Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ramble Report April 28 2016

Here's the link to Don's Facebook album for today's Ramble. (All the photos in this post are compliments of Don.)

Today's Ramble was led by Linda Chafin; the post was written by Don Hunter and Linda Chafin; assembled by Dale Hoyt.

Twenty-two Ramblers met today .

Announcement: Sandy Creek Nature Center offers their monthly guided walk next Weds., May 4, at 9:00AM. Halley Page will show you around the areas being prepared for the managed forest project. Come out and learn!

Today's reading: Dale read an excerpt from the book Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt; Little, Brown & Co., 2009, pp. 4-5:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ramble Report April 21 2016

Here's the link to Don Hunter's Facebook album for today's Ramble. (All the photos in this post are compliments of Don.)
Today's post was written by Dale Hoyt.

Twenty-one Ramblers met today – a glorious spring morning!

Today's reading: Linda read a composite and minor paraphrase of quotes on the subject of naming plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass.

It’s a sign of respect to learn the name of someone else, a sign of disrespect to ignore it. And yet the average American can name over a hundred corporate logos and only ten plants. Is it a surprise that we’ve accepted a political system that grants personhood to corporations and no status at all to wild rice and redwoods? Learning the names of plants and animals is a powerful act of support for them. Words and names are the ways we humans build relationships, not only with each other, but also with plants.

But one of the difficulties is that when we name something with a scientific name, this name can become an end to inquiry. We say, “well, we know it now. We’re able to systematize it and put a Latin binomial on it, so it’s ours. We know [all] we need to know.” But that is only looking at the morphology of the organism, at the way that it looks. It ignores all of its gifts, its relationships. It’s a mechanical, wooden representation of what a plant really is.

But when we learn their names and their gifts and their relationships –  it opens the door to reciprocity and to an intimacy that speaks of careful observation. Intimate connection allows recognition in an all-too-often anonymous world. Intimacy gives us a different way of seeing. Having the words for plants and their relationships at your disposal, you can see more clearly. Finding the words is another step in learning to see. [emphasis added]

Today's route: The cement walkway from the Arbor down to the White trail, avoiding the Dunson Garden, then over to the Power line right-of-way and up the recently mowed prairie, looking for what was blooming and a few things that were not. Then back to the Arbor.

Arbor & Shade Garden:

Bob A. brought a "mystery weed" from his garden and Linda immediately identified it as Youngia japonica, or Asian hawk's-beard. It hasn't been noticed much until lately and may be becoming invasive. We pulled several of them later on the ramble today.
The Ginkgoes are fully leafed out and we tried to find the male "flowers" without success. Three years ago they were found on the April 11, 2013, ramble. Perhaps we missed them this year. (You can read more about this unusual tree here.

Leaving the Arbor we took the cement sidewalk toward the Visitor's center. We stopped to admire the Bigleaf magnolia with it's enormous leaves and a Cross vine climbing up a nearby tree trunk. The Cross vine flower is often confused with that of the Trumpet vine, but the interior of the Cross vine flower is yellow while that of the Trumpet vine is red inside and out. The Cross vine gets its name from the shape of the pith when the stem is cut – a "+" shape that looks like the Red Cross logo. Each node of the vine bears what looks like four leaves, but there are really only two leaves; each of the two has two leaflets. Each node also has a pair of tendrils (which are modified leaves) that attach themselves to the surface the vine is climbing. The tendrils can attach to smooth surfaces like vinyl sideing!

Further along the walkway we passed a beautiful hybrid Clematis with large white flowers and a bed of Sensitive ferns.

Tuliptree flowers (minus petals)

Tuliptree petals discarded by squirrels?
Toward the bottom of the Shade garden there is an artificial, boulder bordered stream bed with Woodland phlox blooming among the rocks. And on the bridge over the stream we found the fallen flowers of Tuliptree, compliments of the resident squirrels. Why they should wantonly toss the flowers seems a mystery, but it probably has something to do with the nectar they, the flowers, profusely produce. All the petals had been removes from the fallen blossoms, suggesting that the squirrels were after the sweetness secreted at the base of the petals.

At this point Linda explained that the Tuliptree is sometimes called a Tulip poplar, but it is not a poplar – it is in the Magnolia family (Magnoliaceae). This can be seen in the flowers with their many stamens and multiple pistils. (The poplar name is due to the similarity of Tuliptree wood to that of poplar.) She also told us the derivation of the lilting scientific name of the Tuliptree: Liriodendron tulipifera. The genus name is from the Greek leiron, which means lily + dendron,which means tree. The specific epithet, tulipifera, means tulip bearing; the suffix -ifera, is from the Latin verb ferare, meaning carrying or bearing.

