Friday, May 1, 2015

Ramble Report April 30 2015



Today's report was written by Dale Hoyt. The photos are, as always, selected from Don Hunter's album of this ramble which can be found here.

Events of Interest to Ramblers:

1.     Terry Stewart told us there is an exhibit on the Dust Bowl currently at the ACC Library. Our library is one of only a few in the country to be selected for this travelling exhibit.

2.     Bob Ambrose will be the featured reader at Athens Word of Mouth next Wednesday night (May 6). Here is a link to the text of his reading: To Go To Patagonia - poems from the far lands. Bob tells me, "The Athens Word of Mouth is a diverse open poetry community, meeting upstairs at the Globe the first Wednesday evening of each month. Open mike readings begin at 8:00 p.m. The featured reading is around 9:15. Visitors are always welcome."

3.     Weds. morning, May 6, there will be a guided nature walk at Sandy Creek Nature Center. Meet at the Education and Visitor's Center at 9:00AM

Twenty three Ramblers showed up on this beautiful spring morning, including three first-timers, two of whom were just looking at Athens as a possible retirement location.

Today's reading:
Bob Ambrose recited one of his poems, A Springtime Apparition. You can find the text of his poem here.

Today's route: The trails were muddy from yesterday's rain so we kept to a dryer route: From the Arbor down the walkway in the Shade Garden then across the road to the White trail. White trail to the power line. Right on the power line path toward the top of the hill. About halfway up we turned around and went down the hill and across the road to the deer fence. Then we returned to the Arbor via the Dunson Native Flora Garden.

Shade Garden
We paused at the Witch Hazel trees to examine the galls that are on many of
Witch Hazel Cone galls
the leaves. These conical growths are produced by an aphid, the Witch Hazel Cone Gall aphid. (It's probably easier to remember the scientific name: Hormaphis hamamelidis.) If you cut open one of the galls you will find inside a small number of tiny aphids feeding on the gall tissue. These aphids can reproduce asexually, giving birth to even tinier copies of themselves. Eventually they give birth to winged forms that emerge from the gall and fly to an alternate host plant, River Birch. There they feed on the underside of the Birch leaves and, in the fall, produce another winged generation that flies back to a Witch Hazel host. These aphids produce a sexual generation of males and females that mate and lay eggs on the twigs of the Witch Hazel. The eggs overwinter and new aphids hatch out as the leaves emerge in the spring, continuing the life cycle anew.

White trail:
Two of the trees along the White trail flowered this year following two years in
Developing Beech fruit
which no flowers were produced. One is a small American Beech tree with very long limb that reaches some twenty feet to the edge of the trail where the sunlight is more direct. This low limb bears many developing fruits that are covered with what are now soft spins. When mature these spins will be very hard and prickly and with enclose, usually, three nuts. Beech nuts are valuable food for wild life and where Beech is a dominant tree they partially compensate for the demise of the American Chestnut.

The second tree developing seeds, a Hophornbeam, is further along the trail.
Hophornbeam infructescence
Earlier this year, when the male catkins were present, we saw the tiny female flowers of this tree. They now
Inflorescence 4 weeks ago
have elongated and beginning to take on the size of the mature "fruit." The proper name for this is an infructescence, a cluster of individual fruits developing together on a common stem. By late summer each small scale will have expanded into a papery bag that holds a single seed. This looks similar to the infructescence of the Hop plant, hence the name: Hophornbeam.

This section of the White trail goes through the edge of what was formerly a perennial garden, now abandoned. The hardier plants in that garden survived, if they were distasteful to deer, and continue to grow here along the trail where they are seldom mowed. Most conspicuous today are the Virginia Spiderworts, with their pretty blue/purple, three-petaled flowers.

Also to be found along this part of the trail are a small Hawthorne in bloom, and an American Holly tree.

As we reach the clearing of the power line on the right is an Eastern Red
Cedar Apple gall
Cedar with Cedar Apple Rust Galls, produced by a fungus with a life history as complex as the Witch Hazel Conical leaf gall. These galls are inactive now, but earlier this year they looked very strange – brownish spheres with purple horns projecting every which way. In the rain they exude a gelatinous orange protrusion that emits reproductive spores. Those spores infect the leaves of apple trees, which in turn, produce spores that infect Eastern Red Cedar trees.

