Friday, July 1, 2016

Ramble Report June 30 2016

Today's Ramble was lead by Linda Chafin.
All the photographs in today's post were taken by Rosemary Woodel, unless otherwise credited. Rosemary graciously agreed to fill in for Don Hunter while he was gone. When you see Rosemary tell her how much you appreciate her efforts!
Today's post was written by Dale Hoyt.

Thirty-three Ramblers met today.

Today's reading:

Linda read The Summer Day, a poem by Mary Oliver.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Today's route:

From the Arbor we walked through the Shade Garden, across the road to the power line, then into the woods via the White trail. Shortly after entering the woods we took the Blue trail and at the small clearing turned right on the dirt access road which we followed to the Green trail. Turning right on the Green trail we returned to the power line and then back to the Arbor.

Shade Garden:

Smooth spiderwort

Smooth spiderwort; note fuzzy stamens
This species is distinguished from the Hairy spiderwort, (Tradescantia hirsuticaulis) found on our granite outcrops by having a smooth, hairless stem. Many of the spiderworts have hairy stamens, as you can see in the photograph. Linda mentioned that these hairs were often used in her biology classes to observe cytoplasmic streaming. When I was in school we observed it in a different plant, Elodea, a common aquarium plant. Under the microscope you could see individual plant cells and their larger components, like chloroplasts, the organelle where photosynthesis takes place. In the living cell the chloroplasts weren't just sitting there, they were churning around the outside of the cell, like clothing in a washing machine. But there was no visible agitator. That movement of cell contents was called cytoplasmic streaming and it was a mystery when Linda and, earlier, I were in school. A lot more is known about its cause and function now. The curious among you can use Google to discover this for yourself.

Oregon grape (Mahonia sp.)

The thick, leathery leaves of Mahonia resemble those of Holly, leading to another common name for the plant: Oregon grape holly. This attractive plant has a definite down side – it is very invasive in the southeast (but less so in other parts of the country). Both the American and the Asian species are considered invasive here and should not be planted.

Japanese stilt grass

Another invasive, Japanese stilt grass can be found almost everywhere in the SBGG. It was probably introduced when dried plants along with their seeds were used as packing material in shipments of ceramics from Japan. It is an annual plant so it can be partially controlled by pulling before it flowers. Unfortunately the seeds remain viable in the soil for seven years, so an area of heavy infestation must be revisited year after year to eliminate the newly germinated plants. The seeds also appear to be easily transported via mud attached to the tread of hiking shoes or tires. Linda told us that she sees it all along the Appalachian trail and it is hard to imagine how else it would have gotten there except by hitching a ride on the shoes of hikers.

Mulberry weed (Fatoua villosa)

I didn't see this plant and Rosemary didn't get a photograph of it. A quick Google search reveals that it is a recent "invasive" plant. I put the quotes around invasive because most of the reports Google returned are from nurseries, gardens and green houses where the plant has become a problem. These are artificial and disturbed habitats and plants that grow in those situations may not threaten natural environments. Many of the weeds in your lawns are seldom found in significant numbers in natural areas. This makes them weeds, plants that are growing where we don't want them, but not invasive in the true sense of that word. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments at the end of this post.


Sassafras seedling; note variation in leaf shape -- some are lobed, others not. (photo by DH)
We spotted young seedlings of the Sassafras tree (or shrub) in the Shade garden. The root bark of this plant was formerly used to make, by all accounts, a wonderful tasting tea. But in 1960 the FDA banned the use of the main ingredient, safrole, for human consumption because it had been shown to produce liver damage and cancer in laboratory animals. The most common commercial usage of safrole at the time was to flavor root beer and all manufacturers had to alter their ingredients.
A Wikipedia entry indicates that early English colonists harvested commercial quantities of the bark for export to England and, in the process, rapidly depleted their source. (This exploitation was echoed ~400 years later by the near extinction of Yew trees in the Pacific northwest when it was discovered that a substance, taxol, in their bark was an effective treatment for ovarian cancer.)

Beautyberry as Insect repellant

One of our new Ramblers from Savannah suggested using the leaves of Beautyberry as a mosquito repellent. She crushes them and rubs them over her arms.

White trail to Power line

Elephant's foot

Elephant's foot; basal rosette of leaves flat against the ground.

