Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ramble Report May 26 2016

Today's Ramble was lead by Linda Chafin.
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 post was written by Dale Hoyt and Don Hunter.

Twenty-five Ramblers met today.


Don will be leading a Georgia Botanical Society trip at the Coweeta Lab, in Otto, NC, on Sunday, May 29th. Meet at the Lab at 9:30AM.

Emily reminded us that there will be a talk about mushrooms next Thursday, June 2, at 8:00 p.m., at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.

Today's reading: We were graced with another of Bob Ambrose's poetic creations:
In Days of White Clover

Mid-spring comes to small town South
when Chinaberry bursts in purplish 
hues beside abandoned homesteads.

Honeysuckle scents the soft air 
and wisteria drapes weary trees 
with a heavy lavender shroud.

Weeks break in fragrant waves. 
Fields that featured buttercup 
streak yellow ragwort now.

Time keeps the spring flowers 
from blooming all at once. 
Time keeps our ghosts apart.

These are the days of white clover  
when raucous bands of dandelion 
stalk the slopes of suburban lawns. 

This is the time the tanager returns 
flitting red through high branches 
amidst a hundred shades of green. 

This is the season of tender leaves
when cool winds sift the canopy 
with a soothing woodland sigh.

The world teems with calls 
and song, lilts and chortles, 
wheets and teeters, chucks, 

clucks, caws and cheers. Now
is the time of new life. Why 
should I keep from singing?

Today's route: From the Arbor we took the mulched path to the White trail which we followed down to the Orange spur trail. Turning left on the Orange spur trail we followed it to the Orange trail at the river; turning left, we walked along the river to the Purple trail and returned on it to the Heritage garden.

Arbor to Mulched trail:
Redbud fruits
The Redbud cultivar growing near the Arbor now has fruits. If you recall from a month ago this tree had clusters of flowers growing directly from its trunk and branches, a condition called cauliflory. Now the resemblance of these fruits to those of beans and peas is obvious. Who would have thought that a tree could be a legume? Well, it turns out that many plants in the legume or bean family (Fabaceae) are trees: Mesquite, Acacias and even our introduced Mimosa.

Wax myrtle hedge: The leaves of this shrub are very aromatic which indicates they contain volatile chemical compounds as a defense against herbivorous insects.  Many evergreen shrubs have strong aromatic smell for this same reason. The fruits of Wax myrtle are small and covered with a waxy coating which was extracted in colonial times to make nicely scented candles. The same fruits are valuable food for migratory birds. Wax is a type of lipid and is very energy rich, which makes it wonderful for maintaining your weight if you are a bird flying long distances. Wax myrtle is dioecious, meaning that each shrub will have flowers of one sex only. If you want to plant this shrub to attract birds you will need to make certain that you have female plants (to produce the fruits) along with a few male plants to supply the pollen to make the fruits, otherwise you'll find your efforts to attract birds fruitless.

Mulched trail & White Trail:

A sapling Pignut hickory is growing at the foot of a young Sourwood tree. Hickories have compound leaves and the number of leaflets is sometimes helpful in separating the different species. Pignut typically has 5 leaflets, but examination of several leaves showed some with 7 leaflets, illustrating the problem with just using one leaf to make an identification. Trees often vary in the number of leaflets and typical should not be taken to mean "always;" it usually means "most frequently" or "averaging." Pignut hickory leaves are smooth (glabrous), but this specimen had hairs or bristles along the veins on the undersurface. Hickories are known to hybridize and this individual might be such.

Some of crushed the leaves of the Sourwood that the hickory was growing near and chewed on them a little. Most agreed that they were sour indeed. Someone handy with Google reported that the sourness was due to the presence of Oxalic acid, the same substance that makes Wood sorrel taste so sour.

White oak bark
A White oak has distinctive light gray bark that is thrown up into shingle-like patterns. On its upper reaches, that is. As the tree ages the bark at the base becomes dark and ridged and looks very different than the bark on the upper, younger part of the trunk. We looked in vain for white oak leaves on the ground to demonstrate the difference in shape between White and Red oak leaves. There were plenty of Red oak leaves with their bristle tips but we never found any of the bristle-less White oak leaves. This may be because the White oak does not have as much tannin in its tissues as the Red oak does. Tannin inhibits the decay process, just as it inhibits the digestion of leaves when it is present. It is likely that all the White oak leaves that fell last year decayed over the winter while the Red oak will take a little longer to recycle.

