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Posts categorized Wildflowers.

Mariton: Lean On Me

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

This gracefully arching rhododendron (Rhododendron maxiamum) is located along the Main Trail just past the intersection with the Woods Trail.  (You can see the photo was taken on a cold day, because the leaves are rolled up to conserve water.)  It is a magnificent specimen, and around 100 years old.  Over the years this tree has sagged lower and lower.

I can’t bear to cut it yet. I prop it up because the tractor’s roll bar is about a foot higher than the bough. I often travel this way with the tractor to perform trail maintenance.  Without the prop for elevation, the roll bar would rub off the bark.  The prop doesn’t harm the tree, and has been a good compromise between the two of us.  I really hope this rhodie is still at Mariton long after I am gone.  (On the other hand, I hope it falls of its own volition before something else happens.  I don’t want to be the one that has to cut it.)

Mariton: Snow Can Be Beautiful

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

This was just one of hundreds of decorated Goldenrod heads after a dusting of snow last week.

Mariton: Looking at Fall

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

The last Tuesday Nature Walk of the season. It was a little breezy, but no gnats.  We knew it would be a good day for watching raptors in the fields on top of the hill, but we decided spend more time in the woods.  Right now, the various hickories have a golden glow.  The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a kodachrome yellow.  The Tuliptree leaves on the trail “echo” the color with a little more orange.  Even on a cloudy day it is like “walking on sunshine.”

Tupelo Tree

Tupelo Tree

I have trouble identifying Tupelo, or Black Gum, (Nyssa sylvatica) by its bark, but at this time of the year its brilliant red is apparent from a distance.   I didn’t realize how much Tupelo was growing at Mariton until I started looking for it in the fall.

Witch Hazel Blossom

Witch Hazel Blossom

Right now is when the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) begins to bloom.  This delicate yellow flower is a highlight of fall for me.  This sub-canopy, gracefully arching tree is often overlooked until this time of year.

Tuliptree seed pod

Tuliptree Seed Pod

 

Mariton: Fall Nature Walks

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Blue-stemmed Goldenrod with a visitor.

Blue-stemmed Goldenrod with a visitor.

Our Fall Nature Walks started on Tuesday, and will continue through October. It was a little overcast, but there was no rain.  Right away we came upon small patches of Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) along the trails.  This is one of my favorite fall wildflowers.  It brightens up the forest with its brilliant yellow blossoms, especially on a cloud day.  (And it catches the attention of pollinators like this bumble bee.)

New York Aster

New York Aster

The New York Asters (Aster novi-belgii) brightened up the meadow trails.  While 99% of the tree leaves are still green, there are hints of the coming autumn.  These Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) leaves are among the few that have turned color.

Sassafras leaves beginning to turn.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Anne noticed a dark “blob” in the trees and we found this Black Vulture waiting for the thermals to heat up. Once we reached the meadows, we saw several Cooper’s Hawks overhead and marveled at their flight.  Two airplane pilots were on the walk.  As they explained the intricacies of flight it made the hawks’ maneuvers even more amazing.

Mariton: Rhodies are Blooming

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.

Rhododendron blossoms

Rhododendron blossoms

One of the things I consider a “natural wonder” of Mariton is the blooming of the Rhododendrons (Rhododendron maximum).  This native “rhody” holds soils on the steep slopes below the Main and Chimney Rock Trails.  Besides being steep this section has a northeasterly aspect making it a little cooler and darker.  The rhodies love it.  It is tough to get a photo that shows all the blossoms on the hillside, but it is spectacular in person.

A riot of rhodies.

A riot of rhodies.

The native doesn’t bloom until late June, unlike the rhododendrons planted in yards . Right now there are still lots of flower buds that haven’t opened, so I think they will look nice into early July.  Every year I anticipate the blooming.   How many blossoms will open each year is unpredictable (at least for me).  I have been watching these trees for over 20 years and still haven’t figured out why some years every tree is covered with flowers, and other years there are only a few blossoms scattered across a forest full of Rhododendrons.  Another reason it is a natural wonder for me.