Bottlebrush Buckeye

Bottlebrush buckeye; the thin white structure crossing the bottom of Linda's fingernail is a pistil
all the otherw are stamens with tan anthers at their ends. (photo by DH)

Bottlebrush buckeye; whole plant with a single inflorescence
Tiger Swallowtail nectaring on Bottlebrush buckeye (photo by Ed Wilde)
In last week's post I talked about the low number of perfect flowers (flowers that have both stamens and pistils) among the many thousands of flowers with only stamens that are produced by Bottlebrush buckeye. Now I want to talk about how these few bisexual flowers may be pollinated. The stamens and pistils in the Bottlebrush buckeye project far forward of the flower proper, so any small insect gathering nectar at the base of the petals is unlikely to come in contact with the anthers on the stamens or the stigma of the pistil. This arrangement of the sexual parts of the flower is similar to that seen in the Flame azalea. The pollinator of Flame azalea has recently been identified: large butterflies, especially Tiger Swallowtails. The way it works is this: the pollen is collected on the butterfly's wings as it sips nectar from the flower. Swallowtails have the habitat of fluttering their wings as they visit flowers and the opening and closing of the wings brushes against the anthers so that pollen grains are dusted onto the wing surface. When the butterfly visits another flower the same flapping behavior transfers pollen from its wings to the receptive pistil of the flower. So, similar floral structure -- perhaps similar pollinators. I need to emphasize that this is just my hypothesis and has not been tested. Someone needs to see if Bottlebrush pollen is actually carried by butterfly wings and also determine if it can be transferred by visiting another flower. As additional evidence look at Ed Wilde's photo above -- a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly visiting a Bottlebrush buckeye.

A Bartram connection

One of the Ramblers here today, Brad Sanders, is a Bartram authority. He has written an excellent book, Guide to William Bartram's Travels, and is in the process of revising the first edition. Brad told us that William Bartram discovered Bottlebrush buckeye in the late 1700s at Fort Mitchell, Alabama. Fort Mitchell was located across the Chattahoochee River from modern day as Fort Benning.

Carolina Desert-chicory

Carolina desert-chicory
This member of the Aster family has an intensely yellow flower head, lacking any hint of the other pigments that dull by comparison the similar flowers of Dandelion. Like Dandelion all the florets that make up the flower head are ray florets, each tiny flower bearing a single, straplike petal. When you peer into the center of the flower head you will find the dark anthers emerging like little pencil leads from the outer whorls of florets. Those at the extreme outside have smaller, whitish projections that are surrounded by the anthers. These are the stigmas poking up above the encircling anthers.
A note about the common names: In some guides you will find this plant called False Dandelion, which is a name used for other flowers that appear similar to Dandelions, so a better name is needed to eliminate confusion. This plant (Pyrrhopappus caroliniana) is a member of a subgroup of the Aster family called the tribe Chicorieae, which consists of the Chicories, which include Dandelions and Chicory as well as many other species. It includes other plants in the southwestern US that are known as desert chicories. These are closely related to Pyrrhopappus, so the common name of Carolina desert-chicory is appropriate. You could make an equally valid argument for Carolina chicory. Either way is less confusing than False dandelion.

Wild petunia

Wild petunia

Yellow trumpet vine

Yellow trumpet vine

Powerline Right of Way

Deptford Pink

Deptford Pink; non-native, but non-invasive

Horse nettle

Horse nettle; notice the pores at the end of the anthers; this is where the pollen is shaken out when the right kind of bee "buzzes" the flower.

American Wild Carrot (our native Queen Anne's lace)

Our native version of Queen Anne's Lace lacks the purple floret in the middle of the smaller umbel of flowers.
As the seeds mature the flowers are gathered into a "bird's nest" formation to protect the developing seeds; when they are ripe the nest opens out to allow the seeds to disperse.

Mountain mint

Mountain mint; leaves beginning to develop white frosting

Stone mint

Stone mint flowers


The thin, flat ridges on the stems give these plants their common name: Wingstems

Chinese praying mantis

Chinese praying mantis; immature -- note the small wings on back (photo by DH)

The praying mantis is a sit-and-wait predator. It lurks among the foliage and when a suitable size prey item comes near it will slowly stalk until it comes within striking distance. Then the forelegs thrust forward and grip the prey in their thorny grasp. It is brought to the head and the mantis begins to eat, chewing its meal well. Like all insects, the mantis grows by molting its exoskeleton, growing larger with each shedding of its outer body covering. The wings, that are small and non-functional in this individual get a little larger with each molt, until, after the last molt, they become full size and functional. The female mantis is notorious for eating her mate. This doesn't always happen -- it depends on her nutritional state. When she does eat her mate she first starts with the head and consumes part of the brain. That immobilizes her mate and she can finish her meal without a struggle. It might seem cruel, but by becoming her meal the male increases her nutritional status and, therefore, increases the number and/or size of the eggs she can lay; after all, they are his children.

Wooly mullein

Wooly mullein; Tim says the soft, fuzzy leaves make good trail "Charmin".

Blue trail to clearing

On entering the woods we were all impressed with the sudden sound of silence. The humidity, the leaves, the trees, everything seemed to absorb sound.
Pines, the first to colonize abandoned farms will be replaced by more shade tolerant hardwoods.

