Friday, April 3, 2015

Ramble Report April 2 2015

Thirtyone Ramblers assembled for our walk today.

This post was written by Dale Hoyt. The photos are by Don Hunter. You can find more of Don's photos of the ramble here. (I hope you'll all give Don the credit he deserves. His photographs are wonderful and he works as hard as any of us to make these posts useful, informative and, we hope, interesting.)

Hugh announced that our fellow ramblers, Ed and Sue Wilde, have been selected for this year's Alec Little Environmental Award for their many years of labor in removing invasive plants from public areas in Athens (the Botanical Garden and Memorial Park). We salute you, Ed and Sue! (This year's award will be presented April 17 at the annual GreenFest Awards Ceremony at Flinchum's Phoenix.)

The reading this week was sung by Jackie Elsner. Jackie has adapted many poems by Byron Herber Reece, a north Georgia poet, to a cappella voice.


Plum, peach. apple and pear
And the service tree on the hill
Unfold blossom and leaf.
From them comes scented air
As the brotherly petals spill.
Their tenure is bright and brief.

We could wish them a longer stay.
We could wish them a charmed bough
On a hill untouched by the flow
Of consuming time; but they
Are lovelier, dearer now
Because they are soon to go,
Plum, peach, apple and pear
And the service blooms whiter than snow.

From Bow Down in Jericho, 1950, by Byron Herbert Reece.

Our route: Leaving the arbor we headed down through the Shade Garden, exiting the paved path onto the mulched portion of the White trail leading into the Dunson Native Flora Garden. We wandered through the Dunson garden and then up the road to the White trail and over to the power line. Some of us then went up the hill to see if the Serviceberry was in bloom. Then it was back to the Arbor and Donderos'.

Above the Dunson garden: Before reaching the Dunson garden we discovered a large group of
A patch of naturalized Trillium
Trillium. Trilliums are not found in the natural areas of the Garden so it is puzzling to find them here, outside of the Dunson garden. These plants have "escaped" from the confines of the planted garden. But how did they do it? Plants have many ways of colonizing new areas. Dandelions provide their seeds with parachutes that can be blown about by the wind, Trillium seeds have no such devices. Like many of the spring ephemerals they rely on ants to carry their seeds away and plant them. Each seed has a fleshy projection or cap, called an elaiosome, that is relished by ants. When an ant discovers a Trillium seed it carries it back to the nest and hands it to another ant that eats the elaiosome. The seed is discarded on the refuse heap of the ant colony. It can then germinate in its own well fertilized little patch of soil. But the distance from this Trillium patch to the nearest source of seeds is pretty large. Could an ant walk that far? Some recent publications have offered an alternative means of transportation. Yellow jacket wasps have been observed opening the seed capsules and carrying off the seeds. Like the ants, they consume the nutritious elaiosome and discard the seed. So whenever you see a beautiful spring flower don't forget to thank an ant or a wasp!

Nearby the Trillium someone noticed some fiddleheads. These are the early shoots of ferns, in this
Christmas fern fiddlehead
case Christmas fern. The new growth of many ferns is rolled up when it emerges from the ground. As the shoot elongates it unrolls and this stage of development resembles the curved end of a violin, hence the name "fiddlehead." Some of the ramblers said that they were edible and could be purchase in grocery stores in the new england states. It is only in this early developmental stage that they are edible – as they unroll and develop further they become bitter and noxious. Most ferns are chemically protected; that is why you seldom see any evidence of insect damage on them.

The Christmas fern is the most commonly seen fern in the garden. The easiest way to recognize it is through the shape of the leaflets: they have small projections at their base that makes them resemble a stocking that might be hung next to the chimney over Christmas. (The Christmas fern is also still green at Christmas time.)

Dunson garden:  As we entered the Dunson garden the number of different plants in bloom was overwhelming – so many that it would be difficult to discuss each in depth. So I'll be selective and simply list what we saw and keep the comments brief.

