Friday, March 18, 2016

Ramble Report March 17 2016

Here's the link to Don's Facebook page for today's Ramble. (All the photos save one in this post are complements of Don.)
Today's post was written by Dale Hoyt.

Twenty-six ramblers came dressed in green today to match the emerging leaves – or was it some other holiday?

Today's reading: We had two contributions, the first from Mary Ann who read an excerpt from Hal Borland's Twelve Moons of the Year, p. 27:

The vernal equinox is a marker on the great wheel of time, a reassurance of order in a world where confusion and disorder too often seem to have the upper hand. It is a promise of predictable change, certain as sunrise, from the rigors of winter to the benevolence of spring.
No equinox ever burst a bud or sprouted a seed. Dawn will not be marked by a chorus of vernal birdsong. Those are consequences, not causes, of change. But once the sun has passed its equinoctial marker such consequences are assured. Violets will bloom again. Maples will come to leaf. Grass will clothe the hills.
Man is prone to boasts of omniscience and omnipotence, but all he can do about the rhythmic seasons is chart them and, if he would live in comfort, cooperate with their conditions. Neither the power of his armies nor the efficiency of his machines can hurry or delay a solstice or an equinox. The wheel turns, time flows, and the earth responds. Spring comes, and man responds, too, knowing deep in his being that the universe is still in order and that he is privileged to be a part of that universe.

Next, to commemorate St. Patrick's Day, David read two poems from Janisse Ray's House of Branches:


I know where
the ribbon snake
under the maple
by the barn.
One day when I
was there
a dead leaf
crackled like fire
and I saw her,
slip of green
I followed
around the waist
of the tree,
through already
dying grass.
When she turned.
To face me, eyes
burning, she
studied me.
I – wanting
To feel her softness,
her certainty, the stove
of her tiny heart ---
touched one finger.
only one,
upon her perfect tail.
At that moment
the tree opened
and she wound
inside, her
dark and narrow.
Long before
I turned away,
no doubt
she lay
on her mat of earth
at the bottom
of the maple
among the roots
of brilliant
The eleventh
Commandment is
love the earth
love the tree
love the snake.


What does it mean, Sigmund Freud,
that the snake was not in my dream
but in the hallway, a brown velvet rope
stretched across the runner.  It glimmered
like an Indonesian textile, new-
woven, lying across the path we travel
dozens of times a day between kitchen
and bedroom, front and back.
I called my husband, who
came from the porch and stood
opposite, length of perfect cord
between us.  Strange as it was,
we were stranger.  We watched,
only that, never moving
for broom or bag, no impediment.
We watched it glide across the floor,
behind a row of machines, hot water
heater, washer and dryer, through
a drift of spilled laundry powder, into
the accumulation of our lives, old
rag bag, dog shampoo, shoe polish,
spot remover, brushes and brooms,
window cleaner, jugs of vinegar,
ammonia and bleach.
Our lives are no place for you, beautiful,
this house no crevice in an old tree.
For your own sake, get out.

Today's route: Today's route:  Leaving the arbor we walked up to the upper parking lot and rambled down the Orange Trail from the trailhead.  We made the turn at the river and walked upriver to the power line ROW and took the White Trail Connector up the hill and back to the Visitor Center parking lot and on to Donderos'.

Upper parking Lot:

Winged Elm fruit
Winged elm: At the edge of the upper parking lot just across from the Orange trail head there are two small Winged elms that have already set fruit. These are properly called fruits, rather than seeds, because they contain seeds. The container is part of the elm flower's ovary.

Orange trail:

Shor-tleaf pine pitch pits
Short-leaf pine has pitch pits (glands) on bark plates, small cones, about 2 inches long and short (about 3 1/2 inches) needles usually 2 per bundle. The other common pine here is the loblolly, that has longer cones, longer needles and three needles per bundle. The loblolly cone has sharp prickles the hurt if you squeeze one in your hand. The shortleaf cone has prickles but they point downward and, thus, you can squeeze one in your hand without pain.

Pitch in this and other pines is used to defend against pine beetles. A beetle attacks the tree by eating into and through the bark. When it encounters a pitch channel the viscous, sticky pitch entraps it. The tree can only be overcome by beetles if a large enough number attack it at the same time. This will exhaust the ability of the tree to make pitch and the beetles can get a foothold. They carry with them a fungus that grows inside the tree and is eaten by the beetles and their offspring, so, in a sense, the beetles are really farmers.

Many Hophornbeam saplings leafing out
Hophornbeam: As you look out into the forest you can clearly see many small saplings with emergent leaves. The massed effect of these tiny green sprouts is to form a hazy green mist that indicates the spring is here. Many of the saplings in this part of the trail are Hophornbeams.