If you visit to behold the spectacle I recommend walking out the Woods Trail to the Main Trail, and then follow the Chimney Rock Trail for a ways. You will be able to put your face right into the blossoms without having to stray off the trail, where you might damage other wildflowers.  If you don’t mind the climb, walk down (you will have to walk back uphill) the River Lookout Trail for a view of a hillside of rhodies in bloom.

Mariton: Other Interesting Sightings

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Five-lined Skink

Five-lined Skink

We aren’t just birders on our Tuesday Bird Walks.  We find time to admire flowers, butterflies and other things.  Bill spotted this skink slinking around the rocks.  Fortunately I took a photo.  (Usually I just marvel at the sighting and never think about the camera.)  It took some time with the guides back in the office, but this is an older Five-lined Skink.  The Audubon Guide says that the lines fade, and they become a uniform color as this species ages.  It matches other photos I was able to find and the range maps.

Fringed Polygala by Carole Mebus.

Fringed Polygala by Carole Mebus.

We found the lovely Fringed Polygala (Polygala paucifolia) on our walk this past Tuesday.  As usual, Carole was willing to lay on the wet ground to get a good photo.

Mariton: Interesting Wildflowers

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Saturday was overcast, but the precipitation had already passed by when we started our Wildflower Walk. From a spring ephemeral wildflower’s standpoint it doesn’t matter if nature deals a period of cold, cloudy, rainy weather.  These flowers have to make seeds before the canopy leafs out and shades the forest floor.

Pennyroyal

Pennywort

We saw a great variety of wildflowers. One of the neat flowers that I am seeing more and more at Mariton is the Pennywort (Obolaria virginica).  It just started showing up a few years back.  This year it has really expanded.  I couldn’t find a lot of information about this wildflower, but on Rutger’s website it used the word “mycotropic”, meaning it likes soils with a rich soil mychorizzae profile.  Could Pennywort’s expansion here be a sign that our work removing garlic mustard is paying off?

One-flowered Cancerroot

One-flowered Cancerroot

Another interesting wildflower that is easily overlooked is the One-flowered Cancerroot (Orobanche uniflora).  This is an interesting wildflower because it has all the necessary flower parts, but lacks chlorophyll.  So it can’t get food from photosynthesis.  It literally taps into the roots of other plants to get its food (probably aided by soil mychorizzae).

Showy Orchis

Showy Orchis

On a related note, the Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis) needs soil mychorizzae for its seeds to germinate.

Mariton: Measuring Success

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

We have been actively removing Garlic Mustard (Alliaria oficinalis) for ten years now.  Garlic Mustard is an invasive plant that actually kills the soil mycorrhiza important to native plant health. In 2006, we pulled it along most of the trails where it was established, but I don’t think we did a thorough job the first year.  We just tried to get the big clusters.

We composted what we pulled that year, and that was important. Even after the plant is uprooted, the flowers can still develop into seeds.  For that reason it is important that you don’t pull it and drop it as you walk along a trail.  (That was a hard lesson learned through experience.)

2007 - one truck load.

2007 – One truck load.

In 2007, three high school seniors removed Garlic Mustard for their senior project. They did a much better job than we had the first year.  This photo recorded just one of the loads removed from the Kit and Chimney Rock Trails.  There were still some remote areas that they didn’t get, but these young ladies removed several truck loads that spring.

After that year we continued to aggressively remove Garlic Mustard each spring, and reached into areas farther from the trails. And each year there was less to remove.  We will probably never exhaust the seed bank, but we are making a positive effect.  In fact, all the work we had done previous to Hurricane Sandy controlled the invasion into the blow down areas.

2016

2016 – Carrying out bundles to the loading area.

Jump forward to 2016. This year I scheduled a volunteer day, and then had a hard time finding areas to pull it.  We had a great turn out of volunteers who worked very hard.  We got most of what was on the property.  I’ll say that again.  We got most of the garlic mustard on the 200 acres of Mariton – and we came up with only three tractor bucket loads.

2016 - the results of 40+ human-hours of removal.

2016 – Three loads, the results of 40+ combined hours of removal.