[Digression: Plants are classified into a hierarchy of categories: Kingdom, Division (called a Phylum in Zoology), Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. The last three are most frequently used by field botanist and amateurs. In modern times the name of the family is based on one of the genera included in the family. The family name must end in the suffix -aceae, for example: Asteraceae for the sunflower family, Fabaceae for the bean family, etc. So any time you see that suffix you know that it refers to a plant family. End Digression.]

White flowered variety of Sweetshrub
Near the bridge is an unusual form of Sweetshrub that has white petals. It was developed by the well-known UGA horticultural professor Michael Dirr; the varietal name is "Athens." The flowers of this plant resemble what are believed to be characteristic of the most ancient flowers: multiple undifferentiated petals and stamens and beetle pollination. The seed capsule lacks any opening or suture that would release seeds. Some think that the seeds may have been dispersed by a large animal eating the entire capsule and the passing the seeds through its digestive tract. The likely candidates are now extinct – they could have been among the Pleistocene megafauna, the large herbivorous mammals that ranged across North America as recently as 10-15 thousand years ago and were possibly driven to extinction by human immigrants.

This part of the garden has several Ohio spiderworts that seem to spread widely wherever they are planted. Next to the road are several Virginia sweetspires whose long inflorescences of white flowers are just about ready to bloom.

White trail:

American Beech new growth (green stem)
Crossing the road we stopped to examine the new growth of the American beech tree. Ramblers will remember the pointed, cigar-shaped buds of the Beech from last Fall and Winter. Within those buds were formed the stems and leaves of this spring's new growth. They passed the winter in dormancy. As the days grew longer and the temperatures warmed the buds emerged and the scales that protected them over the winter fell off. In just the span of a few weeks the buds elongated and the leaves expanded. The photo shows a new twig, still green, bearing six leaves. The miracle is that the elongation and expansion comes not from new cells but from the increase in size of the cells produced in the bud last summer and fall. The force driving this increase in size is water. As the bud breaks open the cells each absorb water, increasing the pressure inside the cells and causing them to elongate and expand. At this time of year the new growth is easy to distinguish from last year's growth – it is still green but will turn brown as it ages.

Hawthorn flower
A short distance from the Beech is a small Hawthorn with numerous white flowers. Hawthornes are members of the rose family, along with apples, pears and cherries, and are difficult to identify to species, so we will just settle with calling this a Hawthorn.

Black needlegrass seeds and awns

Black needlegrass flowers
white, fuzzy stigmas; yellow anthers

Black needlegrass is now in bloom and some plants have started to produce seed as well. The seed is covered with backward-pointing bristles and tipped with a long awn. The awn twists and turns in response to changes in humidity and this action results in drilling the seed into the ground. The seeds also stick into socks and easily penetrate to irritate the skin beneath. In the close-up photos of the grass you can see the fuzzy white stigmas, the structure of the grass flower that captures the windblown pollen. Pollen is produced by the yellow anthers that dangle from the flowers.

Galls on leaf (Hop hornbeam? or Winged Elm?)
Nearby someone spotted some tiny galls on either a Hop hornbeam or Winged Elm leaf. Galls are difficult to identify; not many people study them and they can be caused by several different kinds of organisms. These look like tiny golf balls on tees. They may have been caused by mites in the genus Eriophyes.

Elaine Nash prairie:

On reaching the prairie we abandoned the confines of the trail and we all spread out, each of us calling out when we found something of interest. In this way little groups of people formed up, exchanged and merged and split up again. Not everyone (including myself) saw everything but everyone saw the majority of plants and animals.

Small's ragwort
Small's ragwort is starting to emerge and a few plants are even blooming. This plant is similar to the Golden ragwort that we saw blooming in the Dunson garden earlier this year. It can most easily be distinguished from Golden ragwort by the finely divided basal leaves. In Golden ragwort the basal leaves are almost circular in shape. Why is it called Small's ragwort when the specific epithet is not smallii? In 1890 a well-known botanist described it as Senecio smallii, apparently unaware that it had previously been described as Senecio anonyma. Small was also a well known botanist, the author of one of the best floristic references for the South, The Flora of the Southeastern United States, published in 1903, and revised in 1913 and 1933.

