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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Few More Ferns

It's been a few years since I posted anything on ferns. I am way overdue. The first post goes back to when I just started blogging. You can find the other species here, a few ferns

We start our journey with these old rotting beams that once belonged to a coal tipple. Coal was hauled out of the hills behind our campus. During that time a lot of spill occurred. This bottomland is quite acidic due to the slag piles that still exist. A patch of wild Cranberry, probably deposited by migrating birds, used to be found here. It has since been out competed by other plants. One of those is this batch of ferns in the background.

This is Netted Chain Fern, Woodwardia areolata. I consider it uncommon, though it is more widespread in Ohio than I once thought. This is an acid tolerant species that prefers shady bottom woods. Because of the winged center, at first it looks very similar to Sensitive Fern.

Netted Chain has a glossier look than Sensitive, and the frond margins of Netted Chain are unlobed.

Netted Chain gets its name from the many round veins that form a chain like pattern above and below the leaf.

This species sends up its fertile fronds on a separate stalk. These are pictures of last years plants, as this years were not present yet. The sporangia are elongate, forming two lines, also somewhat chain-like. Twenty years ago this species occupied a small 15 foot circle. Being a colony former, it has now spread into a large 100 foot long section of the woods.

Robyn from Wahkeena sent me this from our recent Mothapalooza trip to Adams County. This is Smooth Cliffbrake, Pellaea glabella. The blue-green color is the first thing to stand out. The fronds have their pinnae widely scattered along the stem, and each has an entire margin, sort of like Royal Fern. Many refer to this look as "un-fern-like" in appearance.

Smooth Cliffbrake has a preference for limestone outcrops. It's an evergreen species that looks nearly identical to Purple Cliffbrake, P. atropurpurea. Both have dark purple to black stems. The difference is in the look or feel of the stems. The latin glabella comes from 'glabrous', meaning hairless or smooth.
If this was Purple Cliffbrake, those stems would be completely hairy.

Since there are more ferns at Wahkeena Nature Preserve than any other place I know, I went back for a second round. Sticking with ferns that don't look like ferns, this 'Parsley' looking species is Rattlesnake Fern, Botrychium virginianum. It looks similar to the Cut-leaved Grape Fern, B. dissectum, but that species doesn't come out till late summer or fall.
The common name comes from the arrangement of the sporangia, ball like clusters resembling a rattlesnake tail. The fertile frond grows directly up through the middle of the plant. The leaves are sessile, remaining attached to the main frond. In the other Botrychium species, the leaves have a petiole that branches off the main fertile stalk.

Looking like the top of a plant eaten away by caterpillars, this is the fertile stalk of the Daisy Grape Fern, Botrychium matricariifolium. This is an extremely small plant easily missed unless you are specifically looking for it.

It's a species of rich woods that produces a single frond only. The leaves are divided and resemble those of Ox-eye Daisy.

Sticking with that look of "Is this really a fern?", we find the Adder's Tongue, Ophioglossum vulgatum.

While hiking around Wahkeena, we were keeping an eye out for Pink Lady's Slipper and Puttyroot. Since those orchids have broad basal leaves, it was easy to spot this fern. This species produces a single leaf that somewhat clasps the stem.

This is another species that produces a single stalk. It ends in this sharply pointed tip, shaped like a zipper or the beak of a Sawfish. The cup shaped sporangia hold white spores, which are visible stuck to the green center.

Okay, now that's a fern! Notice how all the fronds tend to arise from a center spot. This is known as a "clump" forming species. This is a large 3 foot fern called Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopleris.

Ostrich Fern is more common in Northern Ohio. The name comes from the resemblance to bird feather plumes. This is a basal shot. The stem is smooth, and the brown area is indented or U-shaped.

You can still see the groove in this upper portion of the stem. Each pinna is very long and may contain up to 60 pairs of leaflets.

