Friday, June 2, 2017

Ramble Report June 1 2017



Today's Ramble was led by Linda Chafin.
Since Don was unable to attend today's ramble the photos that appear today were taken by Ramble volunteers: Ted (tl) and Catherine (cc).
Today's post was written by Linda Chafin with minor additions by Dale Hoyt.
Fifteen ramblers, a smaller than usual group, perhaps due to the elevated heat and humidity that is settling in for the summer, met today,
Announcement:
Rambles will meet at 8:30 AM during June, July and August, no matter what other sources of information (website, Flagpole, ABH or Garden newsletter) tell you. Rambles should end at approximately 10 AM.
Today's reading: We began the ramble with Bob Ambrose reciting a poem he'd written some years ago after traveling in China and viewing the once mighty but recently dammed Yangtze River. Though not written about Georgia's environment, its message – the tragic loss of irreplaceable ecosystems to blind human growth – could not be more pertinent.

Yangtze Blues

Three Gorges Dam Memorial Park, China
January 4, 2013

Far away, well east of Eden
virile rivers carved a valley
through the age of long ago.

Now stretching out in black earth flatness
cotton patch competes with paddy
tractor vies with buffalo
below the rolling orange groves
with fences lined in climbing jasmine
border rows of sycamore.

Here in the highlands of Hubei
I can hear its song
rising out of mist and mountain
gray home of gods now gone
refuge of wayfaring mystic and misfit
place where the wild torrent
courses through gorges
once upon some time ago.

But now the long river
languishes
flat and heavy
murky deepness drowns Three Gorges
sighs behind a concrete slab
controlled and still
until release.

To wander
ancient river plains
that birthed and nurtured
feudal lords

a brand new land
of grit and coal
of dusky skies
that smother cities

town and village
torn and pillaged
taken into concrete

borg till onward
into paradise
of tollway road

and high rise rows
in cities of ten million
souls, new centers

that were meant
to sparkle, broker
fortunes, beckon

dreams and draw
beleaguered masses
forward, soar

into the gray-brown
skyscape, lined
with cranes

and belching stacks
that stitch the land

and sky with smog
and seal the earth

beneath the load
of human progress.

East meets West
and ups the ante

heeds the siren
staggers forward

fading into midday haze.

And from the highlands of Hubei
so very far away from Eden
I can hear the good earth groaning
crushed beneath a billion souls
just seeking their century
salvation in wealth.

And so the modern world goes
as Gaia sighs and turns to stone
to wait upon a wiser age
when sages and keepers
will come once again.

(This poem was published in Bob's first book of poetry, Journey to Embarkation, available at fine bookstores everywhere in Athens.)

Today's route: Linda led the group through the Shade Garden and into the Dunson Native Flora Garden, where we stopped to look at Early Meadow-rue, a knee-high plant in the genus Thalictrum. Linda recently discovered a new-to-the-Garden Meadow-rue along the river and wanted everyone to see the familiar Early Meadow-rue for comparison.

What was seen:
Today, was a very "froggy" day -- we saw lots of very small toads, probably American Toads, most of which were nearly invisible on the forest floor and even on the moss-covered sidewalk – "invisible" due to camouflage, not any magic qualities inherent in toads.

Sawfly larva (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae) [cc]
Nathan spotted a caterpillar look-alike resting on a leaf. Caterpillars are the the larvae of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). This look-alike, is the larva of a Sawfly, a kind of Hymenoptera (an Order of insects that includes ants, bees and wasps AND . . . Sawflies). Sawfly larvae differ from moth and butterfly caterpillars in having one more pair of abdominal legs – eight pairs instead of seven. The abdominal legs are not true legs; they are not segmented. Instead they are stumpy protuberances from the abdominal wall. The true legs arise from the three segments behind the head. Sawflies cannot sting. The sting is a modified ovipositor and in sawflies the ovipositor is just that – an egg laying device. Only in the ants, bees and wasps is the ovipositor modified to deliver a sting. Sawflies represent the ancestral condition of the Hymenopterans, before the evolution of the sting and the maggot-like larval stage.

