Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ramble Report October 29 2015

Today's report was written by Dale Hoyt. Most of 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.

Today's reading was the entry for October 31 in An Almanac for Moderns by Donald Culross Peattie:

"And what have you been doing all summer," asked the ant, "that you have nothing to eat now? Dancing and singing, master cricket? Well, then, you may go hungry."

So, in many versions, from Aesop through La Fontaine to Walt Disney, runs the old fable, though sometimes its culprit is master grasshopper, and sometimes the cicada. Let us call it the cricket, and pause not so long over the natural history involved in the story (though that is as badly muddled as might be) as upon the moral it has the pretension to advance.

In the first place crickets do not all die with the coming of winter; many pass the inclement season snug in my basement woodpile. In the second place, . . . Maeterlinck insists that there is no animal in the world so generous as the ant, who feeds not only her sisters but several hundreds of other insect species, guests in her house.

But allow the poets their license. It is the moral that I do not like, the self-satisfied little lecture with which the ant of the fable accompanies its stinginess. Were a cricket even as the fable represents it, it is plain that he and the cicada and the grasshopper are artists and entertainers, and the ant of the moral seems to be a banker refusing a loan upon grounds, not of insufficient security, but of the superior morality of being rich, the infamy of poverty.

Today's route: Down the cement walkway through the shade garden to the White trail, across the power line and into the woods. We followed the White trail to the second junction with the Red trail, then backtracked to the first junction with the Red trail and took the Red trail to its lower junction with the White trail, near the shelter. From there we took the Green trail back to the White trail and returned to the parking lot.

At the Arbor: Ginkgo leaves change from green to yellow in a unique way. The leaves have parallel veins that run from the base of the blade to the outer edge of the fan-shaped leaf. The color change starts closest to the petiole (the leaf stem) and gradually works its way out to the edge of the leaf. Many of the leaves on the Ginkgos today are half and half: half green at the periphery and half yellow at the base. This pattern is quite different from the other trees in North America. Their color change starts at the outer edge and works its way to the interior of the blade in an irregular manner. Perhaps this is due to the difference in venation; Ginkgos have parallel veins and most of our native trees have netted veins. You can verify this for yourself if you study the color of the same leaf every day for a week. Take pictures and share them with us! I've included some photos of leaves from my neighborhood that are in various stages of changing color. Note that the green is lost from the outer edges, unlike the Ginkgo. The white oak might be different. It looks like the red pigment (anthocyanin) might be overlaid on the green leaf before the green pigment (chlorophyll) is withdrawn.
Mulberry leaf color change
Red Maple leaf color change
Bush Honeysuckle leaf color change
White Oak leaf color change
While looking for leaves that were changing color I noticed an interesting thing about Red Maple leaves. Several had insect damage accompanied by intense red coloration, but were still green in the undamaged areas. Apparently the damage initiated the synthesis of red pigment (anthocyanin) in nearby leaf tissue even before the leaf had started to undergo its fall color change. Do you have any speculation about what is going on here?
Red Maple leaf with red pigmented areas of insect damage

Shade garden walkway: American Witch Hazel flower buds seem slow to develop this year; the native trees have scarcely any buds and those that are present are still very small. The Ramble Reports for mid-November of the last two years mention the presence of flowers on these very same shrubs. They will have to pick up their game if they are going to bloom before Thanksgiving. In contrast, the Japanese Witch Hazels on the other side of the walkway have numerous and much larger buds.
Japanese Witch Hazel flower buds
If you were on last week's ramble you will remember the reading Catherine brought about the origin of the Witch Hazel's name. It has nothing to do with witches but is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "to bend". Read that post to learn more.

White trail: Last week we were excited to find a new tree just beyond the road on the left side of the trail. We identified it as a Blackjack Oak, largely on the strength of the leaf shape on some of the lower branches. Today, we cast some doubt on that decision. The leaves on the ground looked more like Southern Red Oak and less like Blackjack Oak. The leaves still on the tree, especially near the top, were pretty clearly Southern Red Oak, so we decided to live with some ambiguity. Southern Red Oak is to be expected here, but Blackjack is not.

There are still a few fall wildflowers hanging on; we found Golden aster, Late blue aster and Mist flower still in bloom (if a single plant with flowers counts). We also took not of the abundant fruit on the Hophornbeam we have been watching this year. The Yaupon holly
Yaupon holly berries
with green berries we saw last week surprised us today; most is its berries are now a cheerful red! Further along, at the lower edge of the Elaine Nash Prairie we saw Goldenrod and White heath asters as well as the ever present Dog fennel.

Ash sapling
On entering the woods we noticed a small sapling Ash. It is often hard to find trees with leaves low enough to examine carefully, so finding this example of an Ash allowed us to see its opposite, pinnately compound leaves. You can also tell if a tree has opposite leaves even after the leaves have dropped. All you need to do is look at the location of the leaf scars on the bare twigs.

