Monday, April 27, 2015

Ramble Report April 23 2015




Don Hunter's album of today's ramble can be found here.

Thirty-one ramblers met at the arbor at 8:30AM. 
 
Today's reading: Dale read a passage from Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer's second book:

On a day like this, when the fiddleheads are unfurling and the air is petal soft, I am awash in longing. I know that "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's chloroplasts" is good advice and yet I must confess to fullblown chlorophyll envy. Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow's edge or floating lazily on a pond, I could be doing the work of the world while standing silent in the sun. The shadowy hemlocks and the waving grasses are spinning out sugar molecules and passing them on to hungry mouths and mandibles all the while listening to the warblers and watching the light dance on the water.
It would be so satisfying to provide for the well-being of others – like being a mother again, like being needed. Shade, medicine, berries, roots; there would be no end to it. As a plant I could make the campfire, hold the nest, heal the wound, fill the brimming pot.
But this generosity is beyond my realm, as I am a mere heterotroph, a feeder on the carbon transmuted by others. In order to live, I must consume. That's the way the world works, the exchange of a life for a life, the endless cycling between my body and the body of the world. Forced to choose, I must admit I actually like my heterotroph role. Besides, if I could photosynthesize, I couldn't eat leeks.

Todays Route:  The route today took us into the International Garden through the Southeastern section across the Flower Bridge, then through the Asian section, the Rare and Endangered Plant section, and American Indian section to the Purple Trail.  The Purple Trail led us down to the Oconee River.  We then turned left on the Orange Trail and climbed a spur up the heath bluff.  Further up the  Orange Trail several people had to leave early as we passed the bridge to the Flower Garden. The rest continued on the Orange Trail to the upper parking lot.

Arbor:  Sandra noticed that the wisteria on the arbor has sent a vine over to an adjacent gingko tree.  If not addressed, it will be a major presence in the tree by the end of Summer.

Meadow in the American South garden: The meadow in the Southeastern section
Virginia spiderwort
included the following flowering plants: lyre leaf sage, coreopsis, Virginia spiderwort (with varying colors of white, blue, and purple), and the sandhill bluestar (Amsonia ciliata).  There might even have been an A. tabernaemontana with its wider leaves.  Finally there were several  Gaura plants blooming.

Rock bridge through International Garden:  Crossing the Flower Bridge we noticed an unidentified caterpillar on a dianthus. In the water garden below were yellow flags (Iris pseudacorus).  At the time I thought this was a native iris, but it is a Eurasian import.  The leaves of lotus had emerged, but no stems for flowers yet.
Bottlebrush buckeye inflorescence
On the other side of the bridge we noticed the bottlebrush buckeye that was just sending out flower racemes.  It will be spectacular later. In the Asian section we stopped to admire an asian Styrax that was blooming. In the Rare and Endangered Plant Garden  representing the Age of Conservation in botanical history, we stopped at the bog.  Only a few flowers were showing.  From a distance they looked like the rare white topped pitcherplant (Serracenia leucophylla) with purple flowers and mottled whitish-reddish leaves as tall as the flowers.
Mayapple fruit
In the American Indian section we mostly saw mayapple plants, many with apples.  At least one or two mayapple flowers were still blooming.

Purple Trail:  As we turned on to the Purple Trail a jack-in-the-pulpit presented  itself.  We stopped to discuss the ability of this plant to change gender.  If
Jack-in-the-Pulpit
the plant gets good light and water so the corm can store many nutrients by August, then the plant will be female in the spring.  If not, it will only generate male flowers.  It takes more nutrients for the plant to produce seeds than pollen. To distinguish the flowers you must take apart the spathe because the flowers are on the “jack”.  [This link has more information or see Timothy P. Spira,  Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont, p. 335, and Carol Gracie, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast, pp. 105-106.]

Someone picked up a flower from the ground and asked if it was from a trumpet vine. It was actually from a cross vine, faded maroon with a yellow center.  We looked up in the trees to see if we could spot the vine, but no one could. While looking up into the trees someone noticed a large nest. Ed thought it was too neat for a squirrel’s nest. We stopped by the large white oak to point out what the fuzzy poison ivy vine looks like with no leaves.

