Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ramble Report October 6 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. Don also has a butterfly album you can see here.)
Today's post was written by Dale Hoyt.


Announcements:Visit this page to see the current Announcements.

Today's reading: Rosemary read a poem by Denise Levertov:

Looking, Walking, Being

"The World is not something to
look at, it is something to be in."
-- Mark Rudman

I look and look.
Looking's a way of being: one becomes,
sometimes, a pair of eyes walking.
Walking wherever looking takes one.

The eyes
dig and burrow into the world.
They touch
fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor.
World and the past of it,
not only
visible present, solid and shadow
that looks at one looking.

And language? Rhythms
of echo and interruption?
a way of breathing.

breathing to sustain
walking and looking,
through the world,
in it.

~ Denise Levertov ~
(Poems, 1960-1967)

Dale read the entry for October 6 from An Almanac For Moderns by Donald Culross Peattie:

NOBODY knows the birth date of John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, so that I shall put him where, I am sure, he would have preferred his biography to be inserted, in apple time. Sandburg and Stephen Benet and Vachel Lindsay have all sung his praises, and from his obscurity John (not Jonathan, as he is sometimes inaccurately called) has emerged as a national hero.
Perhaps the only American who resembles an early Christian saint, he too went his barefoot way in sackcloth, subsisting upon roots, thundering out denunciations of pioneer vanity – store calico and tea drinking – and planting apple seeds wherever he set foot.
Legend concerning him has grown to almost homeric proportions. Many cities and states claim that their apples are descended from his sowing. The sober facts seem to be that he arrived on the Ohio about 1801, being then some twenty-six years in age, a completely daft young Elijah – with a dash of Daniel Boone and General William Booth – who went about in Ohio and Indiana starting orchards from seed. He regarded cutting and grafting as immoral and contrary to the will of God. In flouting horticultural experience he seems to have been motivated by a compassion for apple trees, a devout belief that they should not be deprived of regular sexual fertilization. There is no record that any woman ever looked with favor upon poor ragged Johnny. At sixty-five he died of exhaustion, after a hundred mile trip afoot to one of his orchards. Mad he undoubtedly was, but Saint Paul would have approved of him, and so would Whitman, and Francis of Assisi.

Today's route: From the Arbor down through the Dunson Native Flora Garden, exiting through the fence at the bottom. Then over to the power line right-of-way where we turned toward the river. About half way from the old deer fence we turned around and returned to the Arbor.

Armadillo foraging activity scrapes up the mulch and leaf litter in the Dunson Garden
We've noticed evidence of armadillo activity in the garden many times this summer and today was no exception. The mulched paths in the Dunson Garden this morning looked like they had been visited by an eager gardener with a hoe, but it was an eager armadillo foraging for food. They eat insects and other invertebrates that live in the leaf litter and the upper surface of the soil. Jeff told us about the culinary preparation of armadillos as well as how they came to be one of the recent immigrants to Georgia.

According to James F. Taulman and Lynn W. Robbins ( Journal of Biogeography, 1996, vol. 23, pp.635-648): 

"Dispersal through Texas to the north and east has been steady and progressive from the first records in the mid-19th century to the present. Moreover, the Florida population, first founded by a few individuals released from a personal zoo near Titusville in 1924 and augmented by the accidental release of additional armadillos from a circus truck in 1936 . . . has continued to disperse in all directions."

The Nine-banded armadillo is the only mammal, other than humans, known to be susceptible to the bacterium (Mycobacterium leprae) that causes leprosy. (Leprosy is now known as Hansen's disease.) Because M. leprae cannot be artificially cultivated Armadillos are important in studying leprosy. (This does not mean that all armadillos carry Hansen's disease, only that the bacterium can live in their tissues. Hansen's disease is not highly communicable. People have lived many years in contact with afflicted people without contracting the disease. And many rural people have eaten armadillo meat without contracting the disease.)

The northward spread of the armadillo population appears to be limited by unfavorable winter weather in more northern locales. (They can only survive in areas where there are less than 9 consecutive freeze days.)