Hophornbeam bark with sap wells

Hophornbeam leaf with doubly serrate margin
We looked for fruit on a Hophornbeam tree, but didn't see any. Last year was a "mast" year – the hornbeams produced a lot of fruits, but they normally wait a year or two before fruiting again. Here in the Botanical Garden many of our Hophornbeams are used by Sapsucker woodpeckers who excavate tiny holes in the trunk. The eat the sap and any insects attracted to the sap that oozes from the opening. The "hornbeam" part of the name comes from the use of the wood to yoke a pair of oxen to a wagon by tying a pole across the horns of the animals. The "hop" in the name comes from the resemblance of the fruit to that of the hop vine. The bark is also very characteristic: it has a shredded appearance and looks as though a cat might have scratched it while sharpening its claws. The leaves have what is called a doubly serrate edge. The leaf edge is not smooth; it is saw toothed and each of the larger teeth has a smaller tooth projecting from it.

Spiral growth pattern
One of the other Hophornbeams we saw had a pronounced spiral pattern in the bark, possibly reflecting the growth of the wood grain below the bark. In some trees this grain curves clockwise from the ground up and in others it twists counter-clockwise. The significance of the twisting is unknown and most of the explanations remain untested and fanciful. At one time there was a claim that the twist in tree grain in the Southern hemisphere was opposite that in the Northern hemisphere. (There is also a long-standing urban legend that water runs out of the sink in the opposite directions in the two hemispheres.) There is a practical consequence to the twist in the wood grain, however. When you buy a 2X4 in long dimensions it is hard to find a piece that does not twist.

Red maple leaf; not toothed margin

A Red maple presented an opportunity to look at how the leaves are arranged on their twigs or branches. In maples the leaves always arise in pairs opposite one another. In Oaks and Hickories the leaves alternate along the branch. Dan Williams, who taught a tree identification course that many of our ramblers attended used a mnemonic to remember which of the common trees in the Garden had opposite leaves: ”Mad Dogs And Buckeyed Cats named Paul." The first letter of each capitalized word stands for: Maple, Dogwood, Ash, Buckeye, Catalpa and Paulownia. Linda also pointed out that the Red Maple leaves, in addition to being opposite, have toothed lobes and, usually, a red petiole (the stem that attaches the leaf to the twig). They have something red all the time: red flowers in the spring, red petioles after the leaves emerge, and red leaves in the fall.

Dog vomit slime mold
One of the prizes of the day was discovered by Ronnie, the youngest of our ramblers and one of the sharpest eyed. He had a cluster of decaying leaves with a brilliant yellow blob on the top. This is a type of "plasmodial" slime mold. Slime molds are a group of organisms that once were thought to be fungi and are now thought to be related to single-celled organisms. The one like Ronnie found starts life as an amoeba-like organism crawling about decaying leaves and eating the bacteria it encounters. If and when it encounters another of its kind, but of a different mating type (sex), they fuse together and continue eating bacteria. As they grow their nuclei divide, but the cell they are in just increases in size and continues to crawl about the leaf litter until it gets very large (sometimes even larger than the one Ronnie found). They then crawl to the surface and begin to produce spores that will hatch into amoebae, completing the life cycle. Ronnie's slime mold has a disgusting name for such a beautiful organism: the Dog vomit slime mold. It got this name from the odor it emits in a confined space. In fresh air it can barely be smelled, but put it in a bag and later open it and you see how appropriate the name is.

Old man's beard lichen
Ronnie also found a sprig of Old man's beard lichen. This lichen is normally found growing far up in trees, but often is found on the ground after a storm breaks off twigs or branches on which it has been growing.

Winged elm bark
Next we found a large Winged elm and looked at its distinctive bark. Bark patterns are hard to describe, but Winged elm bark seems to made of puzzle pieces that are neatly fitted together.

Sweetgum leaves
The Sweetgum tree has uniquely star-shaped leaves. One of the showy silk moths, the large, apple-green colored Luna moth caterpillar feeds on Sweetgum, as well as numerous other tree species. The genus name of the tree, Liquidambar, means "flowing gum"

Blueberries of various types are not uncommon in the garden's natural areas. We found one of the earliest flowering ones, the Mayberry or Juneberry, but could only find one partially eaten berry. The fruit is smaller than you find on highbush blueberries.

Yaupon holly leaves
A native plant that can be confused with the invasive Chinese privet is Yaupon holly. Privet leaves are opposite and smooth edged; Yaupon leaves are alternate and toothed. Native Americans made a tea with the dried leaves. The leaves contain lots of caffeine, which, when consumed in massive quantities acts as an emetic.

Northern red oak bark showing "ski trails"
Another tree with an easily recognized bark pattern is Northern Red Oak. Its bark is dark and ridged. The ridges become lighter as you look toward the top of the tree. Dan Williams suggested that an easy way to remember this is that up North you can ski in the winter and these ridges with their whitish tops resemble ski tracks, hence, Northern red oak. Like all the red oaks the Northern red oak leaves have bristle tips on the points of each leaf lobe.

