Monday, September 28, 2015

Ramble Report September 24 2015



Ramble Report September 24 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-seven ramblers arrived.

Today's reading: Lee Boyle read about how to protect sheep from wolves from a 1753 news report from New England.
:
BOSTON, August 27.             ~
We are credibly informed, that of late there have been several hundred Sheep killed by Wolves, Cat-a-mounts, or other ravenous Creatures, in the Fields or Commons belonging to Lyn, Salem, &c. that Numbers of armed Men have been out in the Woods in quest of them, who have killed two or three young Wolves; and we hear, that a whole Regiment of Men propose to go out this Day to range the Woods and other Places where likely those voracious Creatures may hide themselves.
To preserve your Sheep from the Wolves, mix some Tar and Gun powder together, then dawb the Rump and Neck of your Sheep with it, and the Wolves will never touch them. This Method has been practiced for many Years by a Gentleman in one of our Frontier Towns, who, never since he began the Practice, has had one Sheep killed by the Wolves.
The Pennsylvania Gazette, September 6, 1753.

Our route today was through the Shade Garden to the White Trail and out to the power line right-of way and the Elaine Nash Prairie.

Linda Chafin joined us today to help us with the grasses in the Elaine Nash Prairie. As we walked through the Shade Garden we made two stops. The first was to note the newly blooming toad lily (Tricyrtis sp.), which is a beautiful and intricate flower originally found from the Himalayas to the Philippines. In the Garden it is planted in the Shade Garden and in the Asian section of the International Garden.

The second stop was to read the new sign on laurel wilt, a deadly fungus that has devastated the red bay (Persea borbonia) in the Coastal Plain. Red bay does not grow in this area and is not in the Garden, but sassafras (Sassafras albidum) which does grow in this area is a member of the Laurel family. So far it does not seem to be affected.

Crossing the Service Road, we walked up the White Trail. Right away we stopped for a discussion of several plants. Three plant types, sedges, rushes, and grasses are often lumped together as graminoids, which means “like grasses.” Linda explained the saying, “Sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have nodes all the way to the ground.” Though grass stems are round, they can be distinguished from rushes by their solid nodes.
Fragrant flatsedge
She demonstrated the edges of a sedge with the triangular stem of the flatsedge (Cyperus sp.), and compared it to the round stem of the purpletop grass (Tridens flavus) next to it with nodes all the way to the ground. The purpletop is also called greasy grass because of the greasy or waxy feel of the flower head when you pull it through your hand. Gary pulled some of the invasive Microstegium or stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum). It is extremely invasive and grows in the shade of the forest, threatening the wildflowers we love to look for on the forest floor. Linda pointed out its alternate, flat blades with midveins that are silvery in color and slightly off-center. The roots are very shallow so this plant is easy to pull up. She recommended pulling it up wherever you see it. If in doubt, pull it up because nothing rare looks like it. Hugh pointed out that it is a favorite haunt of wolf spiders, which bite, so you want to be careful. Hidden behind the sedge was another grass, bigtop love grass (Eragrostis hirsuta). The hairy part is at the node just below the inflorescence.

As we walked further up the trail more grasses were found. One was splitbeard (Andropogon ternarius). It has a stem with alternating red and green sections. The green
Alternating red and green stem sections

sections are the leaf sheaths that hug the stem before the leaf blade parts from the stem; the red section is the stem itself. The flower is split into two white tufts. It was nice of nature to show us nearby a little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) that had the same alternate colors on the stem, except that the green was not a yellowish-green, but a very distinctive blue-green. The flower part is not split and is not hugged by spathes. Next we found a broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus). It had a green stem, no alternating red parts, and the flower cluster was tightly gripped by the surrounding spathes.
Foxtail grass
Rosemary pointed out a foxtail grass nearby with a stiff, bristly flower cluster  (Setaria sp.).

Blue curls 
Grass questions were in abeyance for a moment while we admired the many blue curls blooming along the trail. Several weeks ago only one plant was found, but today we found almost a half dozen. When you look closely you can see the curling stamens coming out of the upper lip of the flower. The opposite leaves and four-sided stem reveal that it is in the mint family.

