Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ramble Report July 30 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.

Sixteen Ramblers were with us today.

Today's Reading: Rosemary read a poem by Chief Dan George:

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flower,
speaks to me.
The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.
And my heart soars."
-- Chief Dan George
Then Hugh read another paragraph from Simon Barnes, How to be Wild, page 60:

Many nature-writers give the impression that they know the voices of birds, or the names of the trees and the flowers, by, as it were, nature.  It creates the impression that there are two types of being:  those that can interpret birdsong and otherwise understand nature, and those that can’t.  But that’s a nonsense.  Any skill can be acquired.  Its’s wanting to that matters:  it’s the desire to listen, to see that you need:  and we are all born with that.  It’s called being wild

Today’s route was first down through the Shade Garden on the paved path to the Dunson Native Flora Garden.  Then we wound our way through the Dunson Garden to the wetlands.  At the power line right-of-way we turned uphill to ramble through the Elaine Nash Prairie, then through the  prairie to the fence at the top of the hill. From there we walked along the fence to the White Trail and returned to the Shade Garden and the Arbor.
Pandorus sphinx moth

The very first encounter was before we ever started. Tom brought a box with a moth he found on his driveway. It had been attacked and eaten by ants.  The colors, however, were still bright. [dh: The moth is a Pandorus sphinx moth (Eumorpha pandorus); the caterpillar feeds on grape and Virginia creeper. The "sphinx" in the name refers to the behavior of the caterpillar: when disturbed it rears up and assumes the shape of the Egyptian sphinx monument.]
Lenten rose black death

Bye bye beetle
Our actual first stop on the ramble was to observe the devastation of the lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis).  Recently they have been attacked and killed by Helleborus black death, a disease that is carried by an aphid.  If you look this up on the web, there is a story about it on the Royal Horticultural Society’s web page that suggests that this is something that has come about recently.  Then Rosemary spotted an orb weaver spider who had caught a beetle in her web and was working to paralyze it and wrap it up.

As we entered the Dunson Native Flora Garden we talked about the blooming plumleaf azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium).  It is a threatened plant that grows in Providence Canyon State Park and in Callaway Gardens.  In fact Callaway was first created in order to preserve this plant.  It is unusual because, unlike other azaleas, it blooms in summer rather than spring.  Nearby along the path were Christmas ferns and Southern Lady Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides and Athyrium asplenioides).  Then we found our first spider lily.
Spider lily
We stopped to talk about the upcoming Bot Soc field trip to Hard Labor Creek to see many of these lilies in the woods along a bicycle path.  It will be this Saturday at 9 AM meeting at the Visitor Center of the Park.

Hugh was surprised to see that the two rattlesnake plantain orchids (Goodyera pubescens) that he had seen in bloom last week near a corner of the path by a tree stump were totally gone: no leaves, no flower stems, nothing left.

Our next stop was to talk about the sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) and how you tell the difference from the netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolatas).  One needs to compare the fertile frond.  On sensitive fern the branches are tight up against the stem of the fertile frond, whereas that of netted chain fern has widely spaced horizontal branches with oblong chainlike rows of sori.
Elephant foot
A mass of blooming elephant’s foot (Elephantopus tomentosus) greeted us next.  It has large basal leaves flat to the ground and few if any stem leaves.  A related species, leafy elephant’s foot (Elephantopus carolinianus) has few or no basal leaves and a leafy stem.  The flowers of both are disc flowers.  Nearby was our first find of the crane fly orchid this year.  We talked about our having seen the leaves all winter as a rosette.  In the spring the leaves disappear, and in July, sometimes, the stem pops up with a raceme of lovely tan and yellow petals.  They are hard to see since they blend in so well with the background.  We were to find several more patches today later on the White Trail on our return.
Cranefly orchid

Turning the corner to cross the dry wash, we first found the leaves of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), which is a calcium loving plant found on Pigeon Mountain in the northwest section of Georgia near the Blue Hole.  The Blue Hole is on the opposite side of the mountain from the Pocket, where a gorgeous display of wildflowers is found the last week of March. This plant is used medicinally as an antibiotic, antiseptic, and immune-system stimulant. Next to it was the last of the spider lilies to be found today.  Interestingly, this was the first place that they were planted, and now they are spread back along the walk we have come.  I think it happened on its own; I do not think the curator moved it elsewhere.

