Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ramble Report April 27 2017



Today's Ramble was led 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.)
Today's post was written by Don Hunter and Dale Hoyt.
Seventeen Ramblers met today.
Announcements:
Gary Crider will present a program on control/eradication of invasive plants next Thursday, May 4, at the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society meeting.
Today's reading was read by Linda Chafin, an excerpt from an essay titled The Death of a Tree from the book Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist, by Edwin Way Teale. You can find the text in the email with the link to today's post. Teale was a popular mid-twentieth century nature writer. His most well known books were devoted to the North American seasons: North with the Spring, Journey into Summer, Autumn across America and Wandering through Winter. These all became Book-of-the-Month club selections and the winter book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1966.
Today's route: We went down the cement walkway to the Dunson Native Flora Garden and wandered our way through the DNFG until it was time to return.

Shade Garden:
Just beyond first switchback, on the left, there is a Mountain laurel covered with open flowers.
Downhill from the Mountain laurel, also on the left, is a large Bottlebrush buckeye with many stems. Unlike our other native buckeyes that have finished blooming, the Bottlebrush flowers in summer. It is already sending up inflorescences that presently bear hundreds of tiny flower buds.
Conical, Witch's hat gall on Witch hazel leaf
Further downhill, on the right are two small, shrubby trees, American witch hazels. Many of the leaves bear one or more cone-shaped galls. 
A gall is an abnormal growth produced on a plant part. They can be caused by a variety of organisms, but most commonly insects or mites. Each species produces a distinct type of gall, unique in location and shape. The gall is produced when the insect secretes an unknown substance that causes the plant part to respond by growing a unique structure that houses and feeds the insect.
The conical galls on the Witch hazel are produced by an aphid with a complex life history that alternates between two plants, River birch and Witch hazel. In the spring aphids (Hormaphis hamamelidis) emerge from eggs laid near leaf buds on the Witch hazel the previous autumn. As the tender leaves emerge the aphids begin feeding on them (sucking the sap) and the leaf responds by producing the cone shaped structure, the "witches hat." Meanwhile, the young aphid produces more aphids asexually (a process called parthenogenesis) and the colony grows in size inside its cone-shaped house. Later in the year the aphids produce winged forms that leave the conical gall and fly away to the alternative host plant, a River birch tree, where several generations of wingless aphids are produced. In the fall the aphids on the River birch produce winged forms that fly to Witch hazels and lay eggs near the leaf buds. These eggs overwinter and, in the spring they hatch to produce the Witch hazel generation again.

Witch hazel has a number of uses. An extract from the bark is an astringent and is used to relieve bruises and sore muscles. In New England witch hazel branches are used in "dowsing" to locate underground sources of water. Dowsing is also known as "water witching" and many people mistakenly assume that this is the source of the "witch" in the name of the tree. But the name has nothing to do with witchcraft.
"Witch comes from wych, a variant of the Anglo-Saxon wican, to bend. (This is also the root word for wicker, which is woven from bendable or pliable branches.)
The name witch-hazel was given to the shrub because the leaves resembled those of the English elm tree with long, drooping branches that was known as the wych-elm; that is, "the bending elm." And the wych-elm was also called wych-hazel, because its leaves resembled those of the hazel tree. (The origins of elm and hazel, both Old English, are uncertain.) Over the years, "wych" was transformed into "witch." (The other kind of witch comes from the early English wicca, a wizard.)"
(Source: Mary Durant, 1976, Who Named the Daisy? Who Named the Rose?, Dodd, Mead & Co., p. 210,

The aptly named Big leaf magnolia
At the bottom of the hill, near the end of the Shade Garden walkway, there is a Big leaf magnolia. As its name suggests, it has the largest, simple leaves of all the trees in North America. The only tree with larger leaves is Devil's walkingstick (Aralia spinosa), but its leaves are not simple, they are doubly or triply compound. (A compound leaf is divided into smaller leaflets. A doubly compound leaf has its leaflets further divided into leaflets. And so on, for the triply compound leaf.)
Dunson Native Flora Garden:
At the beginning of the DNFG is a single Columbine plant. Two weeks ago we saw it in bloom and now the fruits are developing. One interesting observation is that the flower faces downward but the fruits face the sky. When the flowers appear the flower stalk is curved downward and the flowers dangle at its end. After they have been pollinated the flower stalk curves upward and the seed capsules will open at the top. The scientific name, Aquilegia columba, is derived from two bird references – the Latin aquila, meaning eagle and columba, meaning dove. The five petals of the flower are said to resemble a group of five doves standing in a circle with their heads extended toward the sky. The eagle reference is said to be because the petal resembles an eagle's claw.