Jeff also showed us a hickory twig with attached leaves that he found in the garden. It had been attacked by a beetle called the Hickory twig girdler. As its name implies, the adult beetle chews a through the bark of a small twig, moving around the twig as it nibbles. This creates a circular trough that completely girdles the twig, killing the leaves beyond the point of girdling. An egg is laid in the twig beyond the girdled area and the larva feeds on the woody tissue. The twig is weakened by the girdling and will break off and fall to the ground. The beetle larva overwinters in the fallen twig and completes its development the following summer. Twigs that harbor the beetle larva have a smoothly cut surface where they were attached to the tree.

Painted Buckeye fruit
There are a lot of the small, shrubby Painted Buckeyes in the DNFG and they have already lost most of their leaves. These Buckeyes are the first shrubs to leaf out in the spring and the first to lose their leaves in the fall. Some have produced fruit that is beginning to ripen (the thin brown husk covering the seed is starting to split) and soon the large seeds will fall to the ground. These seeds resemble those of the Ohio buckeye, but they are lighter in color and the "eye" is much smaller. Maybe that means they won't bring as much good luck.

Fruits of Tall indigo bush
Tall indigo bush resembles senna with its compound, pinnately lobed leaves, but instead of pea-like seed pods with multiple seeds each flower produces a tiny pod with a single seed.

Smooth purple coneflowers have now gone to seed, with only the disks (or cones) remaining, most still bearing the seeds and the papery chaff that give the disks their spiny look.  The slender, drooping pink ray flowers have long since fallen off.  This is a federally listed, endangered species, most often found in circumneutral soils and is found in Georgia only in Stephens and Habersham Counties in NE Georgia. It is distinguished from other similar species by its smooth leaves and drooping ray flowers. 

Grass stage of Longleaf pine
photo taken June 2, 2016
Smooth purple coneflowers blooming

The same Longleaf pine as above showing "rocket" stage growth.
A single Longleaf pine has been planted next to the Smooth purple coneflowers. The Longleaf pine/wiregrass community once dominated the coastal plain from Texas to east Virginia, covering an estimated 90 million acres. This ecosystem has been reduced to a few small, isolated fragments totaling approximately one million acres. It was periodic fire that maintained the community by suppressing competition from fire-intolerant hardwoods. The advent of agriculture meant the suppression of wild fires and, along with clear-cutting of the old growth trees and farming of faster growing tree species, spelled doom for a unique southeastern species assemblage.

Longleaf is fire-adapted. In fact, it requires fire for its reproduction. The seeds need bare mineral soils to germinate, the type of soils left after a low-intensity fire has reduced the litter layer to ashes. Without fire the pine needles and dead grasses accumulate, preventing the Longleaf seeds from making contact with the soil. In pre-settlement times this duff was burned off by small, low intensity fires caused by frequent lightning strikes.

When the Longleaf seed germinates it forms a dense, grass-like cluster of needles and devotes itself to growing a tap root for the first five plus years. This grass stage, as it is called, is very resistant to fire. Only the tips of the needles burn in low-intensity fires and the needle base is closely packed which prevents the fire from damaging the apical meristem of the future tree. After the grass stage is past the tree begins to grow rapidly, shooting up five or more feet in just a couple of years. This puts the growing tip beyond the reach of the frequent low-intensity fires. The trunk is also protected from fire damage by a thick bark. The Longleaf in the Dunson Garden has reached this "rocket" stage of growth.

The stem is bare for a long distance up the trunk, covered only with thick bark which further protects the trunk from fire.  The limbs develop at a higher point, which also provides further protection from fire.

