Monday, May 9, 2016

Ramble Report May 5 2016



Today's Ramble was led by Dale Hoyt; 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 with the assistance of Don Hunter.

Twenty-two Ramblers met today – a chilly, windy spring morning!

Today's reading: Rosemary read an excerpt from The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Bailey.
In the fourth century BC, in the History of Animals, Aristotle noted that snail teeth are "sharp, and small, and delicate." My snail possessed around 2,640 teeth, so I'd add the word plentiful to Aristotle's description. The teeth point inward so as to give the snail a firm grasp on its food; with about 33 teeth per row and maybe eighty or so rows, they form a multi-toothed ribbon called a radula, which works much like a rasp. This explained my snail's nodding head as it grated away at a mushroom; it also ex- plained the odd squareness of the holes I had discovered in my envelopes and lists. As the front row of teeth gets worn down, a fresh new row is added at the back and the radula slowly moves forward, being completely replaced over the course of four to six weeks. Radulae are adapted to a particular snail's diet and can be an identifying characteristic of a species.

Today's route:
Leaving the arbor we made our way down through though the Shade Garden and across the road and right-of-way on the White Trail.  In the woods we followed the White Trail through the woods, across the ROW and took the Yellow Trail a short distance and back onto the White Trail.  We crossed the ROW again and took a left on to the Red Trail, which we followed until it reconnected with the White Trail again.  We then followed the White Trail back to the ROW and back up through the Shade Garden to the parking lot.  We adjourned the Ramble at this point since the Visitor Center was closed for the Gala.

Shade Garden:
Cone galls on Witch Hazel leaf
For several years we have seen galls appearing on the leaves of the Witch Hazel shrubs. These conical growths are produced by an aphid, the Witch Hazel Cone Gall aphid. (It's probably easier to remember the scientific name: Hormaphis hamamelidis.) If you cut open one of the galls you will find inside a small number of tiny aphids feeding on the gall tissue. These aphids can reproduce asexually, giving birth to copies of themselves. Eventually they give birth to winged forms that emerge from the gall and fly to an alternate host plant, River Birch. There they feed on the Birch leaves and, in the fall, produce another winged generation that flies back to a Witch Hazel host. These aphids produce a sexual generation of males and females that mate and lay eggs on the twigs of the Witch Hazel. The eggs overwinter and new aphids hatch out as the leaves emerge in the spring, continuing the life cycle anew.

Right-of-way, White Trail:

Field Madder

Small's Ragwort
Where the trail crosses the power line right-of-way there are still many of the yellow-flowered Small's ragwort in bloom. Hidden among the grasses are inconspicuous plants with numerous tiny pink to purple blossoms: Field madder, an introduced Eurasian plant. It's common name is due to it's resemblance to a central Asian species, called Madder, which was used as a natural dye to produce red color.

White Trail (Woods):
Orchard orb weaver
Moving into the woods someone spotted a small orb web, the product of a small spider named the Orchard orb weaver.

Along the trail we found a few plants that resemble puny bamboo shoots. These are River cane and are related to the bamboos. Like many of the bamboos the River cane propagates by runners and only seldom produces flowers. When they do flower they flower synchronously – all the plants in a colony produce blossoms at the same time. Then they set seed and die. The interval between germination of the seed and flowering is long, 50 to 70 years! Some of the bamboos live as long as 120 years before flowering and dying. This type of synchronous mass reproduction, called "big-bang reproduction," is thought to be an adaptation to insure the survival of seeds. By producing a prodigious quantity of seed on an unpredictable schedule the local seed predators are overwhelmed. There is simply more seed than they can eat or gather, thus guaranteeing that some seed will survive to produce the next generation. In animals the same phenomenon is exhibited by 17-year cicadas that emerge in staggering numbers every 17 years.

Cranefly
Susie found a Crane fly on her jacket. These look like giant mosquitoes but do not bite and are harmless to humans. Crane flies are true flies and have a single pair of wings. The hind wings of true flies are modified to form a tiny structure shaped like a lollipop. It functions as a sense organ that enables a fly to sense its pitch and yaw as it flies through the air. Unfortunately the Crane fly escaped before we could pass it around for all to see.