Nearby is a Coral honeysuckle vine, easily told from the introduced honeysuckle by examining the leaves at the tip of the vine. They are united together, forming an almost circular disk in Coral honeysuckle. This condition, when two plant parts are joined together is called connate.

Nearby was a Black cohosh, with it's tall flower stalk, now a long, compact mass of buds.  After some discussion, we decided that the “black” in the common name might refer to the roots of the plant, which are medicinal.  Terry asked if there was something called blue cohosh.  Yes, there is. It's unrelated to the black cohosh and gets its name from a bluish, waxy coating on the stalks and stems.  They both have large, divided leaves.

Chattahoochee trillium

Pale yellow trillium
A number of trilliums are still in bloom around the garden. We only observed two kinds: Chattahoochee trillium and Pale yellow trillium. 

A few lyreleaf sage still remain in flower.

Pipestem flowers
A plant on the Georgia species of special concern list, Pipestem, is currently blooming. Pipestem is in the blueberry family and the white flowers that dangle beneath the leaves strongly resemble those of blueberries. It is found in extreme south Georgia. The common name refers to its hollow stems.

Solomon's plume
Solomon's plume, which resembles Solomon's seal, was blooming off the path near the stream. It's flowers are in a cluster at the end of the stem whereas the flowers of Solomon's Seal hand from the stem at each leaf node.
Because this plan is so similar to Solomon's seal in its vegetative structure it's also known as False Solomon's seal. But many botanists object to the "false" in a plant name under the mistaken idea that it refers to some undesireable quality of the plant. That is clearly a misunderstanding of what false means in this context. It refers not to the plant but to the misperception of the human observer who can mistake it for another kind of plant. (BTW, these purists happily continue to call several different plants "False dandelions.")

Rusty black haw leaf underside; note the rusty hairs on the mid-vein.
A small  a Rusty blackhaw tree is found next to the path.  It is named for the presence of reddish brown or “rusty” curly hairs along the mid-vein beneath the leaf.

Piedmont azalea
A Pinkster or Piedmont azalea, full of beautiful pale pink flowers, is blooming on the other side of the stream. There is some confusion about the difference between Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Rhododendrons are evergreen plants with long, leathery leaves. Azaleas are deciduous. Both are in the genus Rhododenron.

Sweeshrub variety "Athens"
Not far away from the Piedmont azalea is a sweetshrub cultivar, Athens, developed by Michael Dirr, a well-known horticulturist now retired from UGA. Instead of the typical maroon flowers this cultivar has yellowish-green flowers.

A royal fern, with three large fronds was pointed out next to the path.

Perfoliate bellwort with seed capsule
We saw several examples of small, perfoliate bellworts, past blooming, with three-part shaped fruits. Perfoliate refers to the appearence of the stem passing through the leaf; from per-, meaning through and -foliate, referring to the leaves.

Spherical gall on Pignut hickory
A Pignut hickory with small spherical gall on one leaflet grows to the left of the path. This gall is probably produced by a small wasp in the family Cynipidae, a group that was extensively studied by Alfred Kinsey before he became interested in sex research.

Yaupon holly; Native Americans made a strong tea of the parched leaves and drink it as a part of their religious ceremonies.  Consumed in large quantities, it causes vomiting.  This is the source of its scientific name, Ilex vomitoria (Ilex = holly; vomitoria = what it sounds like).  It's one of only two hollies known to contain caffeine in significant concentrations. The other is found in South America and is widely consumed there; it is known as yerba maté.