Ed pointed out that the American holly by the trail was a native, and that it was being nibbled on by many insects.  Non-native hollies that escape into the natural areas are pristine and unblemished because they do not provide food for the insect population. That is one good reason for planting natives in your yard rather than imports. Nearby was a hophornbeam tree that was circled from low to high with holes drilled by a sapsucker.  Dale has noted that the sapsucker obtains not only the sap from the tree this way but also the insects attracted by the sap.  Around the natural areas of the Garden we notice this happening with many of the hophornbeams.

On the ground was the fading leaf of the cranefly orchid.  Green on top and bright purple underneath, it is found along the trails all through the winter.  It disappears about this time of year and later in the summer it may produce a stem with a raceme of flowers. They are hard to see while walking the trails because the tan and yellowish flowers blend with the background leaf litter. Not all leaves will produce a flower.  Adjacent to the leaf of the cranefly orchid was partridge berry forming a nice ground cover. Next was Elliot’s blueberry, which is sometimes called highbush blueberry.  Sue asked what the species is for a low bush blueberry (also called deerberry).  It is Vaccinium staminium  The species name indicates that the stamens stick out way beyond the bell of the flower.

Hophornbeam disk mushrooms
Don had noticed that hophornbeam disc mushrooms (little white dots) were not on the hophornbeam with the sapsucker holes we saw earlier, but he soon found one with disc mushrooms that we could all see. 
Rattlesnake fern
Nearby was a very nice sample of a rattlesnake fern with its fertile frond standing up like the rattles of the snake. Those at the back of the line observed
Inside an Oak apple gall
Dale opening an oak apple gall to show its typical internal structure.

At the old electric fence we stopped to notice all of the chalk maple trees in the area.  They are an indicator of more basic soils (more calcium), and are thought to occur here because of a seam of amphibolite that crosses here and goes up the creek by the Orange Trail. The grounds keepers have cut off the old Purple Trail here which had become terribly eroded as it sloped down to the river.  We enjoyed walking the new contoured trail built by Walter Cook.  On this new trail we stopped to look at the silverbell tree that had been in bloom several weeks ago, the last time we walked this trail.

Orange Trail:  Reaching the Orange Trail we once again pointed out the cat scratch like bark of the hophornbeam and the smooth sinewy trunk of the musclewood tree.  The musclewood tree is usually only found near water, while the hophornbeam is a very common understory tree in all the natural areas of the Garden.  This time someone noticed the leaves of a crossvine on the musclewood tree.

As I was noting another crossvine crawling up a river birch tree, Don told me to hold still.  He photographed an inchworm on my hat. Jack wanted to know about another vine that was very thick and smooth, not fuzzy.  It was a grape vine. We stopped to tell again the story of the damming of the beaver pond for water purification.  The tale appears in many of our earlier  reports.

The Heath Bluff:  Some took a treacherous side trip up to the heath bluff along the river at
Mountain laurel
this point because the mountain laurel was in bloom.  It is a great sight to see because it is not common in the Piedmont and is usually restricted to such bluffs along rivers. We talked about the anthers that bend from the center into a pocket on the petals.  When a bee comes to collect pollen from the flower it triggers an anther to pop up and dust the bee with pollen. 
Reading about this later, I discovered that as the flower matures, if the anther has not been triggered by a pollinator, it will pop on its own and self pollinate the flower. [See Timothy P. Spira, Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont, p. 291] The striking leaves of rattlesnake weed were also present below the mountain laurel. These leaves are all basal and conspicuously purple veined.

Tulip tree flower 
Return to Orange Trail:  Along the Orange trail again we saw tulip tree flowers that had been dropped to the ground by squirrels.  We also noticed the leaves of duck potato.  The name refers to the tuberous roots that can be eaten raw or cooked and taste like potatoes. At the bridge built by Ben Tonks and his helpers we again looked at the sensitive ferns, distinguished by fertile fronds that cling to the rachis instead of spreading out like the branches of a tree, as they do on netted chain fern. Moving along the trail Don found a kidney leaf buttercup.  We also saw the delicate looking southern lady fern.