White Trail, near ROW opening:

Witches broom
In the second crossing of the power line right-of-way we found a number of spring wild flowers: Venus' Looking Glass, Lyre-leaf sage, Blue-eyed grass, and Venus' Pride bluet. At the edge of the ROW someone noticed a "Witches' broom" on the end of a Hophornbeam branch. A Witches' broom is an abnormal growth of slender twigs clustered near the end of a branch. We usually see these in the fall, after the leaves have fallen, but today someone spotted a mass of tightly packed leaves. They are caused by a fungal infection, possibly transmitted by mites, the causes the tree to produce an abnormal number of twigs in a very short section of the branch. It is probably caused by the infestation or infection interfering with the normal plant hormones.

White Trail, back in woods:

Hawkweed 
Just inside the woods again we noticed a few Rattlesnake hawkweeds. This plant is reputed to cure the bite of rattlesnakes, but I wouldn't recommend relying it. But hawkweed does have an historical connection. Our modern understanding of genetics, how traits are inherited, was discovered in the 19th century by the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel who studied garden peas. After publishing his paper on the inheritance of traits in peas Mendel turned his attention to Hawkweeds. Making crosses in Hawkweeds is tremendously difficult because they are composites – their "flower" is really a collection of tiny florets, each floret capable of producing a single seed. In order to be sure that the pollen used in a cross is the only pollen that can fertilize the egg the pollen recipient has to be emasculated. The anthers must be removed before they are mature and releasing pollen. To do this Mendel has to carefully dissect open the flowers while observing them with a magnifying lens. It was tedious, time consuming work and led to his failing eyesight. None the less, Mendel persevered for five years and discovered that the patterns he had discovered in garden peas were not seen in hawkweeds. He died disappointed and unappreciated, foiled by the fact, unknown to him and other botanists of the time, that hawkweeds reproduce by parthenogenesis, a type of asexual reproduction. All his painstaking crosses were futile because the pollen made no contribution to the developing seed.

There are several small Paw Paw saplings in this part of the trail and the leaves have a pointed projection at the end, called a "drip tip." It is thought that this aids in allowing water to run off the leaf surface faster, which might prevent molds from becoming established on the wet leaves. Consistent with this idea is that many of the leaves of plants that grow in tropical rain forest have such drip tips.

Hickory......talked about compound leaves....these pinnately compound

Plantain leaf pussytoes
Forest bedstraw
We also found Plantain leaf pussytoes, Mayapple, Green and gold, Forest bedstraw (also known as Wild licorice) and Arrowleaf wild ginger, with its Little brown jug flowers hiding under the leaf litter. They are thought to be pollination by ants and /or beetles since the flowers normally never see the light of day.

The Bloodroot foliage remains behind and much larger that it was when the flower was present. It continues to photosynthesize, producing food that is stored in the root to be used the following spring.

Maple leaf viburnum
Another pleasant surprise was Maple leaf viburnum with flowers. Without the flowers this plant is often mistaken for a small maple tree.

Orange-patched smoky moth
We found an orange and black moth (Orange-patched smoky moth) resting on foliage. Whenever you find an insect that is brightly colored resting in a highly visible location you can be pretty certain that it may be poisonous or distasteful or it might mimic a similar appearing insect, in this case a distasteful beetle (a Net-winged beetle).

White Trail, far ROW

Lesser daisy fleabane
At the third crossing of the White trail and the power line right-of-way we found one of the spring flowers: Lesser daisy fleabane

White Trail, back in woods:

Partridgeberry flowers
Here the surprise was a small patch of Partridgeberry in bloom. Each plant bears a pair of trumpet shaped white petals, close together at their bases and diverging at the tops, like a "V" for victory. From these two flowers a single red berry will form. The two ovaries are so close together that, as they enlarge to form a fruit, they fuse to form a single red berry with two little scars where the petals were.


SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:

Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana 
Small's ragwort
Packera anonyma
Field madder
Sherardia arvensis
Orb weaver spider
Leucauge venusta
Hophornbeam
Ostrya virginiana
River cane AKA Switch cane
Arundinaria tecta 
Crane fly
Diptera: Tipulidae 
Venus' Looking Glass
Triodanis perfoliata
Lyre-leaf sage
Salvia lyrata
Blue-eyed grass
Sisyrinchium angustifolium
Large bluet
Houstonia purpurea var. purpurea
Hawkweed
Heiracium venosum
Paw Paw
Asimina sp.
Hickory
Carya sp.
Plantain-leaf pussytoes
Antennaria plantaginifolia
Mayapple
Podophyllum peltatum
Green-and-gold
Chrysogonum virginianum
Arrowleaf wild ginger
Little brown jugs
Hexastylis arifolia





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