Friday, August 4, 2017

Ramble Report August 3 2017

Today's Ramble was led by Dale Hoyt.
The photos in this post, except where noted, came from Don's Facebook album (here's the link).
Today's post was written by Dale Hoyt & Linda Chafin.
29 Ramblers met today.
1) One of our Ramblers, Katherine Edison has started a private Facebook group. You may already be a member. The Administrators for the group are Katherine, Emily Carr and Don Hunter. They can add your name to the membership. Once you're a member you can invite others to join.
Here is the purpose of the group:
"This Facebook group was formed to give members of the Weekly Nature Ramble at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia a way to connect, share and communicate about nature topics outside of the actual Ramble. It is a place for Ramblers to share their own photos or reports of interesting sightings from the Bot Garden or from around the area. It is a place to share relevant poems, readings, articles and research. It is a place to connect Ramblers for nature related activities—hikes with friends, book groups, interesting movies or lectures. It is a place to share information about fellow Ramblers—significant milestones, honors, achievements, moves, or health concerns."

Gary Crider is handling the campaign to have a whole row (12 seats) at the Cine theater become a "Rambler Row." If you haven't heard about this fund raising effort please contact Gary at gcrider AT charter DOT net (replace the capitals with the corresponding symbols).

Today's reading was sent in by a Rambler who has difficulty making our 8:30 Rambles because of living in Clarkesville. It's a poem by the German poet and author, Ranier Maria Rilke:

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp:
It has its inner light, even from a distance——

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are;
A gesture waves us on, answering our own wave.  .  .  .
But what we feel is the wind in our faces.

                                                                        Musot, March 1924

Today's route: Through the Garden to the Purple Trail; down the Purple Trail to the river; left on the Orange Trail and back to the Visitor's Center via the Orange Spur trail.

Bottlebrush buckeye flower stalk, only one with a fruit
In the International Garden, just beyond the Flower Bridge, there is a large Bottlebrush Buckeye with the tall, sweeping remnants of flower stalks that each bore 300 +/- blossoms just a few weeks ago. Only a small number of these stalks have fruits. Those that have fruits bear only one or two toward the tip of the stalk.
Most of the flowers are male only, but the pale thread crossing Linda's finger is the style (part of the pistil); the stamens are capped with yellowish tan anthers.
(picture from last year)
Terminal part of an infloresence with mostly male flowers
(picture taken last year)
The flowers are of two types, most of the flowers toward the bottom of the stalk are functionally male – the stamens produce fertile pollen but lack a complete pistil (the female part). The flowers toward the tips of the stalk have functional stamens and fertile ovaries and are therefore able to produce fruits. A quarter of all inflorescences have all male flowers and of the remaining, only about 20% are bisexual. So only about 15% of all the flowers produced are capable of setting fruit.
It seems odd that a plant that produces literally hundreds of thousands of flowers ends up with so few fruits and seeds (each fruit has 1-2 seeds).
Tiger Swallowtail nectaring at Bottlebrush Buckeye
(picture by Ed Wilde, last year)
The flowers are visited by numerous kinds of bees and butterflies and one study mentions that "During peak bloom, the wings of the butterflies would become visibly orange with pollen." This observation is consistent with butterflies being important pollinators, with the pollen being transferred by the wings when they come in contact with the pistil as the butterfly sips nectar.
Palmately compound leaves of Bottlebrush Buckeye
Buckeyes have opposite, palmately compound leaves, which means that the leaves grow in pairs on opposite sides of their twigs,. Compound means that each leaf is composed of leaflets, five in the case of Buckeyes. Palmate means that the leaflets are attached to the leaf stalk (petiole) at a single point, similar to the fingers on your hand. Those leaf characteristics make it easy to identify buckeyes.

Hophornbeam and Sapsucker

False Turkeytail

Old Mustard-yellow polypore


Violet-toothed polypore
We saw four kinds of Bracket fungi today. The bracket refers to the appearance of the fungal body – like a bracket or shelf to put a nick-knack on. The four we saw today are dead wood rotters; they are almost never found on living wood. As Don pointed out, you can tell when they started growing on the tree by looking at the orientation of the mushroom. If it were growing on a living tree its undersurface would be parallel to the ground and at right angles to the axis of the trunk. If the tree then fell over, the undersurface would be perpendicular to the ground but still at right angles to the trunk axis. If the fungus started growing after the tree fell its undersurface would be parallel to the ground and parallel to the trunk axis.
The undersurface of these bracket fungi is where the spores are produced inside tiny pores that open on the underside. Each pore is the opening of a tube and the cells on the inside of the tube produce the reproductive spores. The tube has to be oriented with its opening toward the ground in order for the spores to fall out, otherwise they would simply fall inside the tube itself.
These various bracket fungi start the process of wood decay. Without them the world would stacked high with fallen tree trunks.
On this dead NRO log we found Violet-toothed polypore, Mustard Yellow polypore, Turkey Tail and False Turkey Tail bracket fungi. These fungi sometimes survive over winter to make another layer of spore producing tissue the following year.

Betsy Beetle
One of the fallen trees produced a Betsy Beetle, sometimes called Patent Leather beetles or Bess Bugs. They are social insects in the sense that the male and female remain with their young and care for them, providing them with food and a tunnel system to live in. This publication from the University of Florida summarizes quite nicely what is known about their habits and life history. They communicate with their larvae and mate by emitting sounds produced by rubbing the tip of the abdomen against their wings. According to the literature, they have a repertoire of around a dozen different sounds, which is more than a lot of "higher" animals make. The sounds are used to communicate with their mate and larvae.
In the north the Betsy Beetles that I've seen make squeaking noises when you pick them up. Here in the Athens area I have yet to find one that does so.

