Friday, May 22, 2015

Ramble Report May 21 2015

Important notices:
New Ramble time for June, July and August: Rambles will begin at 8:00AM for all of June, July and August. (This is to avoid the heat that begins to build up later in the morning.) We will return to the 8:30AM start time in September.

The Tallassee tract public input meeting, scheduled for 6:30PM, May 28, has been cancelled. More information.

It was a beautiful morning with a nice breeze.  Twenty-four Ramblers met at the Arbor to hear a reading on horsetails provided by Dale from An Almanac for Moderns by Donald Culross Peattie:

Whenever I walk in the marshy ground I find the spikes of Equisetum thrusting up in a pale, almost a fleshy turret, soft and moist to the touch, and hollow like a pipe. Like the cinnamon fern, this fern-ally throws up a strange spore-bearing frond almost devoid of coloring matter, quite unlike the purely vegetative green shoot that rises beside it.
Somewhere in the now scattered fragments of the great evolutionary line of the ferns, through Equisetum to the cIubmosses and Selaginella, the lost trace of the flowering plants must have branched away, through stages that we shall never know, through families whose unreal fossils take us step by step toward the cycads and the pines. The odd thing is that these emergent groups should be gone from the world, never again to know the grip of the earth between their roots, the warmth of sunlight on their fronds.
But each spring little, ancient Equisetum pushes up again, to enjoy the old, old sunshine and bare its spores to the wind. It is like some wizened ancient race of men whose stature is cretin, whose language is cryptic, that has been driven down into the marshes, isolated, decimated, and spared at last because time has simply forgotten to finish it off.

Then Hugh pointed out that the Garden had put yellow tape around the Arbor.  The rafters are rotting and some have already fallen.  Safety is a concern.  To fix the rafters they will have to cut the trunk of the invasive Wisteria sinensis in order to clear the vine from the rafters.  In fact that has already been done.  It is doubtful whether the arbor can be saved.  If they decide to rebuild it, the question becomes should they let the invasive Wisteria sinensis regrow from the stump, or should they kill it, and replace it with Wisteria frutescens, the native Wisteria, or some other native vine or vines.  I had told Wilf Nicholls I thought that the Garden should replace the invasive with natives.  He agreed, but indicated that the vine was from a cutting from an original vine from Berckman’s Orchard in Augusta.  Given this historical provenance, some in the Garden want to let it regrow.  Many Nature Ramblers want to write a letter to Wilf from the Ramblers supporting the replacement of the invasive Chinese Wisteria with native vines.  Therefore we are creating a poll so that everyone can express their opinion as to what ought to be done.  If we can write a letter saying it has the support of a majority of our Ramblers we will do so. In any case, those who have a strong opinion pro or con can send an individual letter if they wish. Please respond to the poll. Here is the link for the poll. Please participate, even if you have no opinion. Also, please do leave a comment (you can do so anonymously) on the blog.

Our route for the day seemed rather aimless, but in fact it was purposely planned to see many plants that are currently in bloom.  We took the mulched path to the Dunson Native Flora Garden, and  wandered to spots where plants were flowering, coming out at the wetland at the bottom of the Garden.  Then the route followed the power line right-of-way to the river.  We turned left onto the Orange Trail to the connector back up the hill to the lower parking lot.

The first stop was to view the work on the new Children’s Theatre which will be a part of the planned Children’s Garden. It will be an outdoor venue with a stage, and benches up the slope.  They will not be taking out any trees, so kids may have to avoid seats behind a few tree trunks to see the stage.  The first row of benches and the stage were being put in today .

The second stop was to discuss the large “bird’s nest”, a form of land art created by Chis Taylor from material picked up from the forest floor; no trees or branches were cut for the project..  He has permission to create fifteen of these structures throughout the natural areas of the Garden. To see more about this you can go to his web site.

Thinking we might spend more time on vines today, we stopped to talk about the muscadine vines all along the trail.  Here they were not in bloom, although I have seen them in flower along the White Trail this week.

Black Cohosh inflorescence
We have watched the shrubby black cohosh for weeks. Now the flowering stem has shot up, and the racemes of beautiful white flowers have opened.  We were to see many more scattered throughout the Dunson Garden. Although it was not flowering, we talked about the northern horse balm with a square stem, indicating a mint.  As Avis said, the flower is nothing to write home about.

A number of Indian pinks were flowering.  We saw them last week in the Conservation Garden section of the International Garden.  In fact this is not a rare plant, but another in the same genus, Spigelia gentianoides is a rare plant from Alabama and the Florida panhandle.  The Conservation Department of the Garden conducted a study to see why it might be in trouble.  They studied both Indian pinks and crosses with the rare plant.  I do not know the outcome of the studies.