Mayberry/Juneberry is another small shrub; it has green twigs all year round. The greeness of the twigs is due to chlorophyll which allows the plant to photosynthesize all winter and bloom very early in the spring.

Box a tree that you don't expect to find so far away from water, but here one is, leafing out and out of place. It has opposite, evergreen twigs. The bud scars completely encircle the twig at each node.

White oak often is seen with lighter colored patches of bark. On closer examination these areas have thinner bark. The thinning is caused by a fungus that feeds on the bark only and does not seem to harm the tree.

This part of the trail has been severly affected by the heavy winter rains this year. An erosional ditch created by heavy rains a year or more ago has been greatly enlarged, requiring a new bridge to be built.

Beech new leaves still with bud scales
The buds on some of the American beech have begun to open and you can see the newly emerged and expanding leaves with the bud scales still clinging to the leaf base.

Rattlesnake fern with fertile frond beginning to appear
A large number of Rattlesnake fern is appearing in this part of the trail, more than we can remember seeing last year. Many of the small plants have a developing fertile frond. This species produces spores from the fertile frond in the spring. A similar species, Grape fern, produces its fertile frond and spores in autumn.

White avens foliage
White avens always tricks us because the early leaves have a different appearence from those that develop later. The first to appear are simple, with three lobes and only a suggestion of white marks along the veins. The later leaves are pinnately compound and the leaflets have consipicuous white areas surrounding the major veins.

Perfoliate bellwort
Lee spotted a solitary Perfoliate bellwort only a few inches tall. The name refers to the leaves – the stem penetrates the base of the leaves; i.e., it perforates the leaf.

Common blue violets are everywhete along the trail. The purple variety is more common here in the woods, but in the power line floodplain you can find the white colored variation.

Wild Geranium developing fruits
Wild starting to bloom, but we saw only a few buds today and some fruits were forming, an indication of earlier blooms.

Many of the Christmas ferns are very ratty looking; their fronds have over-wintered and look much the worse for wear. Here and there we find a few fiddleheads of new growth coming up, so those abused fronds will soon be replaced by new growth.

Bedstraw (AKA Cleavers) is very common on the Orange Trail. Stems are angled and covered with tiny downward pointing hairs that stick to fur, fleece, and cotton shirts, as was discovered during a Bedstraw-tossing frenzy. The name derives from an early usage of the plant as a filling for matresses.

Rue anemone is especially abundant this year and still in full flower. The individuals are seldom clumped together but they are almost everywhere you look.

Coral honeysuckle is coming up in several places but the vine is much too small to bloom right now. Compared to Japanese honeysuckle, Coral honeysuckle leaves are longer relative to width and have a purplish, waxy cast to their color. The flower is scarlet and very attractive to hummingbirds. Unlike the Asian species this native plant is not invasive.

Bloodroot seems to be less abundant this year. We saw no blossoms today and the only plants we found had very small leaves with no suggestion of either flower buds or fruits. Perhaps they are first year plants and won't bloom for several more seasons? But what happened to the plants we saw blooming last year?

Mayapple patches are up in many places and a few plants have the two leaves of mature flowering plants. The fruit is eaten by box turtles and the seeds pass through the turtles digestive tract, i.e., they are dispersed.

Lion's foot leaf variation
This time of year we often see a puzzling solitary leaf that looks like no other and scratch our heads as to its identity. Then we remember – it's Lion's foot, a plant with unusually shaped and highly variable leaves. It flowers later in the year.

Sedge. This grass-like plant fooled me. I know the old rhyme: "Sedges have edges, Rushes are round, Grasses are solid, all the way to the ground," and carefully rolled the flower-bearing stem between my thumb and forefinger. I couldn't feel any edges, so I asked Linda if she knew what kind of grass this was. Linda performed the same thumb-finger twiddle and announced that it was a sedge. Sedges are difficult to identify, even for experienced botanists like Linda, so we have to be satisfied that it is in the genus Carex. A careful look at the flowers reveals that male flowers are at ends of stalks and female flowers are found on the stalk somewhat below the male flowers in this species.

Round-lobed hepatica appears to be finished blooming but we found new leaves of a least one plant.

Wood Rush
Another grass-like plant turned out to be Wood-rush; the twiddle test did not reveal any edges. Rushes are difficult to identify so, without further examination, we tentatively called it Wood-rush, Luzula sylvatica.

Little brown jug flower buds

Rosemary cleared away the leaf litter to expose two flower buds of Little brown jug, a delightful plant whose flowers remain buried in the leaf litter. When they open they resemble two little brown jugs, hence the common name. The pollinators are probably ants or beetles.

Southern lady fern
Not far away we found several new fronds of Southern lady fern. One of the key characteristics of the species is the reddish stipe, the portion of the stem between the ground and the green, leafy blade.