We saw several examples of Poa grass along the path.  Kentucky bluegrass is also in the genus Poa and is a European import.  It's not necessarily an invasive though, and is generally easily controlled.

Linda pulled and displayed a specimen of Oriental false hawksbeard.  A nasty invasive, she encouraged everyone to pull it up if they see it.

Tulip tree flower
The tulip trees are still flowering, but they are so tall that the only blossoms we see are those that have been knocked down by the wind or by squirrels. These are beautiful yellow-orange and green flowers.  This tree is often called a yellow poplar or a tulip poplar, but it is not a poplar. It is a member of the Magnolia family.

We hit a patch of Canada wild ginger, with flowers.  The flower was a little fancier than our normal wild ginger.  The Canada wild ginger is not evergreen like the common wild ginger.

We next stopped to look at an enormous Jack-in-the-pulpit.  When they are as large as the one we were looking at, they are most likely female plants and can set large fruit.  Linda peered inside the “Jill” and thought she could see a small fruit developing.  We will try to check on this particular plant later in the season to see if produces a spike of red berries.

We saw an example of ovate catchfly or oval-leaved campion, though the flowers were long gone.  It's also on the Georgia special concerns list, being found in only ten counties scattered throughout the state.
Fringed campion
A big surprise for us today was seeing several fringed campions, with their beautiful pink fringed flowers.  No one in the group could remember ever seeing this plant in the Dunson garden before.
The common name, "catchfly," used for some species of campions, refers to the sticky, glandular hairs on the stems. Small flying insects are often found held fast to these stems and it has been demonstrated that ants are attracted to the easy pickings. By attracting ants the plants acquire a "police force" that helps keep insect herbivore away from the rest of the plant. In one study investigators removed all the stuck insects from one group of plants and left another group alone. The plants that had the insects removed had more damaged reproductive structures than the plants with the trapped ant bait.


Crossing one of the small footbridges, we saw a milkvine climbing up the tree.  It is too early to determine the species.  After it flowers, an exact determination can be made on it's identification.  The vine produces a milky latex, which is contained in a system of channels that is separate from the vascular system that carries the sap. When a leaf is injured, as by the bite of an insect herbivore, the latex leaks out, gumming up the mouthparts of the insect.

Closeup of the center of an Ashe magnolia flower

Ashe magnolia flower
As we passed by the two Ashe magnolias, we had to stop to admire and smell the large, white flowers on each tree.  It is often confused with the big leaf magnolia but, although it also has large leaves, it is a smaller tree and the leaves are not quite as big.

We saw what are probably the last golden ragwort blooms of the season.  They are quickly waning, with Small's ragwort replacing it as the currently blooming species (locally, not in the Dunson garden).  Butterweed, another species of ragwort (genus Packera, formerly Senecio), is also blooming at this time. It is currently blooming in the floodplain of the Middle Oconee River at the Garden. 

Another yellow bloomer, tickseed, a coreopsis, was also seen blooming far off the paths, near the road.

The unusual flowers of Hearts-a-Bustin'
We stopped to look at a strawberry-bush or hearts-a-bustin'-with-Love, with many flowers. We were amazed to see the shrub intact, as this species is usually heavily grazed by deer.  It's often called deer ice cream because they love it so much.

We saw, from a distance, a large yellowwood tree in blooming.  We had stopped by this tree last time we were in the Dunson garden but it wasn't blooming at that time.

Indian pink
Several Indian pinks were visible in the middle of the area between two of the paths.  The common name is another mystery since it has a red and yellow flower and isn't pink.  It is a toxic plant, containing strychnine. 

We walked past a section of garden with many mayapples and northern maidenhair ferns.  A few “apples” were seen but they were small and withering.

A small foam flower was seen growing from the rocks lining the path.  It's in the genus Tiarella but the leaves resemble those of Heuchera.  The heucheras, however, tend to have downward hanging flowers, whereas, the foam flower flowers are borne on erect stems and grow on short flower stems growing nearly perpendicularly off of the main stem.

