread to get us going.  Thank you, Paige!

Click here to see Don Hunter's photo album for today's ramble. (All the photos in this blog post are from Don's album.)

Today's readings: At the start of our ramble Jackie sang a Byron Herbert Reece poem, "Autumn Wood," to the tune of "Lady Gray" or "The Wife of Usher's Well." (Jackie has produced a CD of Reece poems set to music and sung by herself.) The text of the poem:

Autumn Wood

The leaf flies from the stricken bough,
The aster blows alone;
And in the curve of heaven now
The wild geese tread the dawn.

I would I had no ears to hear
And had no eyes to see
What is so beautiful and dear
Escaping me!

From The Ballad of the Bones and other Poems, by Byron Herbert Reece, 1945, E. P. Dutton.

(Byron Herbert Reese was a Georgia poet who lived in the North Georgia Mountains.  His family farm is now a park on US Highway 129 just past Vogel State Park.  Jackie's rendition of his poem was enthusiastically received with a round of applause, but the claps were muffled -- everyone had on gloves.)

At the end of the ramble Emily read a quotation from Terry Tempest Williams:

Perhaps the most radical thing we can do is to stay at home, so we can learn the names of the plants and animals around us; so that we begin to know what tradition we're part of.

Quotation in Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast, by Michael Wojtech, 2011, University Press of New England, p xiii.

Today's report is written by Hugh Nourse.

The route today was intended to go through the Shade Garden on the White Trail to the Blue Trail up the Service Road to the Green and return to the Arbor on the White Trail back through the Shade Garden.  Andie told me that frost “flowers” were blooming the last three days on the power line right-of-way near the deer fence.  So we changed the first part of the ramble and went down the White trail to the bottomland by the deer fence.  Then we went up the power line right-of-way to the White trail and entered the woods as we would have and selected the Blue Trail.

"Frost flowers" looking like cotton all over the ground
Our first stop was under the power line right-of-way by the edge of the forest and the deer fence.  The whole hill side was sprouting with small frost “flowers” caused by water freezing in the stems of white crown beard or frostweed and extruding ribbons of frost.  The stems had recently been mowed, so the “flowers” were short.

Frost flower closeup
Our next stop was just as we were entering the wood on the White Trail, where another garden of frost “flowers” was seen.  This time some of the stems were longer and larger ribbons were seen.

Hugh commented that the Blue Trail is a successional forest walk and that we would be challenged to identify the trees.  However, just as we started on the Blue Trail we saw a magnificent red sumac.  It was not winged so we identified it as a smooth sumac.

The next stop was a short leaf pine which had pine borer holes.  Nearby was a water oak
Cherry bark in transition
with leaves that look like a laurel oak, which they do when just saplings.  Loblolly pine, short leaf pine, and water oak are all pioneers in the successional forest.  So is black cherry, which we identified next.  At first it has smooth bark with horizontal lenticels, later its bark breaks up into what looks like smashed burnt potato chips.  There are more black cherry trees on the Blue Trail than on any other in The Garden.

Dale identified a robber fly on a nearby tree.  Across the trail was
Black Knot cancer
black cherry with black knot fungus canker caused by Apiosporina morbosa, which does cause severe damage to the tree.  Google identified a number of sites that show what to do about it if it attacks your trees.

Pin Lichen
A little farther on a a tiny pin lichen was growing on a loblolly pine trunk.  A persimmon tree was next on our list.  Then we arrived at the huge water oak.  Andie called it a wolf tree since it had many lower branches because it had grown by itself.  Around it were small pine trees in stages of distress because the oak blocked out their sunlight. Many water oak saplings were able to grow in the shade.  It was also easy to see the terraces that had been created to grow cotton back in the 1930s.  This successional forest exists here because the land was in farming later than other sites around the Garden and we are observing a younger forest in transition.

American Holly
A bright shiny green evergreen holly with only four points on each leaf was noted as an exotic, which we later identified as Chinese holly.  Fortunately, our next find was the American holly, which gave us a chance to compare the leaves. The American holly leaf was not as shiny and had more sharp points on the leaf.

A winged sumac was identified next, and it had the
Winged sumac
characteristic red leaflets, most beautiful today.  The wings are the horizontal ridges between leaflets, but they are not as prominent in the dying leaves as in new leaves. We stopped to look at the work of Thomas Peters, who had eradicated privet from a section of the Blue Trail. 

Winged Elm twig
Before arriving at the meadow, which we were all anticipating, we identified a winged elm by the corky horizontal appendages on its twigs, a yaupon holly, and a sawtooth oak.  The latter
Sawtooth oak leaf
has leaves with sawtooth edges, each with a bristle.  It is an exotic that was planted in the southeast to provide acorns for wildlife. The acorns have very distinctive frilly caps but we found none today.

The  meadow had more frost “flowers.”   This time they were much bigger because the stems of the frostweed had not been mowed down.  Also in the meadow were split beard grasses, silver plume grasses, and sickle pod, or coffee weed.

Sweet gum on a beautiful fall morning
We rambled up the service road toward the Green Trail.  What a joy it is to walk along a country road in the autumn.  The colors are wonderful, and one kicks up the leaves fallen on the ground.  Along the road we identified a loblolly pine, shag bark hickory (which a number of northerners were happy to see because shag bark hickory is more common where they
Hornet nest
came from), and sparkleberry.  Sandra pointed out a Hornet nest that was hidden among the leaves. It was about half gone.  We got Don to come photograph it.  He had just finished photographing a turkey tail mushroom that Dale identified.  Three more trees were identified:  scarlet oak with deep incisions or sinuses on its leaves, northern red oak with its fatter leaves, and southern red oak with its bell shaped base.

Someone pointed out a daddy long legs on a northern red oak. Returning to the White Trail and under the power line right-of-way, we stopped to identify broomsedge, which has its flower hidden in a spathe.

Witch Hazel flowers 
Our last stop before the Arbor was to see the American witch hazel in bloom.

At the Arbor we reminded everyone that we take a winter break and the next Ramble would be February 19, 2015. Many retired to Donderos for snacks and conversation.

Summary of species observed

White crownbeard
Verbesina virginica
Dog fennel
Eupatorium capilifolium
Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra
Shortleaf pine
Pinus echinata
Water oak
Quercus nigra
Black cherry
Prunus serotina
Robber fly
Family Asilidae
Eastern red cedar
Juniperus virginiana
Black knot fungus
Apiosporina morbosa
Loblolly pine
Pinus taeda
Pin lichen

Persimmon tree
Diospyros virginiana
Chinese holly
Ilex cornuta
American holly
Ilex opaca
Winged sumac
Rhus copallina
Winged elm
Ulmus alata
Yaupon holly
Ilex vomitoria
Sawtooth oak
Quercus acutissima
Splitbeard bluestem
Adropogon ternarius
Shag bark hickory
Carya ovata
Post oak
Quercus stellata
Turkey tail
Trametes versicolor
Hornet nest
Family Vespidae
Sparkleberry tree
Vaccinium arboreum
Scarlet oak
Quercus coccinea
Southern red oak
Quercus falcata
Northern red oak
Quercus rubra
Daddy long legs
Order Opiliones
Broomsedge bluestem
Adropogon virginicus
American witch hazel
Hamamelis virginiana
Common mullein
Verbascum thapsus
Sweet gum
Liquidambar styraciflua

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