Southern Beardtongue
Then southern beardtongue was in bloom, while alum root and coral bells were past.  But false goat’s beard was flowering, and nearby was doghobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana).  Across the dry creek bed was Carolina rhododendron (Rhododendron minus).  Winding our way over to the road by way of the path through the leatherwood shrubs, we found a vine, probably Lonicera sempervirens, or red trumpet honeysuckle, a native honeysuckle, not yet flowering.  Next we walked along the road to see the silky dogwood in flower.  The inflorescence  looks just like the alternate leaf dogwood’s, but the leaves are opposite in this case.  The Ilicium parviflorum shrubs were adjacent, but not flowering. There was another shrub in flower, but I am still trying to figure out what it is.  Joey Allen the curator of this Garden thought it might be Alabama croton, but that cannot be right.  These flowers were single in the axils of the leaves, instead of racemes like the croton.

Fly poison
Our next stop was to admire the flowers of fly poison.  It was formerly used as an insecticide and the bulb is extremely poisonous.  I have since found out that it was also called fall poison or stagger grass because if cows ate it they would be poisoned and caused to stagger from a cerebrospinal disease.

I was hoping to show everyone the false indigo bush in
False Indigo
glorious bloom, spikes of purple flowers with wonderful orange anthers. Unfortunately, many of the flowers were already past, just one day after I saw them.  Still, we found some of the spikes still in full color.  Across the path the yuccas were in flower, so we could talk about the sole pollinator for this plant, the yucca moth, Tegeticula yuccasella.  It gathers a ball of pollen from the anthers with specially modified mouthparts. It then flies to another plant, climbs up the pistil and tamps the pollen ball into a cavity at the end of the pistil, where the stigmas are hidden, pollinating the flower. It then walks down the pistil and inserts its eggs into the wall of the ovary.  When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the developing seeds of the yucca. The number of seeds destroyed depends on how many eggs were laid. If too many are laid in one ovary the plant will abort that fruit, leaving only those fruits with a tolerable seed predator load left to develop. Both partners in this relationship are totally dependent on one another for their reproduction.

On a tall spindly stem a purple coneflower was blooming.  It was probably Echinacea
Purple Milkweed
, the smooth purple coneflower, known only from the Chattahoochee National Forest with three populations in 25 sites.  The purple milkweed was also flowering.  It is another rare plant in Georgia, mostly from the extensive grounds of Berry College in Rome, GA.

As we moved to the road we passed a flowering elderberry.  Our purpose here was to  see the ancient plants, horsetails, that Dale’s reading was about. Next to them was a great color combination of red and blue.  The blue flower was Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana), the red was Indian pink.  We talked about the wetland, created by the dry creek bed going through the Shade and Dunson Native Flora Gardens.  Runoff from rain moves through the gardens to the wetland, keeping it more moist so that wetland plants, including bald cypress can grow here.

Trumpet creeper
Sue wanted to know what the huge vine growing up a tree on the other side of the road was.  We crossed over to look more closely and discovered it was trumpet creeper with  its distinctive leaves.  They were opposite, pinnately compound, and had seven or more leaflets with coarsely toothed margins.  Sandra found an unusual curled seedpod, which we opened to find seeds with their wings that help them fly in the wind.  Some had been eaten by beetles or other insects.

Terry went across the power line right-of-way to get a closer look at the bright orange flowers of butterfly weed.  Also there were Queen Anne’s lace flowers.

Moving back through the gate in the fence, several people told us about the new planting of our native Wisteria being encouraged on that fence.

The walk through the power line to the river was amazing.  There was so much to see. In
Butterweed (L) & Venus' Looking Glass (R)
flower were butterweed, wild onion, Venus’s looking glass, pokeweed, horse nettle, blackberries, daisy fleabane, and Carolina desert chicory.  In a wet area we saw rushes, sedges, and grasses.  So we repeated the old saw: sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have knees all the way to the ground.  Each was demonstrated with samples along the path.

Curly Dock
Curly dock or sheep sorrel had passed blooming and was in seed.  River cane was extending way high.  It gave us a chance to talk about Thomas Peters’ project of growing seedlings of river cane to restore canebrakes along river bottomlands.  It is not easy to do.  He has found that the Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma know more about doing this than anyone else.  The seed is hard to find because river cane grows for 40 or 50 years and then flowers, goes to seed, and dies.  Thomas has collected many pounds of seed.  He also is learning to propagate plants from cuttings from certain parts of the plant.  One project that he has finished is the restoration of canebrakes in the Cowpens National Battlefield Park.  Thomas is the person who has removed privet from the bottomland along the Orange Trail.

Some found a leaf footed bug and a dragonfly.

Turning left on the Orange Trail, we pointed out the leaf of the coralbead vine (Cocculus carolinus).  Carol thinks the berries are quite beautiful, but several gardeners, including Sue thought it was a terrible pest and pulled it up in their gardens.