We were disappointed to find that the goldenseal had already bloomed.  We saw no flowers but a few examples of the fruit that remains after the flower falls apart.  Someone with a sharp eye noticed a tiny white-marked tussock moth on one of the goldenseal leaves.

We passed by a section of the garden dedicated to several wild ginger species, including Large-flowered Heartleaf and, according to the signage, Alabama wild ginger.  It was definitely Hexastylis (Asarum) speciosa but we had never heard it called Alabama wild ginger.  It is also known as Harper's heartleaf ginger.

Oak apple gall showing the interior
Someone picked up yet another gall, an oak apple gall.  Dale tore it open to show how  the larva of a gall wasp is typically suspended in the center of the hollow gall by a network of radiating structures attaching it to the inside wall of the the thin, spherical gall.  This generally provides protection from predators such as other wasps but some have developed piercing ovipositors that can reach to the center of the gall, parasitizing the gall wasp larvae.

Susie noticed a couple of Georgia dwarf trilliums growing across the path from the location in which they were established.  This is good news in that this means that they are probably very happy in the Dunson garden and have begun to spread.

Nearby we saw a celandine poppy, though it was past blooming, with several fuzzy fruits.

Deerberry flowers
We stopped at a deerberry.  This is the only species of blueberry in our area with a wide open flower. If you turn the leaf over you will see it is much paler than the upper side of the leaf.  Don't bother to eat these berries, they are inedible
We saw many five-leaved Jack-in-the-pulpits and a lone Atamsco lily as we crossed over the lower section of the garden.

Early meadow rue is beginning to bloom in the lower part of the Dunson garden.  We saw a female plant with developing flowers.

Making our way back towards the Shade Garden on the upper path through the Dunson garden, we found Virginia rattlesnake ferns, each plant with a tall fertile frond.  The fertile frond is another type of leaf that has been modified to produce spores.  It is a deciduous fern, the above ground foliage dying in the fall.

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES:

Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia
Bottlebrush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora
American witch hazel
Hammamelis virginiana
Big leaf magnolia
Magnolia macrophylla
Columbine
Aquilegia canadensis
Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens
Leatherwood
Dirca palustris
Black cohosh
Actea racemosa
(=Cimicifuga racemosa)
Chattahoochee trillium
Trillium decipiens
Pale Yellow trillium
Trillium discolor
Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata
Pipestem
Agarista populifolia
Solomon's plume
Maianthemum racemosum
(=Smilacina racemosa)
Rusty blackhaw
Viburnum rufidulum
Piedmont azalea
Rhododendron canescens
Sweetshrub cultivar, Athena
Calycanthus floridus
Royal fern
Osmunda regalis
Perfoliate bellwort
Uvularia perfoliata
Pignut hickory
Carya glabra
Yaupon holly
Ilex vomitoria
Poa grass
Poa sp.
Oriental false hawksbeard
Youngia japonica
Tulip trees
Liriodendron tulipifera
Canada wild ginger
Asarum canadensis
Jack-in-the-pulpit
Arisaema triphyllum
Oval-leaved campion
Silene ovata
Milkvine
Matelea sp.
Ashe's magnolia
Magnolia ashei
Golden ragwort
Packera aurea
Tickseed
Coreopsis sp.
Strawberry-bush
Euonymus americanus
Yellowwood
Cladrastis kentuckea
Indian pink
Spigelia marilandica
Mayapple
Podophyllum peltatum
Northern maidenhair fern
Adiantum pedatum
Fringed campion
Silene catesbaei
(= Silene polypetala)
Foam flower
Tiarella cordifolia
Goldenseal
Hydrastis canadensis
White-marked tussock moth
Orgyia leucostigma
Large-flowered Heartleaf
Hexastylis shuttleworthii
Alabama wild ginger
Harper's heartleaf ginger
Hexastylis speciosa   
Georgia dwarf trillium
Trillium georgianum
Celandine poppy
Stylophorum diphyllum
Deerberry
Vaccinium stamineum
Atamsco lily
Zephyranthes atamasca
Early meadow rue
Thalictrum dioicum
Virginia rattlesnake fern
Botrypus virginianus


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