Old oak apple gall
At this time of year we often find hollow, brown spherical objects about the size of a golf ball lying on the ground. These are called oak apples even though they are not apples. They are produced when a tiny wasp lays an egg on an oak leaf in the spring. The leaf tissue responds to the presence of the egg, or wasp larva that hatches from it, by producing this spherical swelling. The wasp larva feeds on the leaf tissue inside, protected from predators and or parasites. It becomes an adult wasp later in the year and in the fall the leaf it developed in falls off the tree and begins to crumble like all the other leaves. The gall tissue is a little tougher and remains behind for us to pick up and wonder what it is. Another historical factoid: these galls were the source of ink in the American colonies. The Declaration of Independence was written using ink derived from oak galls.
Cranefly orchid leaves
A common sight now and for the next few months will be the leaves of the Cranefly orchid decorating the florest floor. As we've noted before, each underground corm of the orchid sends up a single leaf that bends over and lies flat on the surface of the leaf litter. This leaf will slowly carry out photosynthesis during the winter months and, if it was successful in supplying enough food to the corm, will be replaced by a flowering stalk next summer. Not every plant makes enough food to flower every year, so it's an iffy life style, but the Cranefly orchid is found in every county in Georgia, so it must be doing something right.

White oak (L) & Red oak (R) acorns
This does not seem to be what is called a mast year – a year in which nuts are super abundant. Nonetheless there are still oaks producing acorns and we picked up a few to see if we could determine what type they are. If you find a barrel shaped acorn it is probably from an oak in the red oak group. (Barrel shaped acorns are about as broad as they are tall.) The white oak acorns in our area produce more elongated acorns, distinctly longer (taller) than they are wide. We've covered other differences between the two groups of oak acorns before. White oak acorns germinate in the year they fall, red oak acorns will not germinate until the following spring. Squirrels know these facts and in the fall they will eat white oak acorns and bury the red oaks. If they bury a white oak acorn they will bite off the pointed end where the oak embryo is, preventing the acorn from germinating.

Southern grape fern with fertile frond

In one short segment of the trail we found several Southern grape ferns, some of which had fertile fronds. In past weeks the sporangia (spore-producing structures) of these fronds have been green, but today they are turning light brown, maturing. These plants that produce spores are called sporophytes, which simply means spore-plant, a plant that produces spores.

And speaking of sporophytes – we found plenty of them on the mosses growing on the soil at the edge of the trail. The moss sporophyte is a tiny, needle-like structure that grows from the end of the small, green, leafy moss plant. It is topped by a capsule that contains spores. So if the sporophyte grows from the end of the moss, what is the moss called? It is a gametophyte, meaning a plant that produces gametes (sex cells – eggs and sperms). The moss organs that produce eggs and sperm are found at the very tip of the plant. After the egg cell is fertilized by the sperm it develops into a sporophyte, anchored in and nutritionally supported by the gametophyte. This is the same life cycle seen in ferns, only the fern sporophyte is the large, green leafy plant. The fern gametophyte is a small, inconspicuous plant from which the sporophyte grows. Ferns sporophytes can grow to much greater sizes and heights because they posses vascular tissue. The vascular tissue is specialized to transport water and mineral nutrients from the earth to the upper reaches of the plant. Mosses lack such specialized transportation tissues and can never reach the size or height of ferns. They are limited to passing nutrients from cell to cell instead of a vascular plumbing system through which fluids can flow. Such a tissue, specialized for fluid transportation, allows ferns and other vascular plants, like pine trees and oaks, to reach tremendous heights.

We followed the White trail to the second junction with the Red trail and there we found what we were seeking: a Swamp chestnut oak. The closely related Chestnut Oak is found further north in the mountains. The leaf resembles that of the chestnut, hence the name. The Swamp chestnut oak leaf is similar in shape, but even broader and the bark is light and very shingley, like a white oak. The photo below shows both leaves and bark.
Swamp chestnut oak
 Mushrooms: As I did two weeks ago I encourage you visit Don's facebook album to see his wonderful photographs of the mushrooms we observed on the White trail and our return on the Red and Green trails. The full list of mushrooms is in the "Species Observed" section at the bottom of this post.

Gingko tree
Gingko biloba
American witch hazel
Hamamelis virginiana
Japanese witch hazel
Hamamelis japonica
Southern red oak
Quercus falcata
Golden aster AKA camporweed
Heterotheca latifolia
Late blue aster
Symphiotricum patens
Ostrya virginiana
Yaupon holly
Ilex vomitoria
Mist flower
Conoclinium oelestinum
Solidago sp.
White heath aster
Symphiotricum pilosum
Ash tree
Fraxinus sp.
Cranefly orchid
Tipularia discolor
False turkey tail mushroom
Stereum ostrea
Red oak
Quercus rubra
White oak
Quercus alba
Southern grape fern
Botrychium biternatum
Moss with sporophytes
Swamp chestnut oak
Quercus michauxii
Amanita sp.
Waxy cap
Hygrocybe  sp.
Crowded parchment fungus
Trametes complicatum
Hedgehog mushroom
Hydnum repandum
Clavariadelphus sp.
Armillaria sp.
Mock oyster/Orange oyster
Phllyotopsis nidulans
Mustard yellow polypore
Phellinus gilvus
Violet toothed polypore
Trichaptum biforme
Oyster mushroom
Brown Matsutake
Pleurotus ostreatus
Tricholoma caligatum

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