Friday, April 14, 2017

Ramble Report April 13 2017




Today's Ramble was led by Linda Chafin.
Here's the link to Don's Facebook album for today's Ramble. Don also has posted a sequence of photos showing the aggressive encounter between two Carolina anoles; description later in this post. (All the photos in this post are compliments of Don.)
Today's post was written by Don Hunter and Linda Chafin with a few additions by Dale Hoyt.

Twenty-two Ramblers met today.

Announcements:

Emily announced that the cancelled April 5th walk at Sandy Creek Nature Center has been rescheduled for Wednesday, May 3.  Mike Wharton will lead the walk through the managed forest project areas recently cleared and planted.

There are still a few openings for the Rock and Shoals walk this Saturday.  Meet at the Shade Garden arbor to car pool over to the trail head. An excellent survey of the geology, history and flora of Georgia's granite outcrops is available at this link.

Reading:

Sue Wilde read a piece from the October16, 2016, New York Times magazine: How to check out an injured bird.

Today's Route:  We began with an observation at the Shade Garden arbor then walked down and across the Flower Bridge and through the various formal garden areas behind the conservatory, winding up at Cafe Botanica for coffee, snacks and conversation.

Shade Garden Arbor:

Ohio spiderwort
Ohio spiderwort is planted around the base of the ginkgos between the arbor and the parking lot. It has a smooth (hairless) stem.

Ginkgo new leaf growth
The Ginkgo trees continue to recover from the freeze damage incurred back in March.  Many replacement leaves have reached full size.

American South Renovation Garden:

Eastern Bluestar

Fringed Bluestar

Louisiana Bluestar
Bluestars, with lovely pale, blue flowers were the first thing we saw. We actually saw several species, including Amsonia tabernaemontana (Eastern bluestar) with its broadly oval leaves, Amsonia ludoviciana (Louisiana bluestar), with hairy, lance-shaped leaves, and Amsonia ciliata (Sandhills bluestar), with narrow needle-like leaves. All three are native to the southeastern U.S. Eastern Bluestar is found throughout Georgia in moist, rich forests. Louisiana Bluestar is found in the thin, dry soils around outcrops of Lithonia gneiss just east of Atlanta. Sandhills Bluestar occurs in the Coastal Plain in sandy, dry soils.

Carolina geranium is present but not blooming yet.

Georgia rockcress
Tall, spindly Georgia rockcress is blooming. This plant is a crucifer and has white flowers with four-petals arranged in a "+" pattern, typical of the crucifer family. Crucifer means "bearing a cross" and refers to the shape of the flowers.

Blue Wild indigo

White Wild indigo

Yellow Wild indigo

Since some reject the idea of calling plants “false,” we call this group of beautiful natives “Wild Indigos.” There are three species planted in this area:  White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba), Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis), and Narrow-pod White Wild Indigo (Baptisia albescens). White Wild Indigo has distinctively colored stems, a dull metallic purple or gray.
Indigo was one of the first economically important crops for colonists in South Carolina and Georgia. (For more information on the importance of indigo you should read this article in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.)

Woodland Phlox
Woodland phlox could be seen growing along the right-hand side of the path as we made our way towards the Flower Bridge.  Its the only phlox to bloom in shades of blue, but can tend towards bluish purple.  All other species of phlox tend toward pinks or distinctly purple.  We saw several, however, that had thrown up a nearly white mutation.  It is now blooming in large numbers in the mountainous areas of north Georgia and other nearby southeastern states.

Lyre-leaf sage
While stopped to admire the phlox, we saw a few lyre-leaved sage plants, with their pale purple flowers and distinctive green and purple lyre-shaped basal leaves. Several folks chimed in that they had always thought of lyre-leaved sage as a common invasive species but it is, in fact, a native plant and is garnering a bit more appreciation among the group. It’s a mint with its square stems and tubular, two-lipped flowers but its leaves are all basal.

Nearby we saw a large and healthy Kentucky yellowwood.  Presence of this tree in an area is an indicator of high quality, nutrient rich moist forests in the mountainous areas in which its found. They can be found in virgin, unforested coves.  The bark looks much like the smooth bark of American beech trees.

Linda pulled up an example of one of the worst invasive species to be found in the area, Oriental false hawksbeard.  It is an annual and spreads rapidly if not pulled before dropping seeds.

Two-winged silverbell
Right before we arrived at the Flower Bridge, we stopped to admire a large silverbell tree, full of large white flowers.  The tree still bore old fruit from last year, with two wings.  Because the fruit had two wings, it is identified as Two-winged silverbell.

Path up to China and Asia section:

Oconee Azalea
At the far side of the Flower Bridge, we stopped to look at an Oconee azalea, with beautiful orange flowers.  It is not as bright and red or red orange as the flame azalea more common in the mountains.

