Today's report was written by Hugh Nourse. You can see all the photos Don took of today's Ramble here.
Nineteen Ramblers met at the Arbor at 8:00AM. First Hugh read from Simon Barnes, How to Be Wild (London, UK: Short Books, 2007), page 24:
“Nature is bad, not to be trusted, full of dangers, an implacable, almost a personal foe. Human civilisation is good, safe, to be cherished. Civilisation is, in short, the answer. Civilisation is a series of small, perpetually threatened islands in a sea of wilderness. This was the situation for all humankind from the time of the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, and it held good until the last two centuries. Now the situation is the exact opposite. It is hardly surprising that human nature is struggling to cope with this extraordinary reversal.
“These days, the wild places are small, beleaguered islands in a sea of civilisation. These days, it is nature, not civilisation that is under siege. These days, we seek peace in nature and destructive passions in the city.”
Our route today was through the International Garden to the Purple Trail, then left on the Orange Trail up to the Upper Parking Lot.
Our first stop was the American South section of the Garden, where we found wild bergamot, crimson beebalm, and Virginia spiderwort still blooming. Two new plants were blooming: giant ironweed and Southeastern beardtongue. Out on the trails we have been seeing a lot of black snakeroot, and we saw it here in this section of the Garden. We also noted the rounded shape of the fruit of the wild blue indigo, so that we could compare it later to another plant.
Crossing the Flower Bridge a silvery checkerspot butterfly landed on the flowers on the bridge. While there we looked into the wetland below and saw beautyberry, and Lotus in bloom. Hmmm. There was also pokeweed!
We admired the fruit of the bigleaf magnolia, and then observed how few buckeyes were created from all those many flowers previously on the bottlebrush buckeye. It reminded us that few of the flowers in the hundreds of flowers in the panicles were actually perfect (had both male and female parts). Most only showed anthers (male parts). In the nearby redbud tree were lively tent caterpillars.
In the Oriental and Chinese Garden we found a reddish-purple resurrection lily (Lycoris squamigera) near the Tori Gate. We also spotted an asiatic day flower in the same bed.
In the Threatened and Endangered Plant Garden the plum leaf azalea was in prime midsummer bloom, most beautiful. It is native to Providence Canyon State Park, and to the area of Callaway Gardens. In fact, one of the reasons for establishing Callaway was to preserve the plum leaf azalea. Don spotted a banded tussock moth caterpillar on one of the leaves. Next to these shrubs were the Florida torreya trees. This is a safeguarding site for these plants that are struggling in the wild along the Appalachicola River in Florida and near Lake Seminole in Georgia where they are found in steephead ravines. The problem is that they do not produce viable seed and only grow vegetatively in the wild. It is thought they are relicts from an earlier colder geologic age, and have been unable to move farther north. The Carolina lupine or golden banner is a plant of concern in Georgia, in fruit here today. The point of visiting this plant was to see how different the fruit was from that of the wild blue indigo we had seen earlier. The leaves of both plants are similar, but this one’s fruit is very flat, a characteristic of the Thermopsis genus and not of Baptisias which have more rounded fruit. The pink flowers of the meadow beauties stood out as we turned around to view the bog.
Moving on to the American Indian section we noted the black cohosh in fruit, its flowers long gone. On the top of the hill with the granite outcrop were several trees damaged in a recent storm. It looked like lightening had struck the main big tree. We told the story of the curators and other workers cleaning up the site after the storm. There was a wasp nest in that tree, and when they started chopping up the limbs and hauling them away, at least one of the workers was stung several times in the face, arms, and backs of the legs. Cora Keber told him to put chewing tobacco on the stings to take down the swelling. It seemed to have worked.
We now turned to walk down the Purple Trail to the Orange Trail. I thought there would not be much to see here at this time of year. What do I know? There was lots to talk about. First, was a reminder of the fuzzy, hairy, poison ivy vine on the white oak tree. Nearby was an aged, partially disintegrated chanterelle mushroom, the first of many mushrooms to be found today. Then we reviewed again how to identify the hop hornbeam (cat-scratched-like bark and doubly serrate elliptical leaves.) Further, we noted the holes the sapsucker drilled in the trunk, in circles from top to bottom of the tree. The sapsuckers eat some of the sap that seeps out, but the sap also attracts insects, who then provide more food.
Sue and Ed pointed out an invasive Chinese wisteria growing by the path up to the Heritage Garden! Someone will have to deal with that, or it will be trouble.
Don found a swarm of Carolina mantle slugs in a waterhole in the trunk of another hop hornbeam. This tree seems to be the most common understory tree in this area. We did talk about this area being a typical mesic oak-hickory-pine forest of the Piedmont. On a nearby sweetgum was a daddy longlegs. Then George caught an American toad. It quickly leaped away, and we had to be careful not to step on it.
When we stopped to talk about the huge Persimmon tree down the slope, Don found a white a coral slime mold on a rotting log at our feet.
Arriving at a big hole in the canopy of the forest, we were reminded that a huge northern red oak had come down in a storm and opened up the canopy to bring light to the forest floor. Young saplings and other plants will take advantage of the light to begin filling up the space. We stopped to view another of the twig structures put together by the artist, Chris Taylor. As we passed through the opening in the old deer fence, several mushrooms were spotted, one of which might have been a Japanese parasol. Nearby was an oak apple gall which had a big hole through which the insect had emerged. Don found a surprise lichen, greenish with black dots, which was new to me.