Perfoliate bellwort
  • ·         Dwarf crested iris
  • ·         Rue anemone – a small number are still blooming.
  • ·         Perfoliate bellwort – a small number scattered about the garden are now blooming.
  • ·         Faded trillium or small yellow toadshade – a patch of this rare Trillium had a few plants in bloom. The tips of the yellow petals
    have a small projection that distinguishes this Trillium from other
    Pale yellow trillium
    yellow flowered toadshades. (The Trilliums are divided into two groups, the toad shades that have short, strap-like petals that arise directly out of the three leaves and the wake robins that have a stem with a single conventional blossom.)
  • ·         Blue phlox  Phlox divaricata
  • ·         Virginia bluebell
  • ·         Dutchman’s breeches
  • ·         Columbine
  • ·         Squirrel corn – one plant, not yet blooming
  • ·         Green and gold
  • ·         Shooting stars – in bloom and now starting to spread around the garden.
  • What's in a name? The original genus name for Shooting Star was Dodecatheon, which litterally means "12 Gods." Here is what Gods and Goddesses in the Garden by
    Shooting star
    Peter Bernhardt has to say about the origin of this strange name:

    • "The genus Dodecatheon consists of fourteen species of perennial wildflowers that Americans know as shooting stars. British horticulturists often call them American cowslips. One species is found in Siberia, but all the rest are unique to North America.They are members of the primrose family (Primulaceae) and flower in early spring. Selective breeding produced some forms hardy in shady gardens. The tinted flowers nod on their stalks, and the petals curve backward, giving them the appearance of comets or falling stars. Like all members of the primrose family, Dodecatheon species produce floral organs in whorls of five, not six or twelve.  
    • Linnaeus's name for this genus looks inappropriate until we consider what true primroses meant to Greek culture. The ancient Greeks believed that their native oxlip (Primula elatior) was a cure-all. Because it conquered every ailment, the plant must have enjoyed the approval of each of the twelve Olympians. Consequently, root collectors (the rhizotomi) called the oxlip the dodekatheon. The oldest herbals and treatises on medicinal plants always referred to oxlips, primroses, and cowslips as primulas (the first ones of spring). Linnaeus had to follow his own rules, and he named the primrose genus Primula. He then transferred the name Dodecatheon to the shooting stars to establish that these North American flowers were close relatives of Grecian oxlips, sharing similar flower, stem, and leaf characteristics."
    Now, alas, Dodecatheon has been placed back in the genus Primula and only a few people with a strange fascination for the origin or words will ever know this story. I apologize if you're not strange enough.
  • ·         Golden ragwort – in bloom and not as abundant as last year. It tends to take over the garden, so it has probably been deliberately thinned.
  • ·         Red buckeye – this is a coastal plain species with red flowers. Otherwise it looks
    Red Buckeye 
    very similar to the Painted buckeye, a species with yellow flowers that grows in the piedmont. The two species can hybridize.
  • ·         Decumbent Trillium – has short stems or stems that lie along the ground so the three leaves and flower seem to sit flush on the soil.
  • ·         Foam flower – a few of these are in bloom. The leaves look similar to those of Alum root.
  • ·         Alum root – I saw only leaves. Did anyone see them in bloom?
  • ·         Southern nodding trillium – a single flower (one of the wake robins) blooming in the dry creek bed.
  • ·         Celandine wood poppy – these are in bloom and scattered about the garden. There is an especially nice one growing on the soil of an upended tree stump.
  • ·         Mayapples – we paused to look a large, clonal patch of these plants. Each apparently separate plant is connected to all the others by an underground rhizome,
    Mayapple clone
    so they are really genetically identical. There are two growth forms: 1) plants with a single stem supporting, in the center, a single, parasol shaped leaf and 2) plants with a forked stem supporting two leaves. Only the two leaved plants produce flowers and we could see the developing bud at this time. All parts of the Mayapple are poisonous, except the ripe fruit. Box turtles are known to enjoy the fruit and probably assist in dispersing the seeds. The poison acts by preventing the replication of DNA in dividing cells and has been used in cancer chemotherapy. Since cancerous cells divide rapidly the poison can kill them, but it also kills normal cells that are dividing. That is why chemotherapy is so debilitating – it is literally a race to kill the cancerous cells before the patient is killed.
  • ·         Twin leaf – a very rare plant at the end of its bloom; a single petal remained.
  • ·         Leatherwood – this shrub with flexible twigs was one of the first to bloom. We saw it covered with flowers (and bees) on March 5. It is no longer blooming but a few fruits are starting to develop.