Black cohosh inflorescences glow like candles in the dark. [tl]
We noted that the Dunson Garden is a very different place than it was a month ago, when Trilliums ruled the forest floor and a score of other spring ephemerals were in peak flower. Now the visuals in the Garden are dominated by the tall white spikes of Black Cohosh flowers and the trilliums have either melted away or are in fruit. Dunson seems to be resting, waiting for summer's heat to bring on the flowers of such plants as the Hammock Spider-lily.

Purple milkweed [tl]
On the sunny, western end of the Dunson Garden, we saw how one of the Purple Milkweed plants had been heavily munched, presumably by Monarch caterpillars. Purple Milkweed plants hidden within the Elderberry's branches had not been attacked. We also admired the federally listed Smooth Cone-flower, which is in peak flower now. Its large, long-petioled leaves are glossy and hairless, especially compared to the roughly hairy leaves of the common Purple Coneflower.
Wild Blue Indigo seed capsules [tl]
The Blue Wild Indigo plants we admired in full flower two weeks ago are now bearing the inflated legumes that characterize this genus and confirm its membership in the bean family. We took a tiny detour to walk up the road and look at Woolly Mullein, a European species with huge leaves, densely covered with white hairs. Some people call this species Flannel-plant due to the thick, hairy leaves. Although exotic, it is not (yet) invasive in our area.

Wild Rye [tl]
Deer-tongue grass [tl]
As we walked in the powerline right-of-way on our way to the river, we saw several different cool-season grasses which Linda was able to identify, having just returned from a five-day class in grass identification. Cool-season grasses are those that flower and set seed in the spring, usually by the end of June. Among others, we saw Wild Rye, Silky Oat Grass, River Oats, and Deer-tongue Grass, with its bristly leaf sheaths and wider than typical grass leaves.

Susie shows us how tall Piedmont Meadow-rue is. [tj]
Turning left on the white trail at the river, we walked just a few hundred feet to see the "new" Thalictrum, which is called, appropriately enough, Piedmont Meadow-rue. Although not listed as rare in Georgia, Piedmont Meadow-rue is known from only seven Georgia counties. Most Meadow-rue species are much shorter but this species, Thalictrum macrostylum, can grow to more than 6 feet tall. Covered with white tassel-like flowers in late May and June, it is a dramatic sight in the otherwise "green tunnel" along the river. The Garden's Conservation Horticulturist, Heather Alley, will attempt to cultivate the plant if it sets seeds this year, but without other plants of the same species nearby with which to share pollen, it may not produce seed. According to records at the UGA Herbarium, Piedmont Meadow-rue was last collected in Clarke County in 1929, by John "Botany" Reade, the founder of the UGA Herbarium and Director of Biology and Professor of Botany at the University of Georgia for 30 years.

Stinging Nettle [tl]
At that point, the group turned around and headed back to the Visitor Center for some much needed liquid refreshment. Along the way, Linda stopped the group to point out Stinging Wood Nettle and called out "Don't Touch!" too late for Nathan, who had already grabbed a stem. But, budding field biologist that he is, Nathan laughed off the painful sensation inflicted by the plant and was soothed somewhat by an impromptu compress of Curly Dock, reputed to help with nettle stings.

SUMMARY OF OBSERVED SPECIES

American toad
Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus
Sawfly larva
Hymenoptera: Tenthridinidae
Early Meadow-rue
Thalictrum dioicum
Black Cohosh
Actaea racemosa
Hammock Spider-lily
Hymenocallis occidentalis
Purple Milkweed
Asclepias purpurea
Elderberry
Sambucus canadensis
Smooth Cone-flower
Echinacea laevigata
Blue Wild Indigo
Baptisia australis
Woolly Mullein
Flannel-plant
Verbascum thapsus
Wild Petunia
Ruellia carolinensis
Wild Rye
Elymus glabriflorus
Silky Oat Grass
Danthonia sericea
River Oats
Chasmanthium latifolium
Deer-tongue Grass
Dichanthelium clandestinum
Piedmont Meadow-rue
Thalictrum macrostylum
Stinging Nettle
Laportea canadensis
Curly Dock
Rumex crispus

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