This part of the Garden was formerly farmed – cotton was grown here, probably in the 1930's. You can see the evidence farming from the terraces that are still visible. Terracing was an attempt to control soil erosion. Instead of simply plowing the land as it lay terraces were constructed to slow down runoff in an attempt to retain more soil. We can all see how effective that practice was every time we dig into our red clay. The area here was farmed until the 1950's at which time the land lay fallow. We now see the result of almost 60 years of succession. The first few years after farming ceased the land was colonized by annual plants and then perennials, probably looking much like the power line right-of-way does today. The soil was still poor and slowly recovering from the abuse of cotton. The early trees were mostly pines which can survive on poor soil but are poor competitors. This is why you see so many young pines scattered throughout this part of the Garden. Pines, while good pioneers, do not grow well in the shade so their very presence prevents them from replacing themselves. But the hardwoods, like oak, hickory and beech are shade tolerant and slowly invade the pine forest. We are living in the middle of this process and it will slowly change on a time scale longer than a human lifetime, allowing us to see only a part of its unfolding.

Lone Star Tick on seed head of grass
Lone star tick
We usually only see ticks only after we get home from a Ramble, but I spotted this one hanging onto the end of a native grass. This is a favored position for a tick. From that perch it can reach out and grab any passing mammal that brushes against it.

Short leaf pine
Short leaf pine; cones are smaller than Loblolly, needles shorter - 2 to 3 needles per bundle.

Short leaf pines used to be more common in the piedmont but have been replaced by Loblolly pines that are widely planted for commercial purposes. Loblollies were originally a coastal plain species and grew in low lying damp areas called Loblollies.

Access road to Green trail

Winged sumac
Winged sumac; the wings are the flat ridges running between the leaflets.
If you count carefully you'll find that each segment has two pairs of legs.
The orange and black coloration of this millipede signals the fact that it is chemically defended. Each segment has a pair of glands that produce cyanide gas when the animal is irritated. Millipedes are generally cylindrical -- rounded in cross section, although some species have projecting flanges on their sides, making them look flatter. In contrast Centipedes, the other Order of Myriapods are flattened and have only one pair of legs per body segment. Centipedes are carnivorous hunters of invertebrates while millipedes are harmless eaters of decaying vegetable material. The millipedes also have in their guts symbiotic fungi that are found in no other organisms.

Green trail

Mockernut hickory 
The alternate compound leaves have 5 to 7 leaflets; the stems are hairy and have a strong odor when scratched. The fruits are large and very thick walled.

American toad
Juvenile American toad; the warty skin and poison gland (swelling behind the eye) are characteristic of toads.

Pignut hickory 
Pignut hickory fruit; note the "nose"
The name comes from farmers that turned their pigs out to forage on the fruits of these trees. The fruits also are pear shaped (have a little snout, like a pig). But not every fruit has a snout -- all pear-shaped fruits are pignut  but not all pignut fruits are pear-shaped.
Shagbark hickory
Shagbark hickory leaflets are broadly oval
Shagbark hickory; bark peels away from the trunk on upper and lower ends of bark plates.
Shagbark hickory prefers soil where the pH is higher than is typical of our soils. So when you see them growing it's usually a place where the underlying rock contains high levels of Magnesium and Calcium minerals that raise the pH.
The leaflets are broadly oval and the bark is composed of plates that lift away from the trunk on one or both ends.

Summary of Observed Species

Common Name
Scientific Name
Shade Garden
Smooth spiderwort
Tradescantia ohiensis
American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana
Rice paper plant
Tetrapanax papyrifera
Oregon grape
Mahonia bealii
Sassafras albidum
Persicaria virginiana
cv. 'Lance Corporal'
Black cohosh
Actea racemosa
Mulberry weed
Fatoua villosa
Japanese stiltgrass
Microstegium vimineum
White trail to woods
Elephant's foot
Elephantopus tomentosus
Wild petunia
Ruellia caroliniensis
Bottle brush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora
Yellow trumpet vine
Campsis radicans
Carolina Desert Chicory
Pyrrhopappus carolinianus
Deptford Pink
Dianthus armeria
Horse nettle
Solanum carolinense
American wild carrot
Daucus pusillus
Stink bug
Hemiptera: Pentatomidae
Mountain mint
Pycnanthemum incanum
Stone mint
Cunila origanoides
Vernonia gigantea
Verbesina sp.
Chinese praying mantis
Tenodera sinensis
Blue trail
Wooly mullein
Verbascum thapsus
Shagbark hickory
Carya ovata
Violet-toothed polypore
Trichaptum biforme
Ebony spleenwort
Asplenium platyneuron
Lone star tick
Amblyomma americanum
Fagus grandifolia
Water oak
Quercus nigra
Short leaf pine
Pinus echinata
Access road to Green trail
Winged Sumac
Rhus copallina
Myriapoda: Diplopoda
Ebony spleenwort
Asplenium platyneuron
Green trail
Mockernut hickory
Carya tomentosa
American toad
Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus
Pignut hickory
Carya glabra
Carya ovata
Winter creeper
Euonymus fortunei
Black Snakeroot
Sanicula sp.
Orchard grass
Dactylis glomerata

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