As we came to more grasses we repeated again the characteristics of the purpletop, splitbeard, and little bluestem, which seemed to be the most common three grasses where we were. As we looked down the slope to the service road at the bottom of the hill, Linda talked about a recent grant that the Mimsie Lanier Center received to convert this area to more prairie to add to the Elaine Nash Prairie. The biggest problem here is to get rid of the Bermuda grass. The Power Company has agreed to let them do prescribed burns from time to time to enhance the growth of the prairie. Heather is now propagating prairie plants at the Mimsie Lanier Center. Will she be selling some at the up-coming sales in the first two weeks of October? Yes, she will. 

Turning around and looking uphill at the Elaine Nash Prairie, one could see what the change might look like. The view was a stunning grass prairie, not totally natural, but with some management to make the grasses dominant.

Western camphorweed (a goldenaster)
Just before we turned up the hill there was a goldenaster (Heterotheca latifolia) that is sometimes called western camphorweed, not to be confused with the Pluchea camphorata, which is also called camphorweed. We pulled a couple of leaves to see if we could smell the fragrance. Yes, we did, but some suggested it was more pleasant than the very strong camphor fragrance of the Pluchea.

In amongst the grasses going up the hill, Rosemary found a Carolina desert chicory (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus), with its distinctive pale yellow flowers which we have been seeing all summer.

Silver plume grass
Linda found a big patch of bigtop love grass, but then called our attention to silver plume grass, which used to be called Erianthus alopecuroides, was changed to Saccharum alopecuroidum, and Weakly just recently returned it to Erianthus. All of this suggests that we should be slow about changing names because scientists may decide to return to the original one. Linda pointed out that the leaves of the plant look like those of Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), which is an invasive thug. The difference between the two is that plume grass has hairs going up the leaf from the node, whereas Johnson grass has only a row of stiff hairs along the bend in the leaf at the node (the ligule). If they are in flower they are easy to tell apart because the Johnson grass has a denser inflorescence on a shorter stem than the tall graceful plumes of plume grass.

Nearby was one of Linda’s favorite grasses, Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans). The flower head was bronze to golden-brown and shining. The tips were nodding and the hairy lanceolate spikelets were tipped with thread-like twisted awns that we could see with a hand lens when Linda passed a sample around. Another grass Linda found here was Virginia wild rye grass (Elymus virginianus), which gave her a chance to talk about warm season grasses and cool season grasses. This wild rye is a cool season grass that grew in late winter and early spring then flowered in the late spring and is now finished for the year. Most all of the other grasses we found today were warm season grasses that grow in the summer and bloom in late summer to early fall.

Someone pointed out a big patch of leaves that almost did not seem to be a grass, but it was. It was from the genus Dichanthelium. Not sure about the species. But it is interesting because this grass flowers twice: once in the spring, and once in the fall.  Linda showed us the dried spike from the spring flowers, and the flowers in bunches among the leaves here in the fall. Not many grasses do this, and you might think it very aggressive since it flowers twice and is around all year, but it does not seem to be aggressive.

Rosemary discovered low in the grasses a creeping Lespedeza, either L. repens or L. procumbens.

Beaked panic grass
At this point, it was time to return to the Arbor, but Linda wanted to show one more grass. Several yards further on it appeared as requested. It was beaked panic grass (Panicum anceps). The beak refers to the projection on the outer husk of the flower.

We returned to the Arbor, and many went on to Donderos for snacks and conversation.

Hugh

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:
Fragrant flat sedge
Cyperus odoratus
Big top love grass
Eragrostis hirsuta
Purple top or greasy grass
Tridens flavus
Split beard bluestem
Andropogon ternarius
Foxtail grass
Setaria sp.
River oats
Chasmanthium latifolium
Forked blue curls
Trichostema dichotomum
Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium
Broomsedge
Andropogon virginicus
Golden aster
Heterotheca latifolia
Crab spider
Family Thomisidae
Silvery checkerspot caterpillar
Chlosyne nycteis
Silver Plume grass
Saccharum alopecuroidum
Indian grass
Sorghastrum nutans
Asian multicolored lady beetle?
Harmonia axyridis?
Red-banded hairstreak
Calycopis cecrops
Virginia wild rye
Elymus virginicus
Witch grass
Dicanthelium sp.
Creeping lespedeza/Creeping bush clover
Lespedeza repens or
Lespedeza procumbens
Beaked panic grass
Panicum anceps
Yellow-necked caterpillar
Datana ministra


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