George was with us today, and as usual came up with great finds. He found a triangulate orb weaver to share with everyone. Ronnie found a group of puff ball mushrooms to squeeze and release the spores. From here to the river were more mushrooms and slime molds.
At the river, we joined the Orange Trail. First, however, we had to show the new comers how to distinguish the hop hornbeam tree from the musclewood tree. As we have seen the hop hornbeam was an understory all along the Purple Tree. The musclewood wants to be near water and is found by the river and streams. We have already talked about the hop hornbeam. The trunk of the musclewood tree is smooth and sinewy like muscles. Sue spotted the sapling of a silverbell tree next to the musclewood.
Tom made the find of the day by spotting a lavender bloom on the banks of the Oconee River. Don climbed down the bank to get a closer picture of it. We were able to identify it as monkey flower by viewing his photo.
From here we could see the big boulders in the river below the heath bluff where in spring we had seen the huge mass of mountain laurel.
We found the leaves of trumpet vine on the massive old river birch near the bridge. At the bridge we talked about the beaver pond. At the time the beavers were there, a University pig farm was near the headwaters of the stream. After the beavers left and their dam disintegrated, the University built a new small dam to make a sort of retention pond to purify the water before it enters the Oconee River. As we crossed the bridge Hugh noted the samara (winged seeds) on the floor of the bridge. They had come from the huge green ash trees that are the dominant canopy tree in the flood plain.
Rambling around the beaver pond, Don pointed out more black snakeroots. and Ronnie found a white avens in flower. Somewhere around this spot someone spotted a leaf footed bug on a tree root. At Ben’s bridge there were raccoon footprints in the mud. From the bridge we could see many hairy angelica plants flowering in the beaver pond area. Sue noted that they are not supposed to have their feet in water, but although damp, these plants were not in standing water. From the bridge we also observed the sensitive fern. There were no fertile fronds to show how they are distinguished from netted chain fern, although we have observed them in the past. The sensitive fern fertile frond has branches tight to the rachis (stem). The netted chain fertile frond has horizontal branches that have netted chain-like indentions in the branches. Where the trail passed next to the stream we could see minnows dashing for cover.
Our next stop was the slope where the hepaticas bloom in January, sometimes as early as January 2. Later, bloodroot also flower on this slope. Moving up the trail we stopped to admire the smoky-eyed boulder lichen.
Why is it that every time the Ramblers start along the narrow trail by the stream with no place to step aside, several runners and hikers come and want to get through? In this stretch, we noted several interesting plants: jumpseed, named for the way the achenes (seeds) jump off when touched, naked tick-trefoil, and pipsissiwa or spotted wintergreen. Almost in the water by the boulder where a side stream joins the main creek, Hugh pointed out yellowroot. It was not in bloom, but is interesting because historically the roots were used to make a yellow dye. Behind this spot Don found a green lacewing larvae on a hop hornbeam tree. On a nearby musclewood tree we noted the frizzy hook moss, that seems to grown on many of this specie of tree along the stream. Farther along there were tiny shelf mushrooms on a hop hornbeam. That tree had scars in the trunk that looked like it had been struck by lightning. Next we stopped to admire the great patch of broad beech fern.
One of the reasons that I wanted to take the Orange Trail today was to see the huge tulip tree that had fallen across the trail and stream. The amazing thing was to see the place from which it was uprooted. It had been growing on a flat rock near the middle of the stream with some of its roots going across to the far side of the stream. Crossing the stream on the bridge, we saw beech blight aphids over our heads on a branch of the large beech tree by the trail. Here Sue and Ed saw a yellow billed cuckoo.
Then Don had another great find, spotting a flowering cranefly orchid. We see its leaf all winter and part of the spring, and then it disappears. In summer it sends up a raceme of beautiful yellow-tan flowers that resemble craneflies. But the colors blend so much with the background that they are hard to see and photograph.
In this next section we often find either rattlesnake fern (winter-spring), or grape fern (summer-fall). Today we spotted a southern grape fern (Botrychium biternatum) with its fertile frond coming from near the ground. (To remember: Grape Goes to the Ground.) The fertile frond of rattlesnake ferns arises from the joint of the three vegetative fronds. Martine found a log with a dense population of the very beautiful fernleaf moss.
We stopped by the black cherry (Prunus serotina) tree by the old deer fence, so that Hugh could talk about the change in the forest. We had left the streamside habitat, but had not returned to the mesic oak hickory forest. Instead we were in a transitional forest changing from pine to hardwoods. Pines can’t grow under a canopy of pines, whereas the hardwood trees can. After agriculture the pines are first to grow, but under their canopy come the hardwood trees. From here to the end of the trail the forest is in transition. About ten yards from the end there is a spot where a large pine was broken off about 20 feet from the ground, and next to it were a number of hardwood trees growing rapidly.
Behind this spot along the trail, we found a large sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum).
Reaching the Upper Parking Lot, many retired to Donderos for snacks and conversation.