Sensitive fern with fertile frond
At Ben's bridge over the marshy area we spotted several Sensitive ferns; some had fertile fronds just beginning to emerge.

Orange trail (river section)

Butterweed rosette
Butterweed flower
The large rosettes we found two weeks ago were Butterweed, just as we thought. Many of them are now blooming. Last year, on April 16, Butterweed found elsewhere on the floodplain started blooming. These are nearly a month ahead of time. Is it due to their location? It is sunnier and therefore warmer on the levee now that the privet has been removed. The large Butterweed population we saw last year was located in the pines east of the power line right-of-way, which is a shadier and probably cooler. Another difference: we noticed no insects on the plants that are currently blooming, whereas last year there were abundant insects, especially White-cross seed bug. Perhaps the warmer than normal weather has created a mismatch in the timing of Butterweed blooming and the emergence of the insects that feed on its seeds.

Kidney-leaf buttercup
In addition to the Butterweed there are several other annual plants now blooming on the levee, among them are Kidney leaf buttercup and Hairy bittercress. Both of these are abundant, especially the bittercress. Hairy bittercress is a widespread weed of disturbed areas. It is commonly found in lawns growing near sidewalks, streets and driveways. The buttercup favors moister situations.

Emily spotted a Tiger swallowtail butterfly, our state butterfly.

Yellow fumewort flowers
An unexpected plant, Yellow fumewort, was also discovered on the levee in two places. It had not been seen in this location in the Garden before. Yellow fumewort is said to require soil high in Calcium. It is typically found in mafic soils. (Mafic soils are derived from rock that is high in Magnesium and Iron, as well as Calcium.) Growing in the sandy levee is therefore a little surprising. Other locations where this plant has been found are on the White trail by the river. Perhaps the seeds from that population washed downstream in this winter's floods and were deposited here.

What's in a name? Sometimes I am perplexed by the common names of plants and this is one of those times. I know that "-wort" is from the Old English, meaning plant, but what is the meaning of the "fume-?"  Mary Durant, in her book, Who Named the Daisy? Who Named the Rose?, gives quite a few derivations of plant names. For genus name Corydalus she has the following: "The only nickname I know for these delicate spring flowers is fume-root, given because of the curious nitrous odor of the roots." Corydalus is in the same family as Fumitory, an old world plant, and some dictionaries give the derivation of fumitory as "from Old French fumetere, from Medieval Latin fÅ«mus terrae, literally: smoke of the earth." So there you have it.

Mating Asian multicolored lady beetles
A mating pair of Asian multicolored lady beetles (a kind of lady "bug") were discovered on another piece of vegetation near the fumeworts. This species is introduced and has become invasive. It is thought to be responsible for the decline in our native lady beetles. I discussed this last year, so if you're interested you should see the July 23, 2015 post. One thing has recently come to light: This lady beetle coats its eggs with a toxic substance. All lady beetles are cannibalistic; when they come across eggs they eat them. The problem is that the native species die when they consume the eggs of the Asian species. In addition to this toxic effect the Asian beetle and our native species compete for the same food: aphids. So there are two paths toward reducing the number of native lady beetles. I'm sure that if Donald Trump were aware of this situation he would have a solution. (The photos of the in copulo pair above were taken by Joan Knapp.)


Common Name
Scientific Name
Upper Parking Lot
Winged elm
Ulmus alata
Orange trail (head to river)
Short-leaf pine
Pinus echinata
Ostrya virginiana
Mayberry, Juneberry
Vaccinium elliotii
Box elder
Acer negundo
White oak
Quercus alba
American beech
Fagus grandifolia
Rattlesnake fern
Botrypus virginianus
White avens
Geum canadense
Perfoliate bellwort
Uvularia perfoliata
Common blue violet
Viola sororia
Wild geranium
Geranium maculatum
False turkeytail mushroom
Stereum ostrea
Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides
Galium aparine
Rue anemone
Thalictrum thalictroides
Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens
Sanquinaria canadensis
Podophyllum peltatum
Lion's foot
Nabalus serpentarius
(=Prenanthes serpentaria)
Carex sp.
Round-lobed hepatica
Anemone americana
(=Hepatica americana)
Luzula sylvatica?
Little Brown Jug
Hexastylis arifolia
Southern lady fern
Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides
Sensitive fern
Onoclea sensibilis
Orange trail (along river)
Packera glabella
Kidney leaf buttercup
Ranunculus abortiva
Yellow tiger swallowtail butterfly
Papilio glaucus
Hairy bittercress
Cardamine hirsuta
Yellow fumewort
Corydalis flavula
Asian multicolored lady beetle
Harmonia axyridis

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