As we reached the edge of the power line right-of-way, a tree branch was hanging down low and was winged with corky protuberances.  It could be either sweet gum or winged elm.  A check of the leaves made it clear that it was winged elm.  This provided a great example of the tree because it was low enough for everyone to see.  On a smooth barked tree, Don found a script lichen.  The tree itself was privet.  Why was it still standing when so many around it had been cut down? Thomas Peters told me that it was too big for his hand saw, and that he was hoping that Wade Seymour, head groundskeeper, would take a chain saw to it.

Here was another bird’s nest structure created by Chris Taylor.

Dale asked everyone to check out the leaves coming from low on the trunk of a large tree.  He said it was green ash and Hugh agreed.  The feature that fooled us both was the presence of 5 leaflets on each leaf, which is typical of Green Ash. (Box Elder usually has only 3 leaflets.) But Carol challenged us; when we called another tree a box elder, she took those leaves and compared them to those of the first tree.  She was right; they were both box elder.  Upon reflection, we learned several things.  First, both trees have opposite compound leaves, but the box elder leaflets are coarsely toothed and slightly lobed, whereas the green ash leaflets are entire or only faintly toothed.  Second, box elder often has epicormic shoots along the trunk which are bright to dark green.  That was what we were seeing.  Interestingly, Duncan in his tree book uses an alternate common name for box elder, ash leaved maple, so maybe we weren’t so far wrong..

Bur cucumber with its five lobed leaves and branched tendrils was everywhere. Greenbrier was popping up in the area opened up by the privet removal.  Of the greenbriers, we found the leaves of Smilax glauca with white on the underside of the leaves, of Smilax rotundifolia (Common greenbrier) with its round leaves, and of Smilax bona-nox with shiny arrow shaped leaves with ears.

A new shoot looked like one of the Angelicas, but it turned out to be elderberry.  Dale pulled up a plant he has been asking about over the past month or so, which Don has now identified as mouse-eared chickweed.  Don found a hairy hawkweed along the trail.

We talked about the fact that we seldom seem to see green ash trees, although Charlie
Ash seeds
Wharton wrote that they were the dominant tree in the canopy in this particular flood plain.  Then we started seeing the fruit of the green ash, which is a samara, scattered all over the trail.  Looking up, we thought we could identify one of the huge trees as a green ash.

Checking the time, I realized we were way past time to head back to the Arbor.  So we speeded up, but not before identifying common wood sorrel along the trail.  We arrived back at the Arbor and many retired to Donderos' for conversation and snacks.


Common Name
Scientific Name
Muscadine vines
Vitus rotundifolia
Black cohosh
Actaea racemosa
Northern horsebalm
Collinsonia canadensis
Indian pink
Spigelia marilandica
Alabama croton
Croton alabamensis
Southern beardtongue
Penstemon australis
Alum root
Heuchera americana
Coral bells
Heuchera sp.
False goat’s beard
Astible biternata
Dog hobble
Trumpet honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens
Silky dogwood
Cornus amomum
Small-flowered anise
Ilicium parviflorum
Fly poison
Amianthium muscitoxicum
False indigo bush
Baptisia australis
Yucca filamentosa
Purple milkweed
Asclepias purpurascens
Sambucus nigra canadensis
Bald cypress
Taxodium distichum
Horse tail
Equisetum arvense
Virginia Spiderwort
Tradescantia sempervirens
Trumpet vine
Campsis radicans
Queen Anne’s Lace
Daucus carota
Butterfly weed
Asclepias tuberosa
American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens
Packera glabella
Wild onion
Allium canadensis
Venus’s Looking Glass
Triodanis perfoliata
Phytolacca americana
Horse nettle
Solanum carolinense
Rubus fruiticosus
Sawfly larva
Order Hymenoptera
Daisy fleabane
Erigeron annuus
Rushes and sedges
Juncus & Carex
Carolina desert chicory
Pyrrhopappus carolinianus
Curly dock/sheep’s sorrel
Rumex crispus
River cane
Arundinaria gigantea
Eastern Leaf-footed bug
Leptoglossus phyllopus
Common Whitetail Dragonfly
Plathemis lydia
Winged elm
Ulmus alata
Green ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Script lichen
Graphis sp.
Box elder
Acer negundo
Cat greenbrier
Smilax glauca
Bur cucumber
Sicyos angulatus
Hairy hawkweed
Hieracium gronovii
Japanese privet tree
Ligustrum japonicum
Mouse ear chickweed
Cerastium sp.
Common greenbrier
Smilax rotundifolia
Saw greenbrier
Smilax bona-nox
Common yellow wood sorrel
Oxalis stricta

1 comment:

  1. Dale, Mike is particularly fond of yucca plants. We have them in our front yard. We appreciate your instruction of the yucca moth, sole pollinator of the yucca plant. Thank you.


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