American beech is a tree with smooth gray bark, often with initials carved in it. The shade leaves are very thin and papery in texture. The tree we looked at had yellow spots on its leaves that may caused by leaf miners (insects that feed on the leaf tissue between the upper and lower epidermis).

Bedstraw is a common plant that is also know as "Cleavers" because of the bristles on the stems that will adhere (cleave) to clothing. But there are non-sticky bedstraws and we found one. Its leaves were in whorls of four and very narrow. Some bore fruits consisting of twin spheres.

An American toad was discovered hopping the duff. Two weeks ago we saw several of these but today's toad is larger. They grow fast!

Jack-in-the-pulpit usually has only three leaves but we found several plants with five. None had pulpits, however.

We also found a plant called Sanicle (or sometimes Black snake root). The exact species can only be determined by closer examination in the lab, so we just left it as Sanicle sp.

Orange Spur trail to Orange trail:

We encountered a large patch of Microstegium (Japanese stilt grass) and Linda encouraged us to pull as much as we could, which we did.

Wolf spider with egg sac attached to spinnerettes
Perhaps as a result of our disturbance of the Microstegium we spotted a Wolf spider with an egg sac. The sac is carried by the mother attached to her spinnerets until the eggs inside are hatching. She then assists the baby spiders by tearing open the sac with her fangs. The young spiders climb on her abdomen and she carries them around until they are old enough to climb off and begin foraging on their own.

We saw several Daddy long-legs today and they prompted a number of questions, for example: "Are they spiders?" or "Are they poisonous?" Daddy-long-legs are also called Harvestmen (mostly in Britain) and are a type of arachnid. (see the following for the common kinds of arachnids and how they are related to other kinds of arthropods.

Arthropods are animals with external skeletons, segmented bodies and jointed legs (which is what "arthro-" and "–pod" means). The arthropods are divided into a number of different kinds, some of which most people have never heard of. But the major kinds are common enough to be well known. How they are all related to one another is currently in a state of flux, but the major groups are recognizable without knowing their precise relationship. Here is a guide to the major kinds of Arthropods:

Arachnids – 4 pairs of legs (mostly). There are four major types of Arachnids:
Ticks and mites – 2 primary body parts: head (with mouth parts) and abdomen
Daddy-long-legs (Harvestmen) – 2 body parts (cephalothorax, abdomen) that are broadly joined together to look like a single body. No venom glands or fangs, no silk glands; long, spindly, fragile legs.
Scorpions – 4 pairs of walking legs, a pair of claws "pinchers", tail with venomous sting.
Spiders – 2 body parts (cephalothorax, abdomen) joined by narrow connection; venom glands, fangs and silk glands.
Insects – 3 pairs of legs; 3 body parts (head, thorax, abdomen); thorax with legs and usually 2 pairs of wings.
Crustaceans – Almost defy easy definition. Examples: Crabs, lobsters, shrimp, pillbugs (rolly-pollies), barnacles, etc. Mostly marine or aquatic.. Each body segment can bear a pair of jointed appendages that are variously modified into antennae, claws, walking legs, swimmerettes, and other structures.
Myriapods – head and multiple body segments
Millipedes – 2 pairs of legs per body segment
Centipedes – 1 pair of legs per body segment

We found another Carolina milkvine with its large, heart-shaped leaves and maroon flowers growing near the microstegium patch.

White avens
White avens is now in bloom. This plant begins life as a rosette of simple leaves. As it grows the subsequent leaves become compound and then gradually change back to simple leaves near the inflorescence.

We saw our first booming Wingstem this morning.

Several young Crossvines are climbing up some trees, affording us a good look at the two opposite leaves, each with two elongated, pointed leaflets and a twining tendril.

A nearby ancient Poison ivy vine clearly demonstrates how it climbs into trees – the entire stem is thick with hairy tendrils.

Silverbell with striped bark
A group of young Silverbells show off their typical striped bark.

Nearby a large Arrowwood shrub is past flowering, but young fruit is beginning to develop.

Commonly seen in this area is a fern – Ebony spleenwort – with its characteristic black stipe.

Painted buckeye, the only native buckeye in this part of the piedmont is easily identified by its palmately compound leaves.

Ground ivy, or Gill-over-the-ground, is an English import originally brought to this country for use in beer making. Like hops, it was used to extend the shelf life of beer, but no longer is used for that purpose.

Witches brooms are often seen in Hophornbeams. They are tightly clustered growths of twigs and leaves that develop on the limbs of the tree. They are caused by some pathogen and are not restricted to Hophornbeam but can also be found on pines. They don't seem to affect the general health of the tree.

