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Posts Tagged ‘Gray’s Sedge’

Here are a few more of those non flowery things I’ve seen that don’t seem to fit in other posts. Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum,) which is sometimes called brake, is easily identified by its shiny triangular fronds. What makes identification easier still is the fact that it is the only fern that has side branches. No other fern in the country has these branches, so it’s almost impossible to confuse it with others. Though I usually find this fern about knee high, I’ve seen it reach chest height under optimum conditions.I wish lichens were as easy to identify as bracken fern. This beard lichen doesn’t seem to have grown a whit since last winter, but since I don’t know how fast lichens grow I can’t be sure. I just realized that I’m not even sure how to tell if they are still alive so clearly, I’m going to have to study lichens a bit more. Leaf lichens don’t seem to grow very fast either.  This one is on a trail I visit regularly, so I see it often. It doesn’t seem to change much. I visited this red (orange?) jelly fungus off and on for about two weeks and saw very little change going on, and then it was gone. I don’t know if a critter ate it or if it just dropped off the branch it was on. Maybe it’s the old “watched pot never boils” thing with lichens and fungi. If I ignore them for the summer and re-visit them in the fall maybe they will have noticeable growth. These turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) look the same as the last time I saw them too. This poplar (left) and white pine were getting quite friendly there in the woods. They had grown so close together that if they had been the same species they would have grafted themselves together. As they get bigger something is going to have to give. I’m betting on the pine because they grow faster. When a fallen tree begins to break down into compost and return to the soil quite often seeds will fall on it and grow. When this happens the dead tree is then called a nurse log, because it “nurses” the seedlings into adulthood. I’ve seen one or two but they were impossible to get a clear picture of, so instead I’ve got this picture of what I call a nurse stump. The stump has obviously rotted to the point where seeds can germinate. I didn’t bother identifying the new growth but the way they are growing in a tight cluster seems to point to a squirrel or chipmunk hiding a cheek full of seeds. There wasn’t anything but moss growing on this stump but I had to stop and wonder what catastrophe might have caused such tortured looking growth, and what kind of power it must have taken to split it open. I love the bronze / maroon color, the wrinkled texture, and shine of these new leaves of the Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) vine.  When it becomes heavy with small, white, star shaped flowers it will be a sign that autumn is nearly upon us. New Stag horn sumac leaves are also bronze colored in the spring. Many plants have new leaves that are colored differently than their mature leaves. The female Gray’s sedge (Carex grayii) have grown their spiky, battle mace-like flowers. The male plant has a single spike rather than the cluster seen here. This plant is usually found near water and ducks and other waterfowl eat the seeds.Meadow foxtail grass (Alopecurus pratensis) will look ragged for just a short time while the flower stamens wait for the wind to blow their pollen to wherever. It is one of the earliest flowering grasses and is sometimes confused with timothy grass, which blooms in July and August. Grasses are wind pollinated and most have both male (stamens) and female (pistils) parts. When the wind blows the pollen from the stamens of one plant to the pistils of another, fertilization is complete and the plant will set seed. This grass was brought from Europe by early settlers to use as a hay crop, and it is still used that way today. This photo shows why you have to be careful where you put your hands. In the lower right corner, with three leaves to a stem, is poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans.) The rest of the picture is taken up by Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia,) which is a native vine that has 5 leaves per stem in this picture.  When it first comes up the leaves of Virginia creeper are red just like new poison ivy leaves. Each stem usually starts out with 3 leaves like poison ivy, but can have as many as seven when fully grown. Poison ivy can grow as a vine, just like Virginia creeper, so it can be difficult to tell them apart.  If the old saying “leaves of three, let it be” is paid attention to most people probably won’t get poison ivy. Still, if you spend much time in the woods it’s a good idea to study poison ivy until you know it well. I’ve seen more poison ivy this year than I ever have. This is the fruit of the sweet fern (Comptonia peregrine) plant, the flower of which I showed in a post on April 14 called Forest Beauties. The part that looks like a burr is actually a cluster of bracts. Inside these bracts are 4-6 small brown nuts (seeds) that are about 1/4 inch long and oval in shape. These seeds form in place of the female flower, which is red, small, and easily missed. Sweet fern foliage is very fragrant.These immature acorns were found on a red oak tree. It is estimated that a mature oak tree can produce as many as 5000 acorns.  From what I’ve seen oaks are going to have a bumper crop this year. An acorn can take 6 months in the case of white oaks, to 2 years for northern red oaks to fully develop. An acorn is “ripe” when the cap removes easily. Very heavy acorn production takes a lot of energy, and a tree might produce only a few acorns for 4 to 10 years after a season of heavy production. A tree called the Major Oak in the heart of Sherwood Forest; Nottinghamshire, England is between 800 to 1000 years old and has a circumference of 33 feet. Legend says that it was where Robin Hood’s and his merry men slept.

We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts ~ William Hazlitt

Next time we’ll see some more wildflowers, so I hope you can stop in. Thanks for coming by.

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