Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fresh Woods and Pastures New

 The single most wonderful benefit to come my way from keeping this blog is the terrific bunch of friends I have made through it.   Many of these friends not only have far more botanical knowledge than I, but they also know of marvelous natural places I would never know about unless they took me there.  That was certainly the case this past Thursday, when my friends in the Thursday Naturalists met to explore the Boice Family Park near Rock City Falls.  As with the Canal Park in Stillwater the Thursday Naturalists explored the week before, I had not known about this Boice Family Park until I met my friends there to walk through beautiful woods to a trail that follows the Kayaderosseras Creek.

Although our view of the creek was often obscured by trailside thickets, we could constantly hear the gentle music of water running over stones in the nearby creek, and here and there the view opened up to reveal banks covered with heaps of late-summer flowers in all their glory.

Our trail was crowded close with many other summer flowers: Pale-leaved Sunflowers, Tall Goldenrod, Green Coneflowers, Spottted and Pale Jewelweed, Boneset, Virgin's Bower, and both Wild Cucumber and One-seeded Bur Cucumber, the two gourds each now in fruit as well as in flower.

This is the bristly three-parted fruit of One-seeded Bur Cucumber.

And here are the  equally bristly but larger egg-sized fruits of the Wild Cucumber, strung in the branches of trailside shrubs by tightly coiled tendrils.

The season of "mellow fruitfulness" is well upon us, with many shrubs heavy with berry clusters.  Here was a pretty coincidence of bright-red Highbush Cranberry fruits intermixed with branches bearing the deep-blue fruits of Silky Dogwood.   A bit of Joe-Pye Weed added its rosy color to the mix.

Nearby, near the water's edge, a cluster of brilliant red Jack-in-the- Pulpit fruits was easy to spot from the trail many yards away.

 More subtle in their coloration (for now), the berries of Maple-leaf Viburnum are turning their deep blue-black.  This small shrub will be very easy to spot in a month or so, when its foliage turns a most distinctive shade of purplish coral, a color unmatched by any other foliage in the woods.

The ample rainfall we've had this summer should spell a fine season for fungi, and we are already off to a good start.  This coral fungus (a species of Ramaria) had a particularly beautiful golden color.

We found dozens and dozens of these gold-capped buttons throughout the woods.  I believe they are Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea), an edible species.  But since I wasn't sure, I did not gather any to take home.

This photo shows my friends making their way along the trail that has been mowed through thickets of shrubbery.  Unfortunately for me (I was wearing short pants and low socks), the Wood Nettles had grown back to mid-shin height in many places, and my ankles suffered the rest of the day from many stings.  Next time, I will take my cue from my friends and wear long pants and heavy socks.

At least I knew enough not to get stung by this furry creature, a Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar.  It may look all soft and furry, but those hairs can deliver a sting that causes quite a rash.

One of the highlights of our day's adventure was the solving of the lily riddle.  For some reason, we got off in a wrong direction while puzzling over the identity of the dried stalks pictured here in the foreground.  We eventually determined they were False Hellebore (a likely habitat, that's for sure), but the fun was watching and listening to all these well-schooled wildflower experts pose their questions and seek for answers, and then share their delight when at last they arrived at Aha!

Next week, the Thursday Naturalists will meet again to explore "fresh woods and pastures new,"  and I can't wait to see what wonderful woodlands they will lead me to next.

One of our group, Barbara Connor, has also published an account of our walk through Boice Family Park, with lots of lovely photos, and you can see her blog "Bee Balm Gal" by clicking here.

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