Since we had a new participant, we stopped to show how the leatherwood plant got its name.  Moving right along, Sue called our attention to a beautiful bed of ferns.  There is a fun way to remember how to identify this plant.  The leaflets taper to a smaller size at both ends of the rachis.  So, since people in Manhattan, New York, are said to burn their candles at both ends, hence New York fern.
Swamp mallow
At the wetlands we spotted some new flowers that have been planted.  One was the cardinal flower, another was the great blue lobelia.  Those were blooming, but the yellow trumpet (Saracenia flava) was not.   Under a juniper tree, many spotted red and green berries.  Did they come off the tree?  Were they mushrooms?  No, they were berries from a muscadine vine (Vitis rotundifolia) high in the tree.  Working our way around the wetlands we talked about the rattlesnake master and Virginia spiderwort there.  By the sign there was another cardinal flower.  But in profusion were the blooms of the swamp mallows (Hibiscus moscheutos and Hibiiscus laevis).  Along the fence was scarlet rose mallow.  In the bed behind us was the blooming spotted horsemint (Monarda punctata) with many pollinators.  Before leaving the wetlands we looked at the horsetails, a very ancient plant.
Spotted horsemint

Redtail hawk
Crossing the road we puzzled over the flowers of a trumpet vine, deciding that they were just starting to bloom and were not their full red color yet.  From here we crossed the power line right-of-way to view the two trees with masses of blooming trumpet vine.  This is a favorite of hummingbirds, and sure enough Avis saw several.  They were so fast that some of us did not get to see them.  Sue noted that the vines were mixed with those of poison ivy.  Eleanor wanted to know what the bird was on a tree behind the ones with the trumpet vines.  She had found a redtail hawk that perched while we were there and patiently waited for his portrait to be photographed.
Bitterweed (Helenium amarum)
Rambling up the hill to the Elaine Nash Prairie we passed some royal paulownia trees.  The Garden employees had chopped a big one down, and here were two or three popping up again.  We also passed the bee hives and talked about these being cared for by bee keepers not employed by the Garden.  Nonetheless, the honey from them is sold in the Gift Shop.  As we got into the shade we found a blooming coffee weed, or sicklepod.  In the middle of the trail was a large patch of bitterweed.  Crawling along the ground in the grass beside the trail was Virginia buttonweed with white four-petalled flowers. 
Ailanthus webworm moth

Scoliid wasp

Solitary wasp

St. Peterswort
10 ailanthus webworm, 11 scoliid wasp, 12 solitary wasp.  13 st. peterswort
Entering the Prairie area, we first found low in the grasses a wild petunia still in bloom. As we gathered around the mountain mints that were being pollinated by wasps, Sue wanted to know what an unusual vine was with pink flowers and three leaves.  It was the hairy milk pea.  But something moved—it was a mature praying mantis. There were a number of Ailanthus webworm moths with red and white stripes.  As we explored the mountain mints they were covered with wasps with Army captain’s bars in yellow, or if you prefer, Navy lieutenant’s bars. These were double banded scoliid wasps.  Also crowding these plants were various paper wasps.  In amongst these plants and grasses was sensitive brier, which looks like a small mimosa tree.  If you run fingers along the leaves they fold up, which is also what they do at night.  Hence the name sensitive brier. We also spotted a low growing St. Peterswort with its four petals crossed like a St. Andrews Cross.

Moving right along, Carolina desert chicory, was seen among the grasses infrequently. Yes, and there was another Elephant’s foot.  But nearby was whorled coreopsis.  It looks small, but the whorled leaves around the stem can be found if you part the surrounding grasses.  In the path was a miniscule white flower identified by Don as juniperleaf.  On the edge of the path was Carolina horse nettle, which gave us a chance to talk about the solanum family (potatoes and tomatoes), and the fact that this plant is poisonous.  We also noted that it seems to grow along trails used by horses.

At the top of the path to the fence it is much drier. Here lichens and other plants that one would find on rock outcrops grow.  Here was the Dixie reindeer lichen which is greenish compared to the more whitish reindeer lichen.  Also the Dixie reindeer lichen forks in pairs, whereas the forks on the regular reindeer lichen tend to be in threes or more.  Another plant here is pineweed, which is common on outcrops.  There was a mystery plant in this area that I have been able to identify as goldenaster (Heterotheca lancifolia).

We walked along the fence toward the White Trail.  Along the way we stopped to talk about the muscadine vine all over the ground.  Here it does not bloom or fruit.  It needs to be high up for enough light to do so.  Sometimes you will find it at ground level blooming and fruiting, but it is where it gets enough light.

As we turned left on the White Trail to return to the Arbor, Hugh reminded everyone that we were now on part of a specially marked tree trail.  The sweet gum was the first tree to identify with its star shaped leaves.  Next was the cat scratched bark of the hophornbeam with its double serrate leaves.  Even though the large black cherry tree was dead, we could still talk about the bark of older black cherry trees being like burnt potato chips.  We talked about the ski slopes on northern red oaks, and that scarlet oaks have similar but broader bands on the bark, although I personally have not found this reliable.  I need to look at the leaves with their deeper incisions.  Older white oaks have looser bark, sometimes almost like shagbark.  Jack found a beautiful oyster mushroom on a downed tree.  The last stop among the trees on the White Trail was to discuss the difference in bark of the mockernut and pignut hickory trees.  In the Garden natural areas, one forester has classified a swarm of pignut hybrids.

Crossing the power line right of way, we found the purpletop vervain that we have seen for several weeks.  It was still in bloom.  Passing the bottlebrush buckeye we commented on the scarcity of buckeyes.

From here it was time to move quickly through the Shade Garden and return to the Arbor.  Many of us retired to Donderos to cool off and snack.


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