Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hibernation Is Over!


Most of the cold weather is probably over. Time to pull the winter butt plug out (of the camera that is), and get back to the field. After giving a winter dendrology final, I went back to the site looking for things to photograph.

One of the first plants to bloom in our area is the Harbinger-of-Spring, or the Pepper and Salt Erigenia bulbosa. This tiny plant, with even smaller divided leaves, only reaches a couple inches in height. It can be found in multiple habitats, but was very abundant in the wet bottomland forest.

Aw cool, two pink crab spiders mating! You can even see the strand of silk. Not really, this is the flower of the American Hazelnut, Corylus americana. I was a little late in photographing these last year, but here it is in its prime.

She is waiting for the male catkins to soften up and elongate. Pollen will then be blown onto the flowers red stigmas.

Should fertilization occur, we could harvest these edible nuts come fall. The commercial European Hazelnut is often sold as Filbert Nuts.

Another sign of spring are the Allium species beginning to sprout. The hollow stemmed Wild Garlic and the broad leaved Ramps or Leeks. With lots of students walking the area, the look everybody was giving to each other was priceless. "What's that smell?"

Tree buds are starting to look a lot different than they did in January. The black and red fuzzy leaf buds keep their shape, but the flower buds are nearly exploded. This is Red Elm, Ulmus rubra.

Here the flowers are just popping out. The green is the tubular shaped calyx, (fused sepals).

Here is a closeup of the male flowers with their long protruding stamens.

The female flowers show the pinkish-red stigmas. There are no petals on Red Elm flowers.

Restricted to wet bottomlands, the Kingnut Hickory, Carya laciniosa, has buds and bark similar to the Shagbark Hickory, C. ovata.  In the winter, look for very light colored new growth twigs. Shagbark twigs are dark brown.

Also preferring wet bottomlands is the White Walnut or Butternut, Juglans cinerea. The buds are tan in color and more elongate than Black Walnut. The leaf scars of both walnuts are monkey-faced or Barn Owl faced, but look at the top of the leaf scar. White Walnut has thick fuzzy eyebrows on top.

Of course once you've seen the zebra striped bark of White Walnut, you couldn't mistake it for anything else. It's bad enough these guys are disappearing from a fungus disease, but all the trees I mentioned above have been severely cut back at this site. I understand power line right-of-ways of course, but all these trees were barely 20 feet tall. The wires are up at 100 feet, so what was the point?

Up on the hillside is a frequently encountered sight. I call this the totem tree. It's actually an infected Sassafras tree. This is caused by a Nectria Canker fungus. To me it looks like a bunch of Great Gray Owls smashed into the tree and left their face imprint. Oh yes, another season of blogging means putting up with my wild imagination.

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