A Box elder with many young shoots emerging from low on the trunk is near the river.  Normally growth like this does not occur low on a tree trunk. Its presence indicate possible injury to the top of the tree.

Orange trail to Purple trail:

A nice stand of Fowl manna grass was seen on the trail at the river.  Water fowl are fond of foraging on the seeds of this grass.

Sweet Autumn Clematis, an invasive species from Asia, is distinguished from Virgin's Bower, our native species, by the leaves. The invasive species has leaves with untoothed margins.  The native species has leaves with toothed margins.

Water pepper plants have a papery sheath (ochrea) that encloses the base of the leaf stalk and the adjacent stem.  This and related species are now in genus Persicaria, having been moved from Polygonum.

We found what I initially thought was a leaf-footed bug on the Water pepper, but, after looking at Don's photo, I now think that it is in the genus Acanthocephala, a type of Assasin bug. There is no common name.

The ripe berries of Elderberry, a native shrub, can be used to make elderberry wine.  We saw it in full bloom today with it's beautiful, flat umbel-like panicles of light green and white flowers.

Hispid/hairy buttercup grabbed our attention with it's bright and shiny yellow flowers.

Curly dock has produced fruits that are three-sided with three wings.

We stopped at two trees that are fairly similar looking.  Both have opposite compound leaves: Green ash, with leaflets that are not heavily toothed, and Box elder, whose leaflets have big teeth.  Both trees have similar bark and it can be hard to tell them apart in winter. Green ash usually has 5 leaflets and Box elder usually has 3, but is very variable. Some Box elders consistently have 5 leaflets and others have mixture of 3 and 5 leaflets.

Carolina horse nettle is still blooming on the trail next to the river.  Not too far down the trail we saw the other, Deadly nightshade.

Mating lady beetles
Twelve-spotted lady beetles were seen mating.

Caterpillar of the White-marked tussock moth
We found an exotic looking White-marked tussock moth caterpillar. Some people are irritated by contact with the various bristles and tufts of hair on this otherwise inoffensive caterpillar. It's probably wise to not disturb them.

Sue with Princess tree leaf
A discouraging discovery was a "sapling" of Princess tree, another invasive species from Asia. Sue posed beside it so we could see how large the leaf is and then promptly snapped the tree off at ground level.

Other species seen can be found in the Summary of observed species.


Common Name
Scientific Name
Parking lot
Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis
Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera
Mulched path – White trail
Pignut hickory
Carya glabra
Oxydendrum arboreum
White oak
Quercus alba
Ostrya virginiana
Red maple
Acer rubrum
Dog vomit slime mold
Fuligo septica
Old man's beard lichen
Usnea strigosa
Winged elm
Ulmus alata
Vaccinium elliottii
Liquidambar styraciflua
Yaupon holly
Ilex vomitoria
Ligustrum japonica
Northern red oak
Quercus rubra
American beech
Fagus grandifolia
Galium species
Galium sp.
American toad
Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus
Autumn olive
Elaeagnus umbellata
Jack in the pulpit
Arisaema triphyllum
Black snake root/Sanicle
Sanicula sp.
Orange spur trail
White avens
Geum canadense
Carolina milkvine
Matelea carolinensis
Verbesina alternifolia
Wolf spider
Family Lycosidae
Japanese stilt grass
Microstegium vimineum
Bignonia capreolata
Poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans
Halesia carolina
Arrowwood viburnum
Viburnum dentatum
Ebony spleenwort
Asplenium playneuron
Painted buckeye
Aesculus sylvatica
Gill-over-the-ground/ground ivy
Glechoma hederacea
Box elder
Acer negundo
Orange trail
Fowl manna grass
Glyceria striata
Invasive Virgin's bower
Clematis terniflora
(Mild) Water pepper
Persicaria hydropiperoides 
Assassin bug
Acanthocephala sp.
Sambucus canadensis
Hispid/hairy buttercup
Ranunculus hispidus
Annual ryegrass
Lolium multiflorum
Curly dock
Rumex acetosella
Green ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Carolina horsenettle
Solanum carolinense
Deadly nightshade
Atropa belladonna
Twelve-spotted lady beetle
Coleomegilla maculata
Cat greenbrier
Smilax glauca
White-marked tussock moth
Orgyia leucostigma
St. John's wort
Hypericum sp.
Great yellow wood sorrel
Oxalis grandis
Impatiens sp.
Sensitve fern
Onoclea sensibilis
Common wood sorrel
Oxalis stricta
Princess tree
Paulownia tomentosa
Carpinus caroliniana
Summer bluets
Houstonia purpurea

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