Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ramble Report July 9 2015

Today's report was written by Hugh Nourse. You can see all the photos Don Hunter took of today's Ramble here.

Sixteen Ramblers met at the Arbor at 8 AM.  First Hugh read a poem from Mary Oliver called “The Summer Day.”
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Our ramble today was through the Shade Garden on the paved path to the service road, across the service road on the White Trail to the power line right-of-way.  There we went up through the Elaine Nash Prairie to the fence at the top of the hill. From there, left along the fence to the White Trail to connect up with the Short Tree Trail that follows the service road to the Green Trail. We turned left on the Green Trail, which intersects the White Trail, which we took back to the Shade Garden.  We then walked back up the paved path through the Shade Garden to the Arbor.
            In the Shade Garden, we stopped to see that the black cohosh that had bloomed earlier was now in fruit.  Next we looked at the pin galls on the American witch hazel.  They had turned black and one could see the exit holes of the insects on the back side of the leaf.  Apparently, native insects do not bother the oriental witch hazel across the path because it did not have any galls.  Virginia sweet spire was a massive bush in full bloom.  There were bumble bees still on the blooms where they had spent the night.  After it heats up they will be gone.
            Across the road and up the White Trail, we stopped to see river oats (Avis’s fish on a pole).  Next was the fruit of a hawthorne (I believe it was Crateagus uniflora). A very small sapling of winged elm enabled us to view the corky flanges (wings) on the branches which give it its name.  A number of wild petunias were in full bloom.  So was a small beautyberry bush. Avis found a few perfect flowers among the many imperfect ones on the buckeye shrubs. Later we looked at a buckeye shrub that was developing seed—the buckeyes—and noted how few buckeyes there were compared to the many florets on the bush.  Only perfect flowers yield buckeyes and most of the florets are only male flowers.  Tom spotted a Mississippi kite in the top of the sycamore tree.  As we observed him or her (?), it flew away, but went in a big circle and returned to the same spot.  We did identify a northern red oak sapling.  The hophornbeam was still showing its seeds, but now most were turning brown.
            Up the two-rut road through the Elaine Nash Prairie we found many blooming plants and insects. There was the Carolina desert chicory, which we saw two weeks ago, still  blooming. Horse nettle, bitterweed, field thistle, and common mullein were all in flower.  Don found a leaf footed bug, and nearby were the reddish leaves of the beefsteak plant.  Also nearby was a small sensitive brier, but across the rutty road was a huge patch of it to consider.  Below was heal-all, which some were surprised was not native.  We talked about the whitish leaves and bracts of mountain mint. The white actually comes from whitish hairs covering them.  Wild bergamot continues to bloom, although it was beginning to look ragged and many petals were gone.
            Sue wondered what a particular yellow composite was.  She thought it was a whorled coreopsis, but it looked too small to me.  She was right though; we looked up its characteristics in our field guide and they matched the plant in front of us.  More species of yellow composites are coming into bloom now.  Later we found a hairy sunflower, near a flowering rabbit tobacco.  And next to the sunflower was a whorled rosinweed.  It was neat to see the difference in color since they were so close together.  Rosinweed is a much paler yellow and its bracts are rounded, while the bracts of the sunflower are pointed and even reflexed.  The latter is also very hairy on stems and leaves.
            Don found a common agrimony.  Many bumble bees were visiting the wild bergamots. Bees, butterflies, and grasshoppers were beginning to move about.  We think the butterfly was silvery checkerspot.  The plume grass flowers were gone leaving only a woody like stalk where the flower had been.  Surprisingly, summer bluets were still blooming. Off the trail Avis discovered a nice patch of bracken fern.  In the same spot, Don found a juniper leaf.  As we got toward the top of the hill we found deer prints in the mud.  This part of the area is usually very dry and sunny, so that many plants and lichens that are found on granitic outcrops are also found here:  Dixie reindeer lichen, pixie cups, British soldiers, and pineweed.
            Turning left at the fence we worked our way along the fence to the White Trail and to the service road which is at this point part of the short tree trail.  Someone pointed out some short trees!?!  This road runs along a xeric (dry) ridge, so the trees we found belong to that habitat:  winged elm, sweetgum, scarlet oak, northern red oak, white oak, hop hornbeam, post oak, southern red oak, and black gum.  Much time was spent showing the difference in leaves between the various oaks.  We divided them into white and red oaks first, the latter having points on the tips of the lobes of leaves.  The scarlet oak leaves have much deeper sinuses between points than northern red oaks, and the southern red oak leaf is scythe like.  If you hold the leaf so the stem is at the top it looks like a bell.  The horizontal branches of the black gum were very distinctive and diagnostic.  Along the way we almost ran into a spiny orb weaver’s web.  Nearby was a muscadine vine that was bearing fruit high up on a tree branch.  Muscadine is all over the ground, but rarely blooms or provides fruit there.  Only when it gets higher does it flower and fruit.  We expected to find sparkleberry bushes here, but found only  highbush blueberry .
            Going left on the Green Trail it was delightful to see the dancing ballerinas (beech aphids) on a beech tree.  We have not seen any since last year.  While we were at the beech tree, we talked about the thin bark and shallow root system of these trees.  As a result they are very sensitive to fires.  Since wild fires are suppressed nowadays, beech trees have become more numerous.   Tom found a stinkhorn mushroom.  At one of the water dips recently dug in the trail, Don stopped to tell how they should be done.  He helped Walter Cook put these in last Tuesday.  They worked from 9 to 4!  How did they do it in this heat?  We stopped to admire a shagbark hickory (Carya ovata). Don also pointed out the free-growing mycelium at the bottom of a tree.  "Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro, especially within the fairy ring fungi. Fungal colonies composed of mycelium are found in and on soil and many other substrates."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycelium Nearby was a red mulberry tree sapling. Farther on was a beautiful fresh Japanese parasol mushroom.  Before leaving the trail someone spotted a blooming elephant’s foot.
            Back under the power line right-of-way. Don also pointed out purpletop vervain.
            It was now getting very warm and time to return to the Arbor and to Donderos for drinks and refreshment.


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