Friday, March 10, 2017

Ramble Report March 9 2017

Today's Ramble was lead 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 Don Hunter and Linda Chafin.

30 Ramblers today

Announcement: The Athens Historical Society will conduct a Ramble in the Ruins around the old Athens Brick Company site at Sandy Creek Nature Center on Saturday, March 25, 3:00 p.m. Details can be found here.

Today's route:  Leaving the Shade Garden arbor we made our way along the back of the conservatory and through the Heritage Garden on the way to the path down to the Orange Trail spur from the Flower Gardens down to the Orange Trail and it's creek.

American South Renovation Garden:
Georgia Rockcress
Georgia Rockcress (Arabis georgiana) was recently listed
by the Federal Government as threatened, with maybe five populations remaining in the wild, near Rome and at Goat Rock, south of LaGrange and on the Chattahoochee. The Garden is providing safeguarding for the species, keeping it in cultivation and keeping seeds. It's in the mustard family. Mustard flowers typically have four petals that a cross (a plus sign, +). The family is also known as crucifers, from the Latin meaning "cross bearer".

Heritage Garden:
Field Mustard
Field mustard. Besides producing mustard greens other varieties of this same species include Turnips and some that produce canola oil.
Ornamental Asian poppy (seen near the urn at the end of the West Ellipse at edge of Heritage Garden)

Orange Trail Spur (between Flower Garden and bridge across stream to Orange Trail):
Painted Buckeye with no anthocyanin pigment in leaves

Painted Buckeye with anthocyanin pigment in leaves
Painted buckeye. Sue noticed several Painted buckeyes with recently emerged leaves. Curiously, one plant had purple leaves while the leaves of another were green. The purple coloration is due to the presence of a pigment, anthocyanin, in the epidermal cells of the leaves. Different anthocyanin molecules have different colors, ranging from red through purple to blue. The red of tomatoes and the color of grapes and blueberries is due to anthocyanins. Anthocyanin is often present in the emerging leaves in many plants. It is thought to serve as a sun screen, protecting the developing photosynthetic tissues from the ultraviolet radiation of sunlight. So why did one plant lack the purple pigment? Perhaps some plants lack the ability to make anthocyanin. Plants, like people, vary in many ways – think of brown eyes and blue eyes. Some of us tan easily on exposure to sun while others just burn.
Overwintering frond of Christmas Fern
Christmas fern. Their green fronds overwinter, though a patch of cells at the base of the fronds collapse, causing the fronds to lie flat against the ground. Come spring, the overwintering fronds wither and die as new fronds are formed. Their common name derives from the practice of gathering their fronds for Christmas decorations. We saw some fiddleheads (called croziers) unfurling beside the trail. Another characteristic of Christmas fern is the shape of the leaflets (called pinules in fern-speak). Each pinule has an asymmetrical projection at its base, making the pinule look like a stocking or boot.
Ebony Spleenwort fern
Ebony spleenwort, another evergreen native fern, is named for its black stem and rachis. (The stem is the part from the ground to the first leaflet (pinule); the rachis is the continuation of the stem to which the pinules are attached.) Though it superficially resembles Christmas fern, it is much smaller and has the shiny, black stem. Both Christmas Fern and Ebony Spleenwort will grow in degraded soils that other ferns avoid. Consequently you will find them growing everywhere in the Garden's natural areas.
Bloodroot with leaves and fruit
Bloodroot. Last week we saw bloodroot blooming among the rocks off the edge of the trail. They have now dropped their petals and formed small, green, spindle-shaped fruit atop the stalk.
Orange Trail:

Three different Rue Anemone plants
Rue-anemone was seen blooming at many locations along the Orange Trail and on the banks of the stream. Rue-anemone leaves are toxic and ignored by deer, which may account for their abundance in the woods at the Garden, relative to other, less well defended woodland wildflowers. Rue-anemone flowers have no petals – the white petal-like structures are actually sepals. Ted pointed out that they have to do double duty, protecting the flower buds and, later, attracting pollinators. Rue-anemone is pollinated by various bees and flies, which gather pollen only as no nectar is produced.
Common blue violets were blooming in much greater numbers than the last time we passed this way (February 23rd )
Violet Wood Sorrel (not blooming yet)
Violet wood sorrel foliage was seen growing densely among the tree roots on the hillside above the Orange Trail. The purplish-pink flowers have yet to appear. Its leaves resemble those of three-leaf clover, except they are purplish or blueish green and are usually folded downwards. Both the purple pigment and the folded leaves protect the plant from the effects of overexposure to the sun. Like all members of this plant family, its leaves and stems contain the mildly toxic oxalic acid, which may discourage deer and other animals from eating them.
Remains of last year's Beech Drops flowering stalk
The flower stalks of last year’s Beech drops were seen near several American beech trees above the trail banks. Beech drops completely lack chlorophyll and are parasitic on the roots of American beech. They usually occur in such small numbers that they do not harm the trees. Their purple and white flowers are inconspicuous and will appear in late spring.
One-flowered Bedstraw seen growing on bank near the violet wood sorrel.
First of this year's Wild Geranium flowers
Wild geranium foliage has now emerged all along Orange Trail. Only one plant is flowering, about one month earlier than usual.
Broad Beech ferns
Broad Beech Fern. This non-evergreen fern has a feature that allows you to easily identify it: the lowest pair of leaflets, or pinnae, point towards ground at about a 45 degree angle to the midrib of the frond. The other pinnae spread more-or-less perpendicular to the midrib. The “rabbit ear” appearance of the lower pinnae is unique enough to be distinctive. Broad Beech Fern spreads by lengthy rhizomes, with fronds emerging from points all along the rhizomes, forming a scattered patch. Some ferns, such as Cinnamon fern and Christmas fern, form clumps rather than patches. Several fronds emerge from a single point on the tip of the rhizome, forming a fountain shape as they emerge. These ferns do not spread rapidly, tending to stay in one place.
May Apples
May apple. Many May apples have emerged, much earlier than is usual. The umbrella-like leaves will expand to the size of small dinner plates and those plants with two leaves will bear a flower later in the season.
Carolina Anole
A Carolina anole was seen sunning itself on a streamside shrub.
Elderberry is just emerging
Common elderberry is just beginning to leaf out along the stream.

Orange Trail, below bridge and over to the Middle Oconee River:
We stopped briefly so many in the group could walk into the woods a bit to see one of the large patches of Rue Anemone that can be found growing on the west-facing hillside above the Orange Trail. Linda wandered into the woods and came out with two ticks which were discovered over lunch.
Sensitive Fern
At the large bridge (Ben's Bridge), two Sensitive fern fronds are emerging from the muck. (These ferns like wet feet.) Some of last year’s fertile fronds, dried and brown, were still present.
Southern Grape Fern
A small Southern Grape Fern or two were also seen at the bridge, as was more Christmas fern. Southern Grape Ferns are another “evergreen” fern.

Orange Trail, along the Middle Oconee River:
Musclewood trunk
Male catkins of Musclewood tree
Closer view of Musclewood male catkins
We stopped at several large Musclewood trees, each covered with male catkins. They are still immature but will be producing pollen in a few weeks. No female flower clusters were seen on this or other Musclewood trees in the vicinity. This is the first time in five years that Dale can recall seeing these particular Musclewood trees flowering.


American South
 Renovation Garden

Georgia Rockcress
Arabis georgiana   
Heritage Garden

Field mustard
Brassica rapa
Ornamental Asian poppy
Papaver orientale
Orange Trail

Painted buckeye
Aesculus sylvatica
Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides
Ebony spleenwort
Asplenium platyneuron
Round-lobed hepatica
Anemone americana
Sanguinaria canadensis
Rue anemone
Thalictrum thalictroides
Common blue violet
Viola sororia
Violet wood sorrel*
Oxalis violacea
Epifagus virginiana
One-flowered bedstraw
Galium uniflorum
Wild geranium
Geranium maculatum
Broad beech fern
Phegopteris hexagonoptera
Podophyllum peltatum
Galium aparine
Carolina anole
Anolis carolinensis
Common elderberry
Sambucus canadensis
Sensitive fern
Onoclea sensibilis
Southern grape fern
Botrychium biternatum
Musclewood/American hornbeam
Carpinus caroliniana
*foliage only

**last season's dead plants


  1. I must remember to show the group my tick key (used to remove ticks, not identify them).

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