Beaked cornsalad

Beaked cornsalad showing dichotomous branching
Beaked cornsalad is abundant in the prairie and the adjacent disturbed areas. Its unusual name refers to its edibility. In Britain cereal grains are called "corn" and what we call corn is called maize. Many English names were applied by early colonists to plants that were similar to ones in the Old World. Beaked cornsalad has growth form called dichotomous, which means dividing into two. As the plant grows the original stem divides into two equal-sized stems and each of these continues to split into two, up to and including the short stems that produce the clusters of tiny white flowers.

Low Hop Clover
Low hop clover is a legume and can fix nitrogen, like its clover relatives. It was first introduced to improve soils and has spread widely into lawns and other disturbed areas with poor soils. It is not invasive, though. The name refers to the similarity of its inflorescence to that of hops.

We found evidence of several kinds of animals today: armadillo burrows, spider webs, several beetles and the cast off skin of a Black rat snake.

Bowl & Doily web

Sheet web
There were two types of sheetweb weaver spiders. These spiders spin a bowl shaped web that consists of complexly connected strands of silk attached to a more tightly woven hemispherical platform. The very small spider is found outside the bowl, clinging to the bottom. It's prey blunders into the network of threads and, as it struggles to escape it tumbles into the bowl where the spider grabs it from below. The other type of sheetweb weaver, called the Bowl and doily spider, weaves the same bowl-shaped web, but also produces a flat platform below the bowl. Today we would call this arrangement a bowl and platter, but when the webs were first discovered a doily was a common thing. A doily is a circular piece of hand-made lace used under a bowl to protect the finish of the furniture. The bowl and doily spider lives between the bowl and doily, so it is protected from both above and below.

Spittle on blackberry stem

Spittlebug nymph (spittle removed)
Growing near the edge of power line path is a Painted buckeye currently in bloom. Don noticed an Asiatic Multicolored lady beetle resting on one of its leaves. In the immediate vicinity we also found Green & Gold and a much rarer plant, Dwarf dandelion. Several plants in the area have what looks like small blobs of spittle on them. These are produced by the nymphal stages of an insect called, you guessed it, a Spittlebug. The nymph sucks plant juices and the honeydew that passes through its digestive tract is frothed up by its legs and abdomen. It is very tacky and protects the enclosed nymph from attack by predators and parasites.

[A digression: Insects can be divided into two general types, those with complete metamorphosis and those with gradual (or incomplete) metamorphosis. Butterflies and moths have a complete metamorphosis – a larval stage (like a caterpillar) changes into a pupal stage from which an adult butterfly or moth emerges. Neither the larva nor the pupa look like the adult or, for that matter, each other. Hence, complete metamorphosis. But many insects, like true bugs or grasshoppers, don't have such dramatic changes in form as they develop. When they hatch from their eggs they look like tiny copies of their adults, only with incompletely formed wings. As they shed their skins they grow larger and the wing buds increase in size until, at the last molt, the adult emerges with fully formed wings. These immature stages are called nymphs, to distinguish them from the larvae who have complete metamorphosis. End of digression.]

Shed skin of Black rat snake
We also found the shed skin of a Black rat snake. It was approximately five feet long when we stretched it out to its full length. But the actual snake was probably only around four feet in length because the skin stretches as it is shed. (In the living animal the scales overlap each other so when the skin is shed all the parts that lay under the scales are now located between them.) Black rat snakes feed on rodents, birds and bird eggs. They can climb trees and several ramblers told how they had seen Black rat snakes in the act of swallowing a squirrel. The Red-cockaded woodpecker excavates its nest hole in living Long leaf pine trees. When constructing the nest it taps into the pitch channels of the tree below the nest opening. The pitch flows out and dribbles down the trunk creating a smooth surface that rat snakes can't climb up.

There are several large patches of Pussytoes, a pretty, fuzzy gray plant with a cluster of flowers that never really open. This tight, gray cluster at then end of the plant resembles the paw of a cat, thus the common name. One of native butterflies, the American lady, lays its eggs on Pussytoes and the caterpillars feed on the plant. What the Pussytoes lack in glamour is more than made up by the butterfly.

Hairy bushclove
A new plant for me, Hairy Bushclover, is scattered throughout the prairie, but it is not blooming at present. Like other members of the Bean family, the Fabaceae, bushclovers can fix nitrogen. This makes them valuable members of the plant community, especially in nitrogen poor soils. (Fixing nitrogen means converting the nitrogen in the air into a form, like ammonia or nitrates, that is accessible to plants. The fixation is actually done by symbiotic bacteria that live in specialized nodules that form on the roots of Bean family plants. The plants provide the home and carbohydrate food, the bacteria provide the fixed nitrogen.)