White Trail: We left the Dunson garden, heads spinning from all the different flower names, and walked up the road and turned left on the White trail.

This was a good time to walk this part of the White trail because we found two trees in bloom: an American Beech and a Hop hornbeam.

The Beech has separate male and female flowers and each tree has flowers of both sexes.
Beech flowers & new leaves
Such flowers are termed "imperfect" and if the plant bears both types of imperfect flowers it is called monoecious. ("Perfect" flowers have both male and female structures; a
Beech male inflorescence
plant with perfect flowers is called hermaphroditic.) Typically in wind-pollinated flowers the petals of both sexes are very inconspicuous (they would just interfere with the pollination process).  You can see in the photo of the Beech male flower the anthers (structures that produce pollen) are openly exposed to the air. Unlike the male flowers the female flowers are very inconspicuous. It is from them that the Beech nuts will later develop.

Like the Beech, the Hop hornbeam is monoecious, each tree
Hop hornbeam male catkins
bearing separate male and female flowers. The male flowers are found on catkins – these are the long stalks with numerous male flowers that hang down from the twigs to which they are attached. Each catkin is also an inflorescence, the name given to a stalk bearing an number of flowers. The female hornbeam flowers are very inconspicuous and hard to see without a hand lens. Don has a beautiful photo of one female inflorescence. The purple threads you see are the stigmas, the part of the female flower that receives the pollen. This tiny inflorescence will develop into an series of overlapping
Hop hornbeam female inflorescence
sacks, each bearing a single seed. This collection of fruits resembles hops, a flavoring ingredient used in beers, hence the common name of the tree: Hop hornbeam. We'll periodically look at this tree this spring and summer and you will be able to watch the fruits develop.

Both the Beech and Hop hornbeam are similar in that they do not flower every year. This individual Hop hornbeam last flowered in 2012. I cannot remember ever seeing the Beech in flower. Why would a tree not flower every year? Many spring flowering trees like Dogwood or Crab apples produce flowers annually. Why can't a Beech be more like a Dogwood? Perhaps the answer lies in the difference in how they are pollinated. Both the Beech and the Hop hornbeam are wind pollinated. The must produce prodigious amounts of pollen to maximize their reproductive potential. Dogwoods and other similar trees can depend on insects like honey bees to carry their pollen to another tree, so they don't have to produce as much. But they have to make attractive flowers and produce nectar to attract pollinators. But maybe the total cost is less. Another factor that is involved is what is called the masting habit. Many tree species produce large seed crops only every few years. But all the trees over very large areas produce these abundant seeds at the same times. Local conditions don't seem to matter. No one really knows why or how trees do this. I'll discuss this problem in another post sometime.

Climbing in the branches of nearby trees is a vine with yellow blossoms – Carolina
Carolina jessamine; long pistil form
jessamine. It has a nifty way to encourage cross pollination. Some plants have short stamens and long pistils while others have just the reverse. (Stamens are the male parts that produce pollen; pistils are the female parts to which the pollen must adhere in order to produce seeds.) The pollen will be deposited on different parts of a pollinators body, depending on the type of flower, and is then more likely to fertilize a flower with matching pistil height.