Everywhere you go in the Botanical Garden you will find fallen trees, many of them Northern Red Oaks (NRO). Why this should be is puzzling, but I have an untested hypothesis. The Garden was established in 1968. Prior to that time it had been in agriculture and was also logged. That means trees have been growing unimpeded in the natural areas for almost 50 years. It is likely that few of the NRO are older than that, especially in the logged and plowed areas of the garden. NRO is supposed to be a moderate to rapidly growing tree, depending on conditions. I think that the large NRO that have fallen in the Garden were part of an even-aged group that survived the last logging/clearing of the Garden area. They would have grown into the canopy at about the same time, finally reaching the size where the force of wind acting on the upper part of the tree exceeded the ability of the root system to resist pulling out of the ground. The even age structure means that many of the NRO would be susceptible to wind throw at the same time.

Trunk of a Musclewood tree
Where the Purple Trail meets the Orange Trail there are two trees, a Hophornbeam and a Musclewood that our former leader, Hugh Nourse, always pointed out. The bark of these trees is quite different: smooth and gray in the Musclewood and brown and shredded in the Hophornbeam ("cat scratch" bark, as Hugh called it). The trunk of the Musclewood looks as if there are sinews and muscles under the bark, giving the tree one of its common names.
Hophornbeam fruits

Musclewood fruits
The leaves are similar in shape and double serration, but Musclewood’s leaves are only slightly hairy (if at all) on the lower surface while Hop Hornbeam’s leaves are finely hairy over the entire lower surface. The fruits of both species are clusters of conspicuous bracts up to three inches long, dangling from the tips of twigs. Musclewood clusters consist of three-lobed, leafy bracts set below the nutlet; Hop Hornbeam clusters are composed of papery, inflated sacs that enclose the nutlet.

Girdled twig; the dark brown marks where the beetle cut the twig.
It's not unusual to find twigs and short, leafy branches fallen from trees, either in your own home or in the Garden. Most people blame squirrels but often the responsible critter is a twig girdling beetle. It's pretty easy to determine the culprit. Look at the broken end of the twig. If a smooth channel has been cut around the circumference at the broken end the guilty party was twig girdler. These beetles lay their eggs in the twigs at branch ends. The female beetle then girdles the twig some place below where she has laid her egg. Girdling prevents the tree from sending chemical defenses that might kill or harm the beetle larva. It also weakens the twig and the central supporting tissues are easily broken by winds. If you examine the photo of the Sweet Gum you will clearly see the smooth, brown girdle chewed by the beetle. The central remaining part is broken, allowing the twig to fall. Some of the beetles that do this are tree species specific, others can attack a wider range of host trees.

Dead cicada with dead Yellowjacket that got caught with its head in its lunch.
It's dead cicada time in the Garden, this week and last week. Again we found the body of a cicada with the stinger end of a Yellowjacket wasp sticking out of it. This time the wasp was also dead, apparently drowned by its own gluttony. Other deceased cicadas have the look of being attacked by a fungus. They have white areas in parts of their bodies that are normally dark, suggesting the spore-producing surface of an insect-attacking fungus.

Fall Webworm nest
This week we again found another nest of the Fall Webworm on a small sapling. If the silken nest contains caterpillars and encloses a leafy branch that they have fed on, you have a Fall Webmorm nest. If the silken structure is in the crotch of a large branch or tree and the caterpillars leave the nest to feed you have the nest of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. (It will also be early springtime and the tree will usually be a cherry.)

Last week we looked for Cranefly Orchids and today we just stumbled onto them. A few Ramblers noticed them in time to keep the rest of us from trampling them. See last week's Ramble Report for photos.

Beech Blight Aphids
Near the start of the Purple Trail is an American Beech tree with a large colony of Beech Blight Aphids on one of its lower branches. These aphids colonies always bring joy to the hearts of Ramblers when they induce a choreographed boogie woogie of performing aphids by merely touching the branch or waving their hand nearby. Search youtube for "beech blight aphid" and you'll find several movies of their performance. A bowl of popcorn is suggested.
The aphids, in spite of their name, never seem to do significant damage to the Beech trees. Their sugary droppings (aphid poo) make them ecosystem engineers for a Sooty Mold fungus that only grows on the droppings below a colony.

Sensitive Fern (sterile frond)
On the Orange Trail at the end of the Scout Bridge a group of Sensitive Fern grows in the wet, marshy area spanned by the bridge. Sensitive Fern has a separate fertile frond that hasn't developed yet. It looks completely different from the sterile fronds that are here now. By the way, it's called Sensitive Fern because it's sensitive to cold weather.


pinwheel mushroom
Marasmius sp.?

Violet-toothed polypore
Trichaptum biforme

Mustard yellow polypore
Phellinus gilvus

False turkey tail mushroom
Stereum ostrea

Turkey tail mushroom
Trametes versicolor

Berkeley's polypore
Bondazewia berkeleyi

Pallid bolete
Boletus pallidus (tentative)
Beech blight aphid
Grylloprociphilus imbricator
Fall webworm moth
Hyphantria cunea
Twig girdler
Family Cerambycidae
Betsy beetle
Odontotaenius disjuntus
Eastern Hercules Beetle
Dynastes tityus
Order Hemiptera
Yellow jacket
Family Vespidae

Golden garden spider
Agriope aurantia
Flowering Plants
Bottlebrush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora
American beech tree
Fagus grandifolia
Cranefly orchid
Tipularia discolor
Musclewood tree
Carpinus caroliniana
Hophornbeam tree
Ostrya virginiana
Lyre-leaf sage
Salvia lyrata

Sensitive Fern
Onoclea sensibilis

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