Friday, June 26, 2015

Ramble Report June 25 2015




Today's report was written by Dale Hoyt. The photos that appear in this blog are taken by Don Hunter; you can see all the photos Don took of today's Ramble here.

NOTE: This blog will go on hiatus for the next three rambles. Don will send out links to his facebook album for each ramble to everyone on our email list, so you'll still be able to enjoy the photographic record of each ramble.

Sometime in late July Silvio will be departing for graduate study at UCLA. Let's all bid him good luck and farewell!

Nineteen ramblers appeared today.

Today's reading:
". . .find an organism, any organism, small, large, gaudy, subtle – anywhere, and they are everywhere – and get a sense of it, its shape, color, size, feel, smell, sound . . . Then find a name for it. Learn science's name, one of countless folk names, or make up your own. To do so is to change everything, including yourself. Because once you start noticing organisms, once you have a name for particular beasts, birds and flowers, you can't help seeing life and the order in it, just where it has always been, all around vou." – Carol Kaesuk Yoon, Reviving the Lost Art of Naming the World

Today's route: Through the Shade garden and Dunson Native Flora garden to the White trail; across the road to the power line RoW; up the hill to the dogwood, then back down the hill to the river. Left on the Orange trail to the Orange trail spur which we took back to the parking lot.

Dunson Native Flora Garden: We passed the Black cohosh that has been blooming for several weeks and discovered that there are no flowers left on the inflorescence. Another plant, visible in the distance, still had a few flowers left at the very top of the flowering stalk.
At the edge of the Dunson garden there was a Wild petunia in bloom, one of several we would see later on today's ramble. The Beauty berry just inside the new fencing was covered with flowers. Each cluster of blooms will produce a cluster of shining purple berries this fall. 

White Trail to power line: I like to walk this segment of the White trail frequently just to
Beech fruit with two nuts
check on the fruits that are developing on two trees: American Beech and Hophornbeam. We last were here three weeks ago and the Beech fruits were large and swollen. Today most of them have split open but the two nuts inside each fruit are still green and tightly held. The Hophornbeam fruit clusters appear to be about one third larger than three weeks ago. Each papery sack that makes up the cluster has a very small seed inside. Ted
Hophornbeam fruits
wanted to know how these were dispersed. Wind has a limited effect as the sacks can only be carried a short distance by heavy gusts. But for trees growing near streams and rivers the sacks are buoyant, allowing the seeds to be carried downstream. But there must be another way that they disperse because the Hophornbeam is the most common understory tree in the garden's natural areas. It is found almost everywhere, from streamside to dry ridges. There is one in my backyard and small saplings appear everywhere, even at considerable distances from their possible parent. Something moves the seeds around, but I don't know what it is.

There are other trees in this area of the White trail that are young and small enough that we can easily see their leaves to identify them. One is a Green ash sapling that has opposite, compound leaves, which is an uncommon combination. Only the Box elder could be confused with it and Box elder usually has only three leaflets (Green ash has 5-7). Near the
Galls on Winged elm leaf
Ash is a Hawthorn with splotchy leaves caused by a rust fungus. There is also a small Yaupon holly, with tiny, rounded leaves that don't even resemble the spiny leaves of the American holly or the Oriental hollies. Don spotted a Winged elm with unusual galls on several of the leaves – they were produced all along the mid-vein of the leaf. Nearby is a small post oak with its characteristic Maltese cross shaped leaves.

Praying Mantis
We had a bonanza of insect life in this area of the trail. Don spotted a tiny praying mantis nymph on the leaves of the Hawthorn. We also passed around a yellow and brown spotted wood-boring beetle that was just sitting on some leaves. Wood-boring beetles are also known as long-horned beetles, a name that refers to the long antennae that
Wood boring beetle
most of them have. In many species in this family the antennae are longer than their body. The larvae feed on dead or dying wood.

There was a dual surprise – a katydid sitting out in the open. Katydids resemble green
leaves and are usually very difficult to find because they are so well camouflaged. But this one was very conspicuous and I had no trouble popping her into a plastic box to pass around. But as soon she was in the box we saw the reason why she was so easy to capture – a large maggot was crawling about the box, having emerged from a hole in the side of the katydids abdomen. There is a whole family of flies, Tachinidae, that parasitize other insects. They lay an egg or eggs on an unsuspecting host. The egg hatches into a small maggot that burrows into the body of the host where it begins to feed on the host's tissues. When it reaches the appropriate size it eats its way out of its host body and falls to the ground where it pupates. Do you remember the movie Alien

Some wanted to know how I could tell that the katydid was a female. At the end of her
Female Katydid
abdomen there is a large, sickle-shaped structure. This is an egg-laying apparatus, an ovipositor. Only females have them. Katydids lay eggs in the stems or twigs of plants by using the ovipositor to cut a slit. The egg emerges from the end of the ovipositor into the slit. It develops, protected by being tucked away inside the stem, until it hatches into a miniature version of its parent, minus the wings. This immature stage is called a nymph. The nymph feeds on leaves and molts (sheds its skin) five times, growing larger with each molt. The tiny wing pads grow with each molt until they reach adult size after the last molt. This kind of development is called incomplete metamorphosis and is typical of insects like crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and praying mantis.