While standing at the bridge, Linda pointed out the Big-leaf magnolia.  There were many large, dead leaves on the ground below the tree.  Dale has pointed out before the amazing fact that all of the cells present in each leaf were present when the leaf was in bud stage.  No new cells were created during  the growth and expansion of each leaf from its original bud.  Each cell expands as the tree pumps water into the leaf cells, ultimately causing the leaf to increase in size to their current size.

Leaving the bridge, we quickly came up on an example of the Florida azalea. Its flowers, rapidly approaching the end of their run, were yellow and beginning to wither. Species of wild native azaleas can be distinguished by, among other things, their flower color and size, how long the flower tubes are compared to the length of the flower lobes, and how hairy or sticky the outside of the flower is. Stickiness in flowers evolved to deter ants from entering the flower and stealing the nectar.

We stopped to ponder the ID of a large tree growing back from the path.  Someone asked if it was a large Florida torreya.  We were quite surprised to find, after reading the tag, that it was a California redwood.

Alabama snow wreath
Before arriving at the path to the bog garden overlook, we spotted the hedge of Alabama snow wreath (Neviusia alabamensis) that borders the Threatened and Endangered species garden. It is a really rare plant, not only in Georgia, but throughout its entire range (Missouri and Arkansas east to northwest Georgia.) It makes a gorgeous hedge. They usually flower profusely but rarely produce offspring, spreading by rhizomes. The reason why?  No one is sure but maybe it's main pollinators have gone extinct. Or perhaps its flowers require cross-pollination and populations are too widely separated for cross-pollination to take place.

We also saw what appeared to be a locust tree but the “leaflets” were actually little needles; it turned out to be Dawn Redwood, (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). This is an extremely rare species in its native China, found in only one county in the Hubei province. It is considered a “living fossil,” with abundant examples in the fossil record. It is in the same plant family (Cupressaceae) as the California Redwood we saw earlier and can also become a very large tree, up to 200 feet tall.

Threatened and Endangered Species Garden:

We saw a few Indian pinks in bud.  Never eat Indian pink...its in the strychnine family and is considered poisonous.

Small-flowered anise
Not far away, a Small-flowered anise shrub could be seen blooming.  It is a very common, planted everywhere in the southeast, particularly along highways.  Its native habitat is in northern Florida along stream runs.  It loves having “wet feet” but appears to do well even in the dry ground where it is found in the Bot Garden.    

We saw hairy spiderwort growing next to the path. It is distinguished from the smooth spiderwort by its fuzzy stems, leaves, and buds. It is found mostly on and around Piedmont granite outcrops but like the other spiderworts, is easy to grow in gardens. All spiderworts have hairy stamens that reminded someone of spider legs or spider webs.

We saw Hairy rattleweed, so named because it is covered with fine, white hairs.

Sundrop foliage was seen but no flowers were present at this time.

We saw a small, compact bush of False rosemary, a common plant seen in Florida.  It is also known as Florida or hairy rosemary.    

On our way around to the Pitcher Plant Bog, we passed by an extremely red poppy.

Pitcher Plant Bog:

Yellow pitcher plant flower

Red pitcher plant flowers
We saw several different pitcher plants growing in the bog, including red, yellow and white colored species.  There are six species of pitcher plants found in Georgia.  The Garden has tried to get examples of each species for the bog.  The pitcher is actually a highly modified leaf. If you imagine a long leaf rolled into a tube and the free edges stuck together you get the general shape. The cap is simply the terminal part of the leaf that did not participate in the tube and is bent over, covering the opening to the tube. The interior of the tube is smooth and covered in wax in some species, so that insects that enter cannot crawl back up. Water accumulates in the pitcher and the insects drown and decompose, releasing the phosphorus and nitrogenous compounds  that their bodies were made of. Since the environments where pitcher plants are found growing are frequently low in nitrogen, they can grow where other plants cannot. Other carnivorous plants, like sundews and Venus' fly traps, are found growing with pitcher plants in bogs. White topped pitcher plant is another pitcher plant found in the bog garden.  There are only a couple of populations of this species found in Georgia.


White lance-leaf violet
Along the front of the bog area, a number of White lance-leaf violets were seen blooming. 

Native Indian Southeastern Tribes and Herb and Physic Garden:

Walking away from the Pitcher Plant Bog, we stopped at a large Japanese maple, which was fully leafed out and sporting the occasional bundle of red and green samaras.

