Friday, August 28, 2015

Ramble Report August 27 2015

Today's report was written by Hugh Nourse. 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

Twenty-four ramblers met at the Arbor at 8:00AM on a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-60s.  Martha shared a photo from the NY Times Magazine with the title, “Nature does nothing in vain.”  Rosemary shared a reading from Elizabeth Gilbert, “The Signature of All Things,”  which was about mosses but you could hardly guess until the end what she was discussing.  Fun.


  1. Next week's ramble will start at 8:30AM!
  2. Sandy Creek Nature Center will resume their monthly guided trail walks in September. The walks begin at 9:00AM on the first Wednesday of the month; meet at the Visitor Center. The first walk will be on September 2 and will be led by Sandy Creek's expert naturalist Carmen Champaign.

Today's reading: Rosemary read from The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert:

Alma put the magnifying lens to her eye and looked again. Now the miniature forest below her gaze sprang into majestic detail. She felt her breath catch. This was a stupefying kingdom. This was the Amazon jungle as seen from the back of a harpy eagle. She rode her eye above the surprising landscape, following its paths in every direction. Here were rich, abundant valleys filled with tiny trees of braided mermaid hair and minuscule, tangled vines. Here were barely visible tributaries running through that jungle, and here was a miniature ocean in a depression in the center of the boulder, where all the water pooled.
Just across this ocean – which was half the size of Alma's shawl – she found another continent of moss altogether. On this new continent, everything was different. This corner of the boulder must receive more sunlight than the other, she surmised. Or slightly less rain? In any case, this was a new climate entirely. Here, the moss grew in mountain ranges the length of Alma's arms, in elegant, pine tree-shaped clusters of darker, more somber green. On another quadrant of the same boulder still, she found patches of infinitesimally small deserts, inhabited by some kind of sturdy, dry, flaking moss that had the appearance of cactus. Elsewhere, she found deep, diminutive fjords – so deep that, incredibly, even now in the month of June – the mosses within were still chilled by lingering traces of winter ice. But she also found warm estuaries, miniature cathedrals, and limestone caves the size of her thumb.
Then Alma lifted her face and saw what was before her – dozens more such boulders, more than she could count, each one similarly carpeted, each one subtly different. She felt herself growing breathless. This was the entire world. This was bigger than a world. This was the firmament of the universe, as seen through one of William Herschel's mighty telescopes. This was planetary and vast. These were ancient, unexplored galaxies, rolling forth in front of her – and it was all right here!

Today's route was through the Shade Garden and the White Trail to the Dunson Native Flora Garden, through the Dunson Garden and then the power line right-of-way down to the river.  At the river we took the White Trail to the first bridge, turned around and followed the river in the other direction on the Orange Trail for a very short distance beyond the Orange Trail Spur, then returned to the parking lot via the Orange Trail Spur and White Trail.

There were lots of mushrooms today, way beyond our ability to identify. In the Shade Garden we found a white one that was probably one of the amanitas.  There was a red capped one pushing through the leaf litter.

In the Dunson Native Flora Garden we first stopped to look at a crane fly orchid with seed pods on its stem. We reminded everyone that this common orchid is found in every county in Georgia.  The next stop was a nice patch of Allegheny spurge, which I have never seen in bloom here.  Do not know why. Perhaps I never get there early enough in the spring.  We then saw the broad beech ferns and again described how to identify it.  It has winged stems
Netted chain fern fertile frond
and the last two leaflets bend back toward the base. Nearby was the netted chain fern that still had its characteristic fertile frond with lateral branches like a tree. The sori (spore capsules) on its branches are arranged like a netted chain.

We stopped at the royal ferns and pointed out their wetland habitat.  Near Track Rock Gap it grows in a wetland with brilliant red cardinal flowers.  As I stepped off the trail to point out the fern, my foot landed near an American toad that leaped away.  Conveniently, it stopped where Don and Rosemary could take its portrait.

At the wetland at the end of the Dunson Garden, we stopped for the still-blooming cardinal flowers and great blue lobelias, whose scientific name (Lobelia syphilitca) suggests that it was used to treat syphilis.  Also in the wetland was a pitcher plant, probably the yellow trumpet.  Along the path where we stopped to see these flowers, we could also see the buckeyes on the painted buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica) growing there.  The rattlesnake master was still going strong.    A new
Saltmarsh mallow
plant in bloom this week was the saltmarsh mallow, a small beautiful pink-flowered member of the mallow family.  The swamp mallows were still in bloom, as were the horsemints (Monarda punctata).  We also sniffed the characteristic camphor odor of our first camphorweed for today.  We would find more along the Orange Trail along the River.