Power line:
As you approach the power line you begin to see a different species of
Small's Ragwort
Ragwort in bloom. This is Appalachian Ragwort or Small's Ragwort. Previously we saw Golden Ragwort in the Dunson Garden and last week we saw Butterweed in the flood plain. This makes the third species of Ragwort growing in the garden. All of them are superficially alike – plants in the Aster family about 2-3 feet tall with numerous bright yellow flowers clustered at the top. A look at the leaves, especially the basal leaves, helps distinguish one from the others. Golden Ragwort
Upper stem leaf
has round basal leaves; Small's Ragwort has paddle shaped basal leaves and the upper stem leaves are fern-like. Butterweed has hollow stems with purple stripes. The other two species have thinner, solid stems. Butterweed also is typically found growing in moister areas, especially flood plains.

We went up the hill to the point where Terry and other volunteers planted large numbers of prairie plants on Earth Day last week. Click here to see a list of the species and amounts planted. This area of the power line is being converted to a Piedmont prairie. Many people don't think of Georgia as having prairies and it doesn't in the way that the western US does. Western prairies are extensive and formerly continuous. But the prairies in Georgia were much smaller pockets of grasses and prairie adapted herbaceous vegetation. They were probably maintained by frequent disturbance, like fires, that would prevent the incursion of woody plants by killing the saplings. Cutting the trees and preventing their colonization is the first step in transforming this area into a replica of a nature Piedmont prairie.

On either side of the path up the powerline are the beautiful tufts of Broomsedge, bleached by the winter weather to a wonderful light golden brown. Much of the grass coming up is Broomsedge, but we also found Needlegrass with developing seeds and Purple top grass.

Anywhere you have a path or a mowed area like a lawn you are likely to find a set of plants that are disturbed area specialists. Many of these are non-native introductions from Eurasia that have become naturalized. Most cannot survive in the face of competition, which is why they are restricted to disturbed situations. The non-native plants we saw here were: Hop clover, Purple dead nettle, Field madder and Dovefoot cranesbill. The native disturbed ground plants were: Dog fennel, Lyreleaf sage and Blue toadflax. But we also found some plants not characteristic of disturbed places: Green and Gold, Yellow Star grass, and Green brier.
Dove's foot cranebill

Hop Clover
 
Lyreleaf sage basal leaves
 
Tiny flowers of Field Madder
Between the road and the deer fence we located Cinquefoil, Ox-eye daisy and Butterweed. The Butterweed may actually have been planted by garden staff, but there are more on the flood plain below the deer fencing that are probably naturally occurring.

By the wooden fence by the road we found two different forms of Toadflax, one with very small flowers and one with much larger flowers.
Toadflax


We returned through the Dunson Native Flora Garden and saw some
Wild ginger flower
spectacular flowers associated with the Heartleaf wild ginger. This flower was so large that it is likely that it is a species other than Little brown jug. (Remember, the plants in the Dunson garden are planted, not naturally occurring.) We'll have to ask the curator of the Garden about this. [Hugh tells me that this is the flower of Hexastylis shuttleworthii, Shuttleworth's Ginger.]

Then it was back to our cars since the Conservatory was closed today in preparation for the Garden's big fund raiser.

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:

Witch hazel
Hamamelis virginiana
American beech
Fagus grandifolia
Hawthorne
Crataegus sp.
Common split-gill mushroom
Schizophyllum commune
Virginia spiderwort
Tradescantia virginiana
American holly
Ilex opaca
Hophornbeam
Ostrya virginiana
Eastern red cedar
Juniperus virginiana
Spider with egg sac

Small’s ragwort
Packera anonyma
Low hop clover
Trifolium campestre
Purple dead nettle
Lamium purpureum
Dog fennel
Eupatorium capillifolium
Field madder
Sherardia arvensis
Blue toadflax
Nuttallanthus canadensis  syn.  Linaria canadensis
Greenbrier
Smilax sp.
Bowl and Doily Weaver spider
Frontinella communis (evidence: web)
Lyre leaf sage
Salvia lyrata
Yellow star grass
Hypoxis hirsuta
Broom sedge
Andropogon virginicus
Green-and-gold
Chrysogonum virginianum
Dovefoot cranesbill
Geranium molle
Cinquefoil
Potentilla sp.
Ox-eye daisy
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum
Purple top grass
Tridens flavus
Butterweed
Packera glabella
Shuttleworth's ginger
Hexastylis shuttleworthii

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