Anole aggressive interaction

Those lucky enough to attend today's Ramble were treated to an uncommon event: witnessing two male Carolina anoles engage in combat.
Male anoles occupy and defend a home territory. They signal their ownership by periodically performing a "push-up display" in which they bob, raising their anterior end up and down in rapid succession while expanding their dewlap. The dewlap is a fold of pinkish red skin beneath the throat. When displaying the dewlap a rod at the base of the tongue is swung down, stretching the skin and showing the colored skin between the scales. During this display the body is usually not compressed laterally, there is no prominent dorsal crest and the patch of skin behind the eye is the same color as the rest of the surrounding skin.
Male anole with expanded dewlap
 The dewlap display is often given when no other lizards are visible but always when another lizard approaches. If the approaching lizard is a female the display acts as a courtship signal. When a male approaches the display acts to inform the approacher of the displaying males size. Both males may display their dewlaps and if there is a disparity in size the smaller male usually retreats.
But if the males are both the same size the confrontation can escalate, as happened this morning. The lizards flatten their bodies laterally and erect a dorsal crest that runs down the middle of their back, increasing their apparent size. At the same time an intensely black patch of skin appears behind the eye and they warily approach one another. If neither lizard backs down they will attack one another, biting whatever they can.
The anole at the top clearly shows lateral compression; both have dorsal crests.
 

Anoles preparing to fight; the black post-orbital patch is clearly visible in the anole on the left.
They approached and circled several times, each time getting closer and closer. Finally, after approaching less than an inch from each other, one of the two attacked the other.  Each bit the other and they went twisting and rolling, falling off the far side of the wall.  They quickly climbed back on the wall but went their separate ways, one going up into a shrub and the other scurrying across the path away from the wall.

Pawpaw flowers
The Paw paw trees were covered with maroon flowers.  When sniffing the flowers, a slightly unpleasant odor could be detected.  It has been described as a carrion-like odor, which. along with the color of the flower, which suggests rotting meat, encourages flies to visit the flowers. Others have described the odor of the flowers to have a yeasty aroma, which should be attractive to fruit flies or fungus flies. In either case flies would appear to be the major pollinators.

Behind the paw paws, a large patch of Mayapples was visible.

Sweetshrub "Athens"
Linda stopped to show the group a Sweetshrub.  This one is a yellowish-green flowering variety introduced to the horticultural trade by UGA professor Michael Dirr. He had a number of Sweetshrubs in his backyard and noticed one producing yellowish-green flowers instead of the more common maroon flowers.  He propagated this lone plant from cuttings and marketed it as the variety "Athens." There is no sharp distinction between the sepals and the petals of the Sweetshrub flowers; they are collectively called "tepals." Pollination is by beetles and is called “mess and spoil” pollination because the beetles get into the flowers and make a mess.  The tepals are arranged so that beetles can easily enter, but cannot escape until the tepals relax, allowing them to visit another flower. Inside the flower they feed on special protein-rich structures on the inner tepals, stamens and other, stamen-like structures. While feeding they become covered in pollen. When the tepals relax the beetles can escape and fly to another flower and effect pollination there.

Ox-eye daisy
Right as we were ending the Ramble, we stopped at a patch of Ox-eye daisies.  They are technically considered invasive plants but are pretty well behaved, sticking mainly to roadsides.  It used to be called Chrysanthemum leucanthemum which means white flowered chrysanthemum. 

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:

Eastern bluestar
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Louisiana bluestar
Amsonia ludoviciana
Texas bluestar
Amsonia ciliata
Lowbush blueberry
Vaccinium angustifolium
Carolina geranium
Geranium carolinianum
Georgia rockcress
Arabis georgiana
Wild blue indigo
Baptisia australis
Spiked white false indigo
Baptisia albescens
Yellow false indigo
Baptisia tinctoria
Woodland phlox
Phlox divaricata
Lyre leaf sage
Salvia lyrata
Kentucky yellowwood
Cladrastis kentuckea
Orienta false hawksbeard
Youngia japonica
Two-winged silverbell
Halesia diptera
Oconee azalea
Rhododendron flammeum
Big leaf magnolia
Magnolia macrophylla
Florida azalea
Rhododendron austrinum
California redwood
Sequoia sempervirens
Alabama snow wreath
Neviusia alabamensis
Dawn sequoia
Metasequoia glyptostroboides
Indian pink
Spigelia marilandica
Small-flowered anise
Illicium parviflorum
Hairy spiderwort
Tradescantia hirsuticaulis
Hairy rattleweed
Baptisia arachnifera
Sundrops
Oenothera fruticosa
False rosemary
Conradina canescens
Poppy
Papaver sp.
Red pitcher plant
Sarracenia leucophylla
Yellow pitcher plant
Sarracenia flava
White-topped pitcher plant
Sarracenia leucophylla
Lance-leaf violet
Viola lanceolata
Japanese maple
Acer palmatum
Carolina anole
Anolis carolinensis
Paw paw tree
Asimina triloba
Mayapple
Podophyllum peltatum
Sweetshrub
Calycanthus floridus “Athena”
Ox-eye daisy
Leucanthemum vulgare


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