By the way, the katydids are the insects you can hear at night calling from your trees. They make that rasping "zit-zit-zit" noise. Only the males call; the females are silent.

Agreeable tiger moth
We also found a small, pretty moth, almost completely white in color. (If you looked carefully you could see a tiny touch of color on the base of the first pair of legs.) This is called an Agreeable tiger moth. (These ridiculous English names are often made up because publishers won't publish a book without using "common" names. This forces the author to make up so-called common names for organisms that don't have them.) But back to the tiger moths. Some of the tiger moths are able to produce supersonic sounds that are thought to be capable of "jamming" the sonar sounds that bats use to locate prey when they are hunting. There is also another possible function for the sound production. Many of the tiger moths are known to be distasteful because of the food their caterpillars feed on. The sounds that the adults make in response to bat sonar may act as a warning signal announcing their distastefulness. It could be the auditory equivalent of the wasps black and yellow color pattern.

The last insect find in this area was a small bagworm caterpillar. We didn't actually see the
Bagworm
caterpillar – it was inside the silken bag it had made and decorated with pieces of the plant it was eating. Bagworms are more commonly found on evergreens, but they do feed on deciduous trees as well. The "bag" is a protective home that the caterpillar carries with it, enlarging it as it grows. It even pupates inside the bag. In fact, the female moth never leaves the bag. She has no wings and is barely more than a sack of eggs. Male bagworm moths do have wings and they fly around looking for "bag ladies." When they find one they mate with her while she remains inside the bag. After she mates and her eggs are fertilized she dies, never having left her bag – the ultimate homebody. The eggs hatch and the tiny caterpillars crawl out of their mother's body and climb about on the surface of the bag. They produce a thread of silk and they are so tiny that the wind can pick up the silken thread with its attached caterpillar and carry it off to a new food plant.

There is a Bottlebrush buckeye growing on this section of the White trail. If you read last week's blog post you'll remember that Hugh and I were unsuccessful in finding complete flowers (those with both male and female parts) on the plant in the International garden. We looked on this plant and failed to find any flower with both stamens and pistil.

Upper Power line (above road): The contrast with a few weeks ago was dramatic. Then,
Mountain mint
the Daisy fleabane was abundant in the grassy area and at the sides of the path. Today there is scarcely any of the fleabane still in bloom. Carolina Desert Chickory is about the same – a few solitary flowers scattered about here and there. The new arrival is the Mountain mint; it's upper leaves are beginning to take on a frosted white appearance
Wild bergamot
just below where the flowers will be. But the most abundant and prominent plant now blooming is Wild bergamot – it is all over the grassy areas and well attended by bees and butterflies (another common name for this plant is Bee Balm). The bergamot can be found in a variety of colors, white, pink and red. Bob thought he could detect a difference in the odor of some of the different colored plants.

Some of the other flowers that are currently blooming in this area
Sensitive brier
are: Sensitive brier(on its last legs), Heal-all (just starting), Rabbit tobacco (just starting), Queen Anne's lace (only a few left) and Trumpet vine (one open flower, but several buds; an old seed pod).


In the middle of the path we discovered a large bird feather, clearly one primary flight feathers. (You can identify primaries by
Pileated woodpecker feather
their asymmetry: the barbs on one side of the shaft are longer than those on the other side. Birds molt their feathers periodically, but not all at once. If they were to do so they wouldn't be able to fly. The only clue we had to identify the bird was the size and color: the tip was black and toward the base the color was white. The most likely candidate is the Pileated woodpecker, our largest woodpecker. Ronnie found a stick and was able to create a banner of sorts by sticking the feather in the end.