A big surprise - some new fence posts marching up the hill at the end of the Dunson Garden. They are extending the deer fence from the International Garden to the Callaway Building and then from the other end of the Callaway building down the slope to the end of the Dunson Garden. This will connect to the fence already built along the road beside the Dunson Garden, enclosing more of the gardens.  Here Martha pointed out a huge sourwood that one could see still had the faded finger-like stems that once held its blooms.

On the power line right-of-way our first find was the very tall yellow common evening primrose. Just below it was the first of several sightings of invasive sweet autumn clematis.  As we walked along we reviewed the three wingstems:  Verbesina alternifolia, V. occidentalis, and V. virginica.  Two were present here, and the third was found farther along.  The V. alternifolia, of course, has alternate leaves, and has yellow flowers.  V.
White crownbeard
has opposite leaves and a yellow flower.  V. virginica has alternate leaves and a white flower.  The flowers on all three look rather incomplete because they have sparse ray flowers.  V. virginica (white flower) is called white crownbeard or frost flower because with the first hard frost the sap freezes and oozes out of the stem forming beautiful frost flowers.

Rosemary found mating Eastern leaf footed bugs on a dried out thistle flower.  Below it was the Carolina horse nettle we had seen in previous weeks.  Also there were still many blooming Maryland or wild sennas, as well as many late flowering
thoroughworts.  The tall ironweeds were a gorgeous deep purple, and they were tall!  Pokeweed was mostly in fruit.  There were still quite a few field thistles.  Someone found a Silvery checkerspot butterfly.

At the old deer fence a small red morning glory was climbing on a gatepost.  A caterpillar of the Cloudless sulfur (Phoebia
Cloudless sulfur caterpillar
) was found on the wild senna.  And once again we found the delightful passion vine.  Its other common name is maypop.  Sure enough we also found the fruit, maypops, on the vine.  Next to it was mild water pepper that we found in the same place last year.  Looking
Passionflower (AKA Maypop)
around we could see quite a few apical galls on the goldenrods.  For the last two weeks we have identified the wild potato, Ipomoea pondurata.  We remembered that its root was really used as a potato. The roots can be up to 30 pounds and four feet long.

At the bridge we again saw jewelweed and more goldenrod.  But this time a new flower was in bloom, groundnut.  On the other side of the bridge was bur cucumber and a vine with small green fruits that we finally decided was coral bead. The fruit will turn red later.  We recalled that crushed jewelweed leaves can help relieve the itch of poison ivy.

The next stretch of the ramble was on the Orange Trail along the river where Thomas Peters has removed the privet.  Emily picked up a grey toad. Nearby was more white crownbeard, and also river oats.  We noted the huge privet, so big that Thomas Peters could not cut through it with his hand saw and girdled it instead, plus using a type of Round-Up that would not hurt the amphibians in the area.

Vegetation here is thick where the sun hits the soil, and sparse where it is shaded by the
Leafy Elephant's foot
canopy and sub-canopy of trees.  Right beside the path was a lot of leafy elephants foot.  We talked about the difference between this plant and its relative in drier areas, elephants foot.  The later has a basal rosette of large leaves usually flat on the ground and has few and small leaves on the stem, whereas the leafy elephants foot usually has no basal leaves and lots of leaves on the stem.  The flowers are similar disc flowers.  Found more mushrooms, and common wood sorrel that was in bloom but not yet open at this hour of the morning.  The fireweed or pilewort was really tall.  There is a different fireweed out west and up north, Epilobium
Fireweed (AKA Pilewort)
, that has beautiful racemes of pink flowers.  The pilewort has an indistinct yellow flower barely showing above the calyx.  The fruit is an achene attached to a bright white pappus that carries the seed on the wind.  This feature gives it the name pilewort.  We were able to see this plant in all stages of growth.