[Another digression: Nitrogen is an essential element for both plant and animal growth. It is used to make protein and proteins not only make up the bulk of animal muscle, they make up all the literally tens of thousands of different enzymes and structural materials that plant and animal bodies are composed of. All of our nitrogen comes to us either directly from plants or indirectly from eating other animals that got all their nitrogen from the plants they ate. Plants get their nitrogen from the soil or, for nitrogen fixers, from the air. Nitrogen gets into the soil from weathering of rocks or the decay of dead plants and animals. Decay of dead plants and animals is performed by bacteria and fungi, thus recycling the nitrogen once held by living plants and animals. End another digression.]

Birdsfoot violet
The beautiful Birdsfoot violet has the largest flowers of our native violets and they are oriented upward in contrast to the other native violets, which are oriented horizontally. This orientation facilitates pollination by butterflies. The Birdsfoot violet grows principally in poor soils where there are few competing plants. The Birdsfoot name comes from the resemblance of the leaves to the foot of a bird,

Lyreleaf sage leaf
Lyreleaf sage is currently blooming and it exhibits the typical characteristics of the Mint family (Lamiaceae): opposite leaves and square stems, tubular flowers that are bilaterally symmetrical, with a lower lip and upper hood-like projection. The common name is a reference to the shape of the basal leaves which suggest the form of a medieval stringed musical instrument.

Whorled coreopsis
Another plant that will be blooming in the next few weeks is Whorled coreopsis. At each node it looks as though there is a whorl of six leaves, but, like the Cross vine, appearances are deceiving. Each node actually has a pair of leaves, but each leaf is subdivided into three lobes united at their bases.

Deerberry, in the same plant family as Blueberries (Ericaceae), now blooming. It has more open flowers that are not as vase or urn shaped as other members of the family.

Other plants that were not discussed above can be found in the list of Observed Species.


Ginkgo biloba
Asiatic Hawk's-beard
Youngia japonica
Shade Garden
Big leaf magnolia
Magnolia macrophylla 
Bignonia capreolata
Clematis hybrid cultivar
Sensitive fern
Onoclea sensibilis
Aqulegia canadensis
Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulipifera
Florida Star-anise
Illicium floridanum
Ohio spiderwort
Tradescantia ohioensis
Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' 
Virginia sweetspire
Itea virginica
White trail
American beech
Fagus grandifolia
Crataegus sp.
Black needle grass
Piptochaetium avenaceum
Ostrya virginiana
Winged elm
Ulmus alata
Nash prairie
Small's ragwort
Packera anonyma
Curly dock
Rumex acetosella 
Beaked cornsalad
Valerianella radiata  
Wooly (common) mullein
Verbascum thapsus
Low hop clover
Trifolium campestre
Sheet web spider (web and spider)
Family Linyphiidae
Rabbit tobacco
Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium
Blue-eyed grass
Sisyrinchium angustifolium
Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata
Dog fennel
Eupatorium capillifolium
Southern blackberry
Rubus argutus
Painted buckeye
Aesculus sylvatica
Multicolored Asian lady beetle
Harmonia axyridis
Chrysogonum virginianum
Dwarf dandelion
Krigia sp.
Blue toadflax
Nuttallanthus canadensis
Order Hemiptera;
Suborder Auchenorrhynca
Carolina cranesbill
Geranium carolinianum
Antennaria plantaginifolia
Hairy bush clover
Lespedeza hirta
Dichanthelium sp.
Old field five fingers
Potentilla simplex
Poverty oatgrass
Danthoria spicata
Nine-banded armadillo (burrows)
Dasypus novemcinctus
Yellow crownbeard
Verbesina occidentalis
Vaccinium stamineum
Yellow star grass
Hypoxis hirsuta
Nettleleaf salvia
Salvia urticifolia
Wood vetch
Vicia sylvatica
Perfoliate bellwort
Uvularia perfoliata
Woodland corepopsis
Coreopsis major
Eastern black rat snake (skin)
Pantherophis alleghaniensis
Downy phlox
Phlox pilosa
Shade Garden
Pale yellow trillium
Trillium discolor
Sweet Betsy trillium
Trillium cuneatum
Cinnamon fern
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum
Black cohosh
Actaea racemosa
Wild geranium
Geranium maculatum
Woodland phlox
Phlox divaricata