Some of us decided to walk up the power line right-of-way to see if the Serviceberry at the top of the hill was blooming. Along the way we saw these plants in bloom:

  • ·         Blue bugle (Ajuga)
  • ·         Field madder
  • ·         Cedar apple rust – this is a fungus with a complex life cycle that alternates
    Cedar Apple Rust on Eastern Red Cedar
    between two hosts: 1) a Cedar tree and 2) an Apple tree (domesticated or related wild species). On the cedar it looks like a small tan or brown spherical swelling with dark spikes scattered over its surface. When it rains an orange growth swells out of the spikes and releases billions of spores. If a spore lands on an apple leaf it infects it and produces a completely different looking rusty patch. The infected leaf produces spores that, on contact, infect Cedar trees. If you have an apple orchard you don't want to have any cedar trees within a few miles of your plants.
  • ·         Hog plum

Power line RoW:  We really wanted to see if the Serviceberry was in bloom, but, of course, we couldn't help noticing other flowering plants (and one insect):

  • ·         Mantis egg case – Emily found the egg case of a Praying Mantis attached to
    Mantis egg case
    some weed stems. The eggs were laid last fall and encased in what looks like plastic foam that is secreted by the female Mantis. It protects the developing embryos and prevents them from drying out and being eaten. It will hatch later in the spring and 50-100 baby Mantises, each about 1/8 inch long will crawl out of the egg case. Mantises are sometimes sold for pest control but they are a poor choice for that purpose. They will eat "bad" insects, but they are indiscriminant – they eat the good ones, like honey bees, as well. An insect has no sense of what is good and what is bad – it's all food to them.
  • ·         Green and gold – a single blooming plant.
  • ·         Common blue violets
  • ·         Birdfoot violets – there are not as many of these beautiful violets as we have seen in previous years. It would be a shame if they disappear; this is the only place in the garden where they have been seen.
  • ·         Bluets (sometimes called Quaker Ladies)
  • ·         Serviceberry tree – our Serviceberry was severly pruned by Georgia Power this year and only one remaining limb shows evidence of having already produced flowers. I could see a few fruits with my binoculars – where there are fruits there have to have been flowers.

Then it was time to retrace our steps and adjourn to Donderos' for coffee and conversation.

Common Name
Scientific Name
Trillium sp.
Trillium sp.

Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides

Dwar) crested iris
Iris cristata
in bloom
Rue anemone
Thalictrum thalictroides
in bloom
Perfoliate bellwort
Uvularia perfoliata
in bloom
Pale yellow Trillium
Trillium discolor
in bloom
Wild Blue phlox 
Phlox divaricata
in bloom
Virginia bluebell
Mertensia virginica
in bloom
Dutchman’s breeches
Dicentra cucullaria
in bloom
Aquilegia canadensis
in bloom
Squirrel corn
Dicentra canadensis

Green and gold
Chrysogonum virginianum
in bloom
Shooting stars
Primula meadia
=Docecatheon meadia
in bloom
Golden ragwort
Packera aurea
=Senecio aureus
in bloom
Red buckeye
Aesculus pavia
in bloom
Decumbent trillium
Trillium decumbens
in bloom
Foam flower
Tiarella cordifolia
in bloom
Heuchera sp.

Southern nodding trillium
Trillium rugelii
in bloom
Celandine (wood) poppy
Stylophorum diphyllum
in bloom
Podophyllum peltatum
flower bud
Twin leaf
Jeffersonia diphylla
in bloom
Dirca palustris
forming fruit
American beech
Fagus grandifolia
in bloom
Hybrid buckeye
Aesculus pavia x A. sylvatica
in bloom
Common blue violets
Viola sororia
in bloom
Hedyotis pusilla
(=Houstonia pusilla)
in bloom
Blue bugle/bugleweed
Ajuga reptens
in bloom
Field madder
Sherardia arvensis
in bloom
Hop hornbeam
Ostrya virginiana
in bloom
Carollina jessamine
Gelsemium sempervirens
in bloom
Cedar apple rust
Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae

Hog plum
Prunus umbellata
in bloom
Mantis egg case
Order Mantodea

Serviceberry tree
Amelanchier arborea
forming fruit

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