Our success is measured in part by the “diminishing returns” of our removal efforts. The other (and perhaps more important) measure of success is the number of native wildflowers taking over the woods of Mariton.  If you recall at the beginning of this post I mentioned that Garlic Mustard kills soil mycorrhiza. Mariton’s soil is now healthier, and the native wildflowers and trees are too.  Now that is sweet success that you can see with your own eyes.  (You can see it on the wildflower walk I’ll be doing this Saturday.)

Mariton: Tuesday Bird Walks Start

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photo by Carole Mebus.

There are several “events” that usher in Spring for me. Two of them are mowing the meadows in March, and the return of the Eastern Phoebe.  But the real clincher for me is beginning the Tuesday Bird Walks (which usually coincides with the return of the Wood Thrush and warblers ).  The Wood Thrush weren’t in full song yet, but we heard enough to know they are back.  Some also saw a Hermit Thrush.

This week’s walk was really great and we had about 36 species. We started off with a male American Redstart in a blooming redbud tree.  That’s a pretty good way to start a bird walk.

MEBUS YellowRumpedWarblerMariton0426-3

Warblers are both fun and frustrating because of their small size and constant movement.  Carole sent the above photo of a Yellow-rumped Warbler grabbing an insect from a tiny oak blossom.  The photo wonderfully conveys the incessant movement.  The oak flower is moving in the breeze.  The teeny insect is moving on the flower.  And the warbler has to capture enough food to fuel its own constant movement.   There were lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers during the morning, and fortunately they usually travel in groups.  It can be tough to get 10 people to see a warbler that is constantly moving, but if you can get people looking in the general area a Yellow-rump might pop into their view field.  We worked very hard for some of them (frustrating), and then had few pose right in front of us (fun).

One of the amazing sightings Tuesday was a Pileated Woodpecker that glided through the forest and landed on a dead tree. From there, someone saw it go into a hole.  Once we got everyone focused on the right hole (the tree had several woodpecker holes), people could see it inside the cavity.  I assume it is a nest cavity, but it may be difficult to see as the leaves come out.

Things really started happening when we got to the meadows. A Palm Warbler played in front of us for a long time, so we all got a good view of this warbler before it heads north.  We had Yellow-rumps, a Black-throated Green Warbler and Black and White Warblers perch in the open for easy viewing.

A Blue-headed Vireo (formerly called Solitary Vireo) perched at the edge of a Sassafras tree and gave everyone a good look.  The wildflowers are also blooming and we found time to “botanize” during the bird walk.  Spring has truly begun, and we will be doing it again next Tuesday.

Mariton: Tree Flowers

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Everyone know that trees like Magnolias, Cherries and or Dogwoods have flower blossoms, but all trees have flowers*. I often tell people that seeds come from flowers and flowers make seeds.  While this may not technically be true, for children and most adults it makes people aware of a flower’s real purpose – reproduction.  Some flowers also provide nectar to entice pollinators, and coincidentally feed butterflies and hummingbirds.  But all flowers have pollen, some is carried by the wind, some by insects, some by other animals.  A flower’s main job is reproduction.

Going back to flowers make seeds, most people don’t think about tree flowers if they aren’t showy like a Magnolia’s Blossom. Oaks, in fact, have flowers.  They aren’t very showy, but they produce acorns.

Sassafras blossom

Sassafras blossom

So here are some trees that some don’t think about flowering. The Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) has a delicate small yellow flower that lights up Mariton’s forest edges in spring.

Pawpaw

Pawpaw

The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) has this brown-purple flower that develops into a tasty fruit (that of course holds seeds).

*Gymnosperms ( trees like pine, spruce, cedars and ginko) technically don’t have flowers. Their seeds are naked, and angiosperms (true flowers) seeds are surrounded by an ovule. But gymnosperms have unisexual reproductive parts that serve similar purposes.  Gymnosperms have male cones that produce pollen, and female cones where seeds develop.  Gymnosperms’ seed come from cones that serve the same basic function as a flower.  This is more technical than most people (including me) care to know, so I don’t feel guilty when I say that seeds come from flowers.

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