Right away we started seeing a grass with a white stripe down its leaf.  This could be either Saccharum alopecuroides (Silver plume grass) or Sorghum halepense (Johnson grass).  Silver Plume grass is great, but Johnson grass is a thug.  “A single mature plant can produce over 80,000 seeds and 200 feet of rhizomes.” [Tennessee Field Guide. p402]  Linda explained that the difference is in the hairs at the base of the leaf.  Johnson grass has a small line of bristles, whereas plume grass has soft hairs that start at the base and go up the leaf a way.  The first plants we saw did not seem to show hairs at all, but we soon found some that showed the line of bristles.  Most were on the Orange Trail just past the junction with the Orange Spur Trail.

Other plants coming up after privet removal were smart weed, Indian heliotrope, a false nut sedge, and more camphor weed.  Some ramblers did not like the fragrance of the camphor weed, but I think of it as pleasant.

Bur cucumber was crawling over everything, almost like
Bur Cucumber tendrils
Kudzu.  We noted that this particular species has branched tendrils which may give it even more power to spread over the piles of cut down privet.  Rosemary spotted a red headed bush cricket.  Dog fennel was beginning to show up here. 

Bark beetle tunnels
We stopped to look at the bark beetle trails on the dead green ash.  Nearby Don spotted a carpenter bee on a late flowering thoroughwort.  Catherine saw a number of bees on another of the thoroughworts.  Don sampled the young stems of a catbrier or saw greenbrier.  He had heard that they were tasty.  They were.  So a group gathered to sample the young shoots.

We started back along the Orange Spur.  At the junction there were a number of vines on the huge tree there.  One was a cross-vine.  Just before leaving the flood plain we found a
Ebony spleenwort fertile frond
patch of false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica).  There were slime molds to photograph.  Along the path on the bluff we found a number of ebony spleenworts.  Sandra asked me where the fertile frond was. I did not remember ever seeing such a thing. Well right in front of us we turned over the pinnae of an ebony spleenwort, and there were sori on the back sides.  They were elongate on each side of the mid-veins of the pinnae. The fertile frond is longer than the sterile fronds.

Our last finds were more mushrooms.  These were yellow/red capped.

After making it back to the Lower Parking Lot we dispersed, with many heading to Donderos as usual for snacks and conversation.



Cranefly orchid
Tipularia discolor
Allegheny spurge
Pachysandra procumbens
Broad beech fern
Phegopteris hexagonoptera
Netted chain fern
Woodwardia areolata
Royal fern
Osmunda regalis
American toad
Anaxyrus americanus
Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis
Great blue lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica
Aesculus sp.
Green pitcher plant
Sarracenia oreophila
Virginia saltmarsh mallow
Kosteletzkya virginica
Camphor weed
Pluchea camphorata
Rattlesnake master
Eryngium yuccifolium
Oxydendrum arboreum
Common evening primrose
Oenothera biennis
Sweet autumn clematis
Clematis terniflora
Verbesina alternifolia
Yellow crownbeard
Verbesina occidentalis
Eastern leaf-footed bug
Leptoglossus phyllopus
Carolina horsenettle
Solanum carolinense
Maryland senna
Senna marilandica
Late flowering thoroughwort
Eupatorium serotinum
Tall ironweed
Vernonia gigantea
American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana
Field thistle
Cirsium discolor
Silvery checkerspot
Chlosyne nycteis
White crownbeard
Verbesina virginica
Red morning glory
Ipomoea coccinea
Cloudless sulfur
Phoebis sennae
Passiflora incarnata
Mild water pepper
Polygonum hydropiperoides
Small white morning glory
Ipomoea lacunosa
Impatiens capensis
Apios americana
Bur cucumber
Sicyos angulatus
Tall goldenrod
Solidago altissima
Coral bead
Cocculus carolinus
River oats
Chasmanthium latifolium
Ligustrum sp.
Leafy elephants foot
Elephantopus carolinianus
Common yellow wood sorrel
Oxalis stricta
Pilewort fireweed
Erechtites hieracifolius
Pennsylvania smartweed
Polygonum pensylvanicum
False nutsedge
Cyperus strigosus
Red headed bush cricket
Phyllopalpus pulchellus
Indian heliotrope
Heliotropium indicum
Carpenter bee
Xylocopa virginica
Dog fennel
Eupatorium capillifolium
Virginia day flower
Commelina virginica
Saw greenbrier
Smilax bona-nox
Silver plume grass??
Saccharum alo????
Johnson grass
Sorghum halepense
Bignonia capreolata
Ebony spleenwort
Asplenium platyneuron
White finger slime mold
Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa
Variety of other mushrooms
  No IDs

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