Another fern that will grow over 3 foot tall is Bracken, Pteridium aqualium. These aren't the greatest pics to represent this species, but these were struggling a bit in this particular habitat. This fern is found in many countries around the world. I used to see them in early successional forests of White Birch in Michigan. Bracken was the dominant plant of the understory.

It's easy to distinguish, as it grows in a 3-pronged, triangular growth form. The pinnae start out with one basal lobe, similar to Christmas Fern, but with maturity they become much more divided. The early fiddleheads of this species are edible. Once the leaves have spread out like this, the plant becomes carcinogenic.

Bulblet Fern, Cystopteris bulbifera. This is a long narrow fern that often has a curved growth pattern.

Up close the stem is smooth, and the leaflets are serrated, ending in sharply pointed tips. The sori are located in the middle of each pinna.

In the center of the picture, you will notice a round BB or bulbet. These will increase in size and eventually fall off. A new fern will grow from this. Besides the spores, these bulbets will allow the species to spread asexually, or by vegetative reproduction.

At first glance, this looks very similar to the previous species. But you can't identify many ferns with just a quick glance. This is Hay-scented Fern, Dennstaedtia punctilobula. It's a long triangle shaped fern with a lacy appearance. It's a medium sized fern that forms colonies in acid soils.

To some it still looks a lot like Bulblet Fern, but the devil's in the details. The plant is lighter green than other similar looking species. The serrated leaflets are more blunt tipped, like stubby fingers rather than sharp points. The bulbs will be absent underneath, and it has a fuzzier texture. When you rub the fronds some of the pinnae will stick together like this.

The stickiness is due to the gland tipped hairs found throughout the plant. The name comes from the smell of hay when you crush the fronds, especially on dead portions.

As the sori begin to develop, the the tips of each leaflet fold over backward to form the lid of the cup shaped sporangia. In Ohio, this species is most common in the eastern half of the state.

As before, my guide through Wahkeena was Robyn Wright. In order to get some cliff ferns, she wanted me to follow her into the deep dark abyss. That's Robyn Wright-Strauss by the way, not the actress Robin Wright. Had it been Robyn from 'The Princess Bride' telling me to head down this steep hill, I would have yelled.....AS.....YOU.....WISH!!

That was fun, felt like a kid sliding through a water park tunnel. Judging by the leaf accumulation, this is not a frequent method of travel through here. My only concern was getting all that dirt stuck in the crack of my.......camera bag.

Well it was worth it, rock faces covered in a variety of species. This is Common Polypody, Polypodium virginianum (vulgare).

Polypody is evergreen. Each leaflet is widest at the base. They have no petioles, and stay attached to the main stem, forming a slight wing-like pattern.

It appears smooth edged, but up close you can see it has a few serrations on the margin. The sori will turn brown with age. They occur in pairs, opposite the main vein.

Resurrection Fern, P. polypodium, reaches its northern limit in a few southern Ohio counties. It is similar in appearance, but is strictly an epiphyte found growing in trees. The name comes from its ability to shrivel up and look dead during droughts, yet resuming normal growth after a rain.

Fragile Fern, Cystopteris protrusa. This and the next couple species are rather small in stature. The two pictures show that it grows in both the ground and on cliff faces. The leaves are finely dissected and bipinnate, with a look sort of like Dutchman's Breeches or Squirrel Corn.

Fragile Fern was known as C. fragilis, but has since been split into 3 species. The texture of the rhizomes are different between them. One other difference with this species: The leaf veins reach all the way to the ends of each lobe. They stop before the margins on the other two. The spores are produced in June, and are released throughout the summer. The main stipe or stem is weak, and easily broken, hence the common name.

Common on sandstone outcrops, this small fern resembles, and is related to the Walking Fern. This evergreen species is Lobed Spleenwort, Asplenium pinnatifidum.

The fronds are winged at the base and taper into a narrow point. They often curl at the tips. The main difference between this and Walking Fern is the fronds are lobed throughout.

I wonder how many times in the past I have walked right by these, thinking they were just young Adiantum Maidenhair Ferns. It's that circular growth form that can fool you.