The Longleaf pine also supports a federally endangered bird: the Red-cocadec woodpecker (RCW). The heartwood of older trees begins to decay is infected by the red heart fungus.  The RCW check the trees in the forest to determine which ones have been affected by the fungus and, when one is found, they begin to excavate a nest cavity. It takes a long time to create a hole in the hard sapwood, but when the decaying heartwood is reached a suitable nest cavity is easily made. Then the RCW taps open the resin channels around the entrance. The sticky, light colored resin streams down the bark below the nest entrance, forming what is called a “candle tree.” This forms a barrier to predators like snakes, preventing them from entering the nest and eating the eggs or young birds. Because the RCW is a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act its habitat must be preserved, so it effectively provides protection for the remaining stands of longleaf pine as well as the thousands of other species that make up this ecosystem. 
Longleaf pines are large trees that may reach heights of 95 to 115 feet.  The Apalachicola National Forest, in the panhandle of Florida, is a good example of the longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat and the RCW trees.  In late April and early May, in addition to the RCW trees, there are many wildflowers to be seen including several species of wild orchid and pitcher plants. The Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, an easy drive south of Athens, also has active colonies of RCW.

Georgia basil
There is also a small clump of Georgia basil growing near the Smooth purple coneflower. Being a mint, it has the square stem, opposite leaves and the flowers with two lips, all key characteristics of plants in the mint family. It may be available at the Native Plant Sale at the Garden on Oct. 6-8 and Oct. 13-15.

Switch grass
At the very bottom of the Dunson Garden there is a large clump of Switch grass. There are many cultivars of switch grass commercially available in all sizes and shades of green. This grass has also been suggested as a candidate for biofuel propagation.

In the ROW, we went directly to look at some beautiful Yellow Indian grass. The stems of yellow Indian grass have a bluish color and a waxy coating, which helps keep the grass from drying out.  It is happy to live in dry upland areas.

Silver plume grass

Silver plum grass seed head
Near the yellow Indian grass, we saw several tall stalks of Silver plume grass.  The leaves of silver plume grass are thick and heavy, with a prominent white mid-vein. In this respect it is similar to Johnson grass but the stems of Johnson grass are much taller and its seed heads are less dense and have a purplish hue.

Gold moth caterpillar
Resting on Wingstem leaves we found two caterpillars that we couldn't identify. But Carmen Champagne, the naturalist at Sandy Creek Nature Center came to our rescue. They are the caterpillars of the Gold Moth and feed exclusively on Verbesina.

Calico aster
We also saw a lot of the “Confusing white fall-flowering asters.”  There are several species of small white asters blooming at this time across north Georgia and here at the Bot Garden.  The ones at this location appear to be the Calico asters.  One thing in common with many of the fall white asters is the appearance of the disk flowers.  Some aster heads have yellow disk flowers, others have red. The yellow disk flowers have not been pollinated.  After the flowers are pollinated the disk flowers turn red, perhaps signaling to their insect pollinators that they are out of business.

Pennsylvania smartweed

Swamp samrtweed

Stems of Arrowleaf tearthumb
Although the lower part of the power line right of way is a floodplain there are areas that are wetter than others. After heavy rains last spring a temporary pool formed in one spot and we found frog eggs and, later, tadpoles in it. The pool is long gone, but the soil there is still wetter than other parts of the floodplain and supports the growth of three moisture-loving Smartweeds: Pennsylvania smartweed, Swamp smartweed, and Arrowleaf tearthumb. These are all in the genus Persicaria (formerly Polygonum).  The “smart” in smartweed comes from the fact that the plants have a peppery flavor and make the tongue burn or “smart” if bitten.  The flowers have no petals; the colorful flower parts are sepals. In addition to the smartweeds we found Lurid sedge here.

Mistflower is growing along the edge of the mowed area.

Common camphorweed seed heads
Common camphorweed has started forming fuzzy brown spherical seed heads.

Maryland senna green seedpods
Maryland senna, has both green and fully ripened dark brown beans.

Tall Ironweed has gone to seed and there was an Alianthus webworm moth under one of the leaves.

Ragweed is still blooming, with its miniscule whitish flowers.  This is the plant that causes goldenrod to get a bad rap.  They both bloom at the same time but since the goldenrod is so much more visible, most people think it's the cause of their hay fever. But goldenrod is insect pollinated and its pollen grains are large and sticky and are too heavy to be wind-borne. Ragweed, on the other hand, is wind pollinated and its tiny pollen grains can be carried aloft many miles by the wind.