One of the butterflies seen nectaring on the bergamot was a dark-colored female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Many people recognize the yellow with black striped form of the tiger swallowtail, but the dark form is usually thought to be something else. If you have a specimen in hand you can see the dark stripes, just as they are in the yellow and black form, but the area between the stripes is dark instead of yellow. This is caused by the presence of melanin, the same substance that is produced in our skin when we tan. This extra melanin is found only in female tiger swallowtails; the gene that controls its production is only active in the female sex. Not all female tiger swallowtails are melanic, some have the same color pattern as the males, but the proportion varies from one part of the country to another. Here in the south melanic females are most common, but as you go north, they become less so. In Canada and the northern states the melanic form is very rare. The reason for this turns out to involve another species of swallowtail butterfly, the Pipevine swallowtail. The caterpillars of pipevine swallowtails feed on Pipevines (genus Aristolochia) that contain many toxic substances. This makes the adult pipevine butterfly distasteful or poisonous. Pipevine swallowtails are very dark colored with blue coloration on the upper side of the hind wings. The melanic female tiger swallowtail is also very dark and has blue coloration on the upper surface of its hind wings – it is a mimic of the pipevine swallowtail.

Catherine found the cast off exoskeleton of a grasshopper nymph. We looked at it with the hand lens and were amazed at all the bristles and bumps on the molt and even more amazed at the thought of how this small insect was able to pull its legs out of their old skin and still leave it intact.

Power line (road to river): About this time of year the cicadas begin to emerge and start their droning choruses in the trees. I have tinnitus, so I carry my own private cicada chorus with me year round. That makes it hard for me to tell if I'm hearing something outside my own head, but, if it's loud enough, I can tell the difference. Yes, cicadas are beginning to sing right now in Georgia. These are annual cicadas – appearing every year – not the 17 year or 13 year cicadas that only appear after long intervals (17 or 13 years, duh). But calling them "annual" hides the fact that they spend as much as 5 years underground, sipping juices from the roots of trees and other plants.

A common misnomer for cicada is "locust." (This may be more prevalent in the Midwestern states than it is here.) The locust of the Bible is a kind of grasshopper in the order Orthoptera. (Cicadas belong to a completely unrelated insect order: Hemiptera, the bugs, cicadas, aphids, etc.) The confusion arose because early European settlers first experienced the massive emergence of 17 year cicadas and could only relate it to the plagues of locusts written about in the Bible. It may also have been enhanced by the sound of one of the cicada species: "Pharaoh," continuously repeated. 

More bergamot is growing here and Don was able to get photos of the yellow and black
Tiger swallowtail nectaring on bergamot
form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail as it sipped nectar. I waded out into the grass and confirmed that this was a male and picked up a tick as my reward. To sex the tiger swallowtail you need to look at the upper surface of the hind wings. If the rear border has a prominent amount of blue you are looking at a female. Males have very little or no blue coloration on the rear border of the hind wings.

Anglepod flowers
Just inside the fence, twining up some wingstems and ironweed we found two kinds of milkvines: Carolina spinypod and Eastern anglepod. The distinction between these is
Spinypod flowers
easiest to see in the flower color. The spinypod has petals that are all purple whereas the anglepod flower has a purple center but the petals are broadly edged with green. [These plants have been the subject of recent taxonomic changes: both were formerly placed in the genus Matelea; now the anglepod is in the genus Gonolobus and its species epithet is suberosus (Gonolobus suberosus = Matelea gonopoda).]

We had been seeing grasshoppers jumping all over and someone finally caught one, a Carolina grasshopper, I think. I spread open its fan-like hind wing to reveal its black and yellow bands, visible only when the grasshopper jumps and flies to a distant location.

In the flood plain the vegetation is growing taller by the day. The most obvious and abundant plants are the wingstems, the ironweed and the goldenrod, although none is flowering yet. And, of course, there is lots of pokeweed just starting to set fruit.

We found two types of galls on the goldenrods: an apical leaf rosette gall and a spherical
Apical rosette gall
stem gall. Each of these galls is caused by a different fly. The apical leaf rosette gall is produced by a fly laying an egg in the growing tip of the goldenrod (the apex, where the apical meristem is located). This halts the vertical growth of the stem, but not the production of leaves. Because the stem does not elongate between leaves the leaves all cluster together into a tight bundle. When the egg hatches the maggot feeds on the tissue of the gall.

The spherical stem gall is likewise produced by an fly egg,
Spherical stem gall
but it is inserted into stem of the plant, below the apex. This causes the stem to swell into a hard sphere with the egg inside. When it hatches the larva, a maggot, feeds on the leaf tissue. If the gall is not too close to the apical meristem the plant will continue to grow vertically. This fly pupates within the gall, raising the question of how it gets out of the gall. Adult flies don't have chewing mouthparts. But the maggot can chew and just before it gets ready to pupate it chews an exit tunnel up to the surface of the gall, leaving a thin layer of plant epidermis covering the end of the tunnel. It then crawls back inside to pupate. When the adult fly emerges it climbs up the tunnel and then breaks it open using a balloon on its head that is expanded by hydraulic pressure using its body fluid. As soon as the tunnel cover pops open the fly emerges, allows the balloon to collapse and harden, and then flies off to seek fresh goldenrod.