It's called Maidenhair Spleenwort, Aspelenium trichomanes. These evergreen ferns are found on rock faces. The leaflets are rounded and usually paired, with wide spaces between them. The margins are wavy.

The stems are black, shiny, and smooth. Those stems appear round, but actually have a raised wing on the edge. You can see it with a hand lens, or feel it with your fingers. By enlarging the previous picture, you may see them on the dead stalks.

Here is Maidenhair Spleenwort with Fragile Fern growing beneath it. There were one or two others I had targeted for this post, but couldn't find. If I do, I'll probably add them later.

One last interesting find for the day was of an archeological nature. This is an ancient rock carving of a ceremonial mask from the Inca culture. To find Inca artifacts this far north is extremely rare. I am sure you are saying, he's full of it. Perhaps I am wrong, it's probably Aztec.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mothapalooza-A Success

For those who thought Mothapalooza was going to be for just moth experts, it wasn't, and you missed a good one. For those who thought it was going to be a bunch of moth collectors ravaging the sheets, you thought wrong. The event was full of well rounded naturalists. Bird trips, wildflower walks, and butterfly surveys were part of the fun. I think I collected a total of four moths all weekend. It was about being a teacher, and I found it rewarding to help people identify what they were seeing. I can't whip out every name on the spot like Dave Horn and Dave Wagner, but I could show people in their field guides the names of things. From the feedback I received, the talk is already centering around doing it again next year.
When I arrived, everybody was leaving for early field trips. With nobody around I decided to walk the grounds myself. I spent the summer of 1976 in Shawnee Forest, and have a lot of fond memories. I had not walked far before coming across this plant. At first it looks like any other sunflower, but I found it to be Whorled Coreopsis, Coreopsis major. I photographed this plant back in the 70's, and haven't seen it in 37 years. Some would say it's because I don't get out of the house enough, but the real reason is you can't find it anywhere in the state but for a couple of counties along the Ohio River.

I call it Whorled Coreopsis because of the leaves. There is another plant with that name, but it has thin grass like leaves. Perhaps Greater Coreopsis is the better common name. The leaves aren't really whorled. They are opposite and split into threes. This is a dry soil species.

Growing right next to it was this plant I often see on prairies, Spiked Lobelia, Lobelia spicata. This is a fairly tall species whose flowers may be white to light blue.

Also on this dry hillside was this bushy flowering plant called New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus. I see it in Athens County here and there, but it was abundant throughout the park.

If not in bloom, you can use the leaves to help identify it. Three deeply impressed veins branch out from the base.

The flowers remind me a bit of Trumpet Honeysuckle, only white. This is a showy native shrub that ought to be planted more than it is. It serves as a nitrogen fixer, so it can only enrich your soil. In pioneer days it was used to make a tea.

As I left to woods and walked the road back, this introduced species was in full bloom. Scarlet Pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis, only grows a few inches tall. I don't usually speak highly of exotics, but how can one resist this tiny attractive plant, and orange to boot.

Friday and Saturday night we split the group in half. Some stayed at lights set up around the lodge, while others came out to the Eulett Center at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. This Wave-lined Prominent, Heterocampa biundata, was just one of many species encountered.

Moon-lined Moth, Spiloloma lunilinea

Streaked Ethmia, Ethmia longimaculella. This is new to the preserve list. There are two species nearly identical. In the other one, zelleriella, those black streaks are usually longer, and often connected. As with many moths, including the micros, such characters don't always hold up. zelleriella usually also has yellow legs and underparts, they are black and white on the Streaked Ethmia.

A Givira moth of the Cossidae family. It is related to the giant wood boring Carpenterworm. Givira species are rare this far north, most species being western and southern. It looks like Givira anna, which has been recorded here before. Dave Wagner wasn't so sure, and wanted this for his research, wondering if this might be a prairie associated species. Look closely at all the black pepper marks. This separates it from similar looking Clostera Prominent moths.