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar
The Purple passionflower vines are thinning, making the large, green maypops more visible and several Gulf fritillary caterpillars of various sizes are feeding on the remaining leaves.

Acanthocephala sp. (note spiny hind legs)

Eastern leaf-footed bug (left hind leg missing)
Note the expanded structure of the right hind foot.

Goldenrod attracts a lot of insects to its flowers and today we found two kinds of true bugs among the blossoms: an Eastern leaf footed bug and a related species with very spiny legs, Acanthocephala sp. (sorry, no common name). Bugs in this family (Coreidae) have scent glands that emit unpleasant (to some people) odors if they are disturbed. Only some of the coreids have the flat, expanded hind leg segments; others have enlarged spiny hind legs.

At least three kinds of galls can be found on Goldenrod; today we found two of them: 1) a spherical swelling of the stem about the size of a quarter and 2) a tight cluster of leaves at the apex (the growing tip) of the plant.
Goldenrod spherical gall
The spherical gall is produced when a fly lays an egg on the growing tip of goldenrod in the spring. The larva burrows into the stem and its presence causes the goldenrod stem to swell. The larva feeds on the plant tissue inside the gall and overwinters inside this cozy home. It's not completely safe, though. Chickadees and Downy woodpeckers often will peck open the galls during the winter to eat the frozen larva inside. In the spring the larva resumes feeding and when it is ready to pupate it eats a tunnel toward the surface of the gall. The tunnel reaches up to the epidermis of the gall but does not break through it. There the larva pupates and when the adult fly emerges a few weeks later it is faced with the problem of how to get out of the gall. The newly emerged fly forces its body fluids into a tiny balloon on its forehead and the hydraulic pressure that is generated is enough to pop out the covering of the tunnel.

Goldenrod apical rosette gall
The apical rosette gall is formed in a similar fashion. The fly larva produces something that inhibits the elongation of the stem between adjacent leaves. The result is the cluster of leaves stacked on one another that looks messy green corsage. The larva feeds on the plant tissue inside this cluster.

Hop hornbeam spiral bark pattern
On the way back to the Arbor we spotted a Hop hornbeam tree with a spiral bark pattern. The bark looks like a cat scratched it, making long, linear strips of bark. But these strips do not run straight up the trunk. Instead they curve around the trunk, making a spiral pattern. If you follow one such strip you will see that it curves to the left. The pattern of the bark may reflect the pattern of the wood grain beneath the bark. Many trees have such spiral grain, but why they do so is not satisfactorily understood.


Common Name
Scientific Name
Nine-banded armadillo
Dasypus novemcinctus
Hickory twig girdler
Oncideres cingulata
Painted buckeye
Aesculus sylvatica
Late booming white fall asters, several species
 Symphiotrichum sp.
Tall false indigo
Amorpha fruiticosa
Smooth purple coneflowers
Echinacea laevigata
Longleaf pine
Pinus palustris
Georgia basil
Clinopodium georgianum
Switch grass
Panicum sp.
Yellow Indian grass
Sorghastrum nutans
Silver plume grass
Saccharum alopecuroides
Gulf fritillary butterfly
Agraulis vanillae
Gold moth caterpillar
Basilodes pepita
Conoclinium coelestinum
Calico aster
Symphyotrichum lateriflorum
Common camphorweed
Heterotheca subaxillaris
Verbesina alternifolia
Wild senna
Senna marilandica
Tall ironweed
Vernonia altissima   
Ailanthus webworm moth
Atteva aurea  
Pennsylvania smartweed
Persicaria pensylvanicum
Swamp smartweed/
Mild waterpepper
Persicaria hydropiperoides
Arrowleaf tearthumb
Persicaria sagittatum
Lurid sedge
Carex lurida
Purple passionflower
Passiflora incarnata
Eastern leaf footed bug
Leptoglossus pyllopus
Common ragweed
Ambrosia artemisiifolia 
Tall goldenrod
Solidago altissima
Tall thistle
Cirsium altissimum
Ostrya virginiana


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