One of the small flowers seen bordering the path caused a lot of people to wonder what the plant with a flower that looks like a bluet is. The flower they were looking at is Virginia buttonweed, a member of the Rubiaceae family, as are the more familiar bluets. Both have tiny, four-lobed flowers, so the similarity indicates an actual relationship.

Another shed exoskeleton was discovered, this time from a praying mantis.

Orange trail: In the Orange trail lots of plants released by the removal of the privet, esp. wingstems and another large stemmed we think might be Fireweed. On vegetation by the
Net-winged beetle
river we encountered another unusual insect – a net-winged beetle (family Lycidae). Most beetles have hard, tough forewings that protect the delicate, membranous hind wings. In this beetle the front pair of wings are thin and flexible with a fine network of veins, hence the name: net—winged beetle. These beetles are distasteful and advertise it by their coloration and raising their colorful forewings to advertise their unpalatability. [Note: beetles are so diverse and abundant that identifying them to species takes an expert. An amateur should be satisfied with a Family-level identification, except for some of the very common and most widespread species.]

Eggs on River oats
The River Oats is beginning to set seed; the seed heads are expanding into something that reminds some of us of "fish on a pole." One of the seed heads was covered on both sides by a mass of eggs laid by an unknown (to us) insect.

Tom got a surprise when a large, dangerous looking insect
Stonefly
flew up onto his shirt. Some people thought it was a Dobson fly but it turned out to be something different and harmless, but similar: a Stonefly. Stoneflies belong to the order Plecoptera. Dobson flies, the females of which look a little like stoneflies, are variously considered to be in the order Megaloptera or a family in the order Neuroptera. Both have predatory aquatic larvae.

Further along the Orange trail we found Bur cucumber clambering over piles of chopped down privet, a few Leafy elephants foot,Dwarf St. John's wort and a tall, coarse, thick stemmed plant that appears to be Fireweed (we'll have to wait for it to bloom to be certain).
And so after a ramble that stretched out to a full two hours we took the Orange spur trail back to the parking lot and Donderos' for beverages and conversation. We've got to stop finding so many things to look at. Not.

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:
Common Name
Scientific Name
Black cohosh
Actaea racemosa
Wild petunia
Ruellia humilis
America beautyberry
Callicarpa americana
American beech
Fagus grandifolia
Green ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Praying mantis
Order Mantodea
Hawthorne
Crataegus sp.
Post oak
Quercus stellata
Wood boring beetle
Family Cerambycidae
Winged elm
Ulmus alata
Hophornbeam
Ostrya virginiana
Katydid
Family Tettigoniidae
Agreeable Tiger moth
Spilosoma congrua
Prairie fleabane
Erigeron strigosus
Bagworm moth caterpillar
Family Psychidae
Carolina horse nettle
Solanum carolinense
Carolina desert chicory
Pyrrhopappus carolinianus
Pileated woodpecker
Hylatomus pileatus
Mountain mint
Pycnanthemum incanum
Sensitive briar
Mimosa microphylla
Bee balm/Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa
Heal-all
Prunella vulgaris
Rabbit tobacco
Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium
Queen Anne’s lace
Daucus carota
Bottlebrush buckeye
Aesculus parviflorum
Tiger swallowtail
Papilio glaucus
Trumpet vine
Campsis radicans
Poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans
Ox-eye daisy
Leucanthemum vulgare
Spinypod
Matelea carolinensis
Anglepod
Gonolobus suberosus
Pokeweed
Phytolacca americana
Carolina grasshopper
Dissosteira carolina
Common whitetail dragonfly
Plathemis lydia
Virginia buttonweed
Diodia virginiana
Bluebird eggs
Sialia sialis
White avens
Geum canadense
Japanese beetle
Popillia japonica
Stonefly
Order Plecoptera
Common yellow wood sorrel
Oxalis stricta
River oats
Chasmanthium latifolium
Pennsylvania smartweed
Polygonum penslyvanicum
Bur cucumber
Sicyos angulatus
American burnweed/Fireweed
Erechtites hieracifolia
Leafy elephants foot
Elephantopus carolinianus
Dwarf St. Johns wort
Hypericum mutilum

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