Here's another example of looking close. This could easily be mistaken for a Drepanid Hook-tip Moth. It's actually the Juniper-twig Inchworm, Patalene olyzonaria. The females tend to have these sharply pointed wing tips.

Here's one you don't want to look at too closely. If you stare at the back of this long enough, you may see a pink-orange elephant. Then again, it might be what your drinking.

Here's the same species from a different angle. Its the Bisected Honey Locust Moth, Syssphinx bisecta. It's a member of the giant silkworm family. There are a half dozen species of these I usually lump into the "oakworms". That straight black line is used to separate it from another honey locust moth. Those bright red hind-wings made this a crowd favorite over the weekend.

This is a terrible photograph, but I post it to once again make a point. Something I've beaten into the ground on my site many times. This is a species of Zale, and that's all it is. A few years back I used to hang out at Bugguide on a daily basis helping people. You'd be amazed at the number of folks who get down right angry when you tell them it can't be identified by a photograph. It's probably why I don't go there much anymore. (Still the best, most complete insect site in the world by the way).

I sent these off to the Noctuid man himself, Eric Metzler. Within an hour, and I quote, " These are a group of pine feeding Zale's that can not be identified by wing pattern pictures, they need to be dissected". Everybody at the conference was very cordial and understanding of this. Many people I talked to were happy just to get a genus name. What friendly people, can't wait to do this again.

Not everything found were moths. The yellow spots and mottled appearance led to this being a Juniper Stink Bug, Banasa euchlora, another new species for me.

"Eww, gross" were a few of the comments flying around about this. This burying beetle went about its business, oblivious to all the mites actively crawling on its back. These beetles serve as a taxi, transporting mites to the next road kill. One orange spot on the side, followed by two small spots near the rear, make this Carrion Beetle Nicrophorus orbicollis.

Saturday was field trip time with Dave Wagner. We weren't even out of our vans before Dave yelled Edward's Hairstreak!! There, and there, and over there. Good thing we were in the boonies, because nobody looked before crossing the street. Cameras were clicking. This Hairstreak, Satyrium edwardsii,   was once considered so threatened or endangered, as to be found only in the three surrounding counties of this site for Ohio. It has since been found in another half dozen southern counties, one in central Ohio, and two sites outside Toledo. It's still considered rare.

Edward's Hairstreak can be found around Juniper Glades, a rather specific habitat. This is the third species in this post that has something to do with Juniper, or Red Cedar in this case, Juniperus virginiana.

This species can be mistaken for the more common Banded Hairstreak, and I've done so myself. Look at the upper wing. Banded Hairstreaks have more perfect rectangular spots, often connected into a line. In Edward's, each gray spot is separated by a wing vein, and the spots are more rounded.

This moth just refused to land and stay on any leaf surface. Crawling underneath, I did my best to get it. This view doesn't do much for color, but it's the pattern that's more important. This is a Haploa Tiger Moth. They can be quite variable, but this streaked pattern leads me to Haploa lecontei. The dark stripe in the back middle of the wing is "usually" connected to the brown stripe on the top of the wing in other species of Haploa.

Feeding on Butterfly Milkweed was another species I had never encountered, and didn't expect to see. It's called the Unexpected Tiger Moth, go figure, Cycnia inopinatus.

The adult of the Unexpected Tiger looks nearly identical to this Dogbane Tiger, or Delicate Cycnia, Cycnia tenera. The Dogbane species has a yellow head and thorax, and a yellow band running down the edge of the wing. The unexpected tiger is slightly smaller, and the yellow is very reduced, hardly visible on the wing at all. Sounds pretty close to me. So how do we know they really aren't the same thing?

This is the Dogbane Tiger caterpillar. Not-even-close.

Another very striking caterpillar we found was the Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor. Not rare by any means, but still not nearly as common as Black, Tiger, Zebra, or Spicebush, all of which were also seen this weekend.

So how do we top off a great day? How about  with the least common of all the species, the Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes. This guy just refused to land on anything, and I was lucky to get him in flight. That meant ME in flight chasing him.