Mayapples were spreading like crazy.  A huge patch of mayapples may really be only one
Mayapple with fungal lesions
plant that spreads from its roots.  Someone asked about the yellow spots on the leaves.  A little research reveals that that is evidence that  a fungus has infected the leaf.  The two main species of fungi affecting mayapples are Septotinia podophyllina (which attacks new leaves) and Puccinia podophylli (which is a rust that forms orange pustules on leaves of differing ages).  The latter is particularly lethal to seedlings. [See Carol Gracie, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast, p. 136]

Next we pointed out the slope on the bend in the creek where we often observe in early January the first wildflower blooms of hepatica.  They are followed by bloodroot.  The leaves of both can still be seen covering the slope at this time, although the flowers are now past.
Smokey-eye boulder lichen
We stopped to look at the smokey-eye boulder lichen and an Indian strawberry.  Violet wood sorrel was in bloom.  Wild yam leaves  on the ground and climbing hydrangea leaves on the tree next to it rounded out the stops up to the bridge to the Flower Garden. Those who had to leave early took the trail back to the flower garden, but an equal group wanted to finish the Orange Trail. I estimated we could be in the upper parking lot by 10:30AM, and we did make it before that time.

There was a severe wash down the slope to the river.  I believe it could be called a class I tributary because it had no branches. Along the river banks were heartleaf wild ginger, river cane, and yellowroot.  The yellowroot that grows around the prominent boulder by the side creek does not seem to have as many stems as in previous years. Crossing the side stream we found broad beech fern.  Wild geranium and sweet shrub were in bloom. In the spot where a lot of rue anemone were in bloom previously we only saw leaves, but just past the
Wool sower oak gall
fallen tree one little bloom was hanging on.  Next was a flowering blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp). Beyond there were many rattlesnake ferns. The big find was a Wool sower oak gall caused by secretions from grubs of a small wool sower gall wasp.

As we walked up the hill we talked about the head erosion point and whether it was still eroding upstream.

The final stop was to look at the bark of black cherry when it gets older.  Emily calls this bark “burnt potato chips.”  By this point in the trail we had left the streamside and ravine slope area and were in the transition forest changing from pines to hardwoods.  The black cherry is a common tree in that natural community.

When we reached the upper parking lot, many retired to Donderos for refreshments and conversation.

Hugh Nourse

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:
Common Name
Scientific Name
Lyre leaf sage
Salvia lyrata
Coreopsis, Lobed Tickseed?
Coreopsis auriculata
Virginia Spiderwort
Tradescantia virginiana
Eastern bluestar
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Beeblossom
Gaura sp.
Yellow flag
Iris pseudacorus
Unidentified Moth on dianthus
Order Lepidoptera
Bottle-brush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora
Styrax
Styrax sp.
Tussock moth caterpillar
Family Erebidae
Mayapple
Podophyllum peltatum
Jack in the pulpit
Arisaema triphyllum
Crossvine
Bignonia capreolata
Poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans
American holly
Ilex opaca
Hop hornbeam
Ostrya virginiana
Partirdge berry
Mitchella repens
Cranefly orchid
Tipularia discolor
Highbush blueberry
Vaccinium elliotii
Hophornbeam disc mushroom
Aleurodiscus oakesii
Rattlesnake fern
Botrypus virginiana
Oak apple gall

Chalk maples
Acer leucoderme
Musclewood
Carpinus caroliniana
River birch
Betula nigra
Geometer moth larvae
Family Geometridae
Mountain Laurel
Kalmia latifolia
Rattlensnake weed
Hieracium venosum
Tulip poplar
Liriodendron tulipifera
Duck potato
Sagittaria latifolia
Sensitive fern
Onoclea sensibilis
Kidneyleaf buttercup
Ranunculus abortivus
Southern lady fern
Athyrium asplenoides
Smokey-eye boulder lichen
Porpidia albocaerulescens
Indian strawberry
Duchesnea indica
Violet wood sorrel
Oxalis violacea
Wild yam
Dioscorea villosa
Climbing hydrangea
Decumaria barbara
Hearleaf wild ginger
Hexastylis arifolia
River cane
Arundinaria gigantea
Shrub yellowroot
Xanthorhiza simplicissima
Broad beech fern
Phegopteris hexagonoptera
Wild geranium
Geranium maculatum
Sweet shrub
Calycanthus floridus
Wool sower oak gall
Callirhytis seminator
Black cherry
Prunus serotina

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