Archive for the ‘Trees’ Category
I’m a bit behind in posting these photos, which I took back in September. I was chatting with the blacksmith as he packed up his equipment when I glanced into the branches of the overhanging oak tree and noticed these round, light brown balls. They were about the size of golf balls, or a little smaller. I recognized them immediately as oak apple galls. I’ve looked for these before, but up till now, have found only oak bullet galls, which I wrote about here. Apple galls are larger in size, and house the larva of Amphibolips confluenta, a species of tiny gall wasp.
The best life cycle information I was able to find online tells this story: Adult wasps hatch from the galls in mid-summer. The males and females mate and then drop to the ground, where the females burrow into the soil and lay their eggs in the tree roots. Larvae hatch and live in the soil before pupating. Only wingless females hatch from the underground pupae. In spring, they crawl up the tree trunk and locate new leaves, where they inject an egg into the central vein. A tiny larva hatches inside the leaf bud, and as the leaf develops, the larva causes a chemical reaction inside the leaf that results in the formation of a gall around the larva.
The gall is thus made from a mutated leaf. Galls draw a disproportionate amount of nutrients from the tree and provide the larva with a rich supply of food, as well as a protective home. Each gall contains just one larva. When the larva is full-grown, it pupates within the gall and emerges as an adult wasp. These adult wasps have wings and can be either male or female. After drilling its way out of the gall by making a hole, each wasp finds a mate and starts the cycle again.
Wow, what a complex cycle. The galls do not injure the tree, and provide a perfect home for the larva. However, life is rarely simple. Galls are attacked by a host of predators and parasites who may occupy the gall at the expense of the original inhabitant.
Posted in Trees, Local, Plant, tagged Shagbark Hickory, Carya ovata, Rock Dunder, Cladina rangiferina, reindeer lichen, Polypodium virginianam, rock polypody, Corydalis sempervirens, rock dunder trail, frontenac arch trail, gananoque trail, rock harlequin on October 15, 2012 | 1 Comment »
We have hiked out to the Rock Dunder lookout several times and promised ourselves to get back in the autumn to view the fall colours from this spectacular platform. A combination of bad weather and competing events postponed our return visit until this weekend. With the autumn leaves now rapidly giving way to the forces of rain and wind, we made a hike a priority and revisited the Rock Dunder trail last Friday.
It was interesting to visit the rocky woodland in a different season. The reindeer lichen (Cladina rangiferina), which was shrivelled and dried up in the summer, is now springing back to life in brilliant silver patches.
With less vegetation attracting attention, the trees themselves were more conspicuous. I hadn’t noticed this Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) on previous hikes.
The green fronds of Rock Polypody ferns (Polypodium virginianam) brighten rocky surfaces.
Patches of Pale Corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens), also known as Rock Harlequin, were growing amongst the lichens and mosses. This dainty looking plant is actually very tough. It produces pretty, tubular pink and yellow flowers held on long stems across the summer.
The effects of our hot, dry summer could be read in the number of dried out oak seedlings and brown juniper shrubs along the trail. Those junipers that survived the summer were now thriving after recent rains.
I noticed this patch of silk in a half-curled leaf on the trail. It’s probably a hiding place constructed by a spider.
Finally, we reached our destination, the Rock Dunder lookout, and were rewarded with a beautiful view. It was a cool day, so cool that we spotted a few snow flakes, and the open rock surface was windy, but we stopped long enough for a quick lunch and a hot cup of coffee. Here are a few photos taken from the lookout. Rock Dunder looks out over the northeast arm of Whitefish Lake, north of Gananoque, Ontario.
Saturday was a moody day, with banks of threatening clouds moving in to obscure the sun before scudding benignly away. Near the end of the day, the sun won out, and lit the early evening sky, setting the treetops ablaze.
I thought the dry summer we experienced might have had a negative impact on the fall leaf display, but that hasn’t been the case. The trees have been beautiful.
Summer has truly been going out in a blaze of glory, one last gift from Gaia before the snow flies and we settle into the monochromatic landscape of winter.
Here is a gallery of photographs taken Saturday evening. It features the trees around the house alight with the fires of autumn.
Posted in Environmental, Local, Plant, Trees, tagged arisaema triphyllum, Arnprior, asarum canadense, asplenium rhizophyllum, bidens cernua, boardwalk, calciphiles, calcium hydroxide, Charles Macnamara, Eastern hemlock, Goodwin's Bay, Jack in the pulpit, lime kiln, Macnamara Field Naturalists' Club, Macnamara Nature Trail, nodding bur-marigold, rock lichen, rock tripe, sap wells, springtails, tree burl, tree burr, walking fern, whitewash, wild ginger, yellow-bellied sapsuckers on October 4, 2012 | 4 Comments »
A couple of weeks ago, RailGuy and I headed up to Arnprior, north and west of Ottawa, to hike the Macnamara Nature Trail. The trailhead is just outside downtown Arnprior, in an industrial area. The trail runs in part through the property of Nylene Canada Inc. At the trailhead, you can pick up a helpful guide. It highlights 19 stops along the trail with information about the natural and human history relevant to each location.
The four kilometre long trail (five if you include the optional sidetrail to the marsh lookout) is well-marked and nicely maintained, with benches thoughtfully placed at the top of a few modestly demanding climbs. Near the trailhead, there was quite a bit of traffic and commercial noise, but we weren’t far along the trail before the sounds of industry fell away and the quiet of the forest prevailed. Comprised mostly of deciduous trees, the woodland is open and pretty.
A section of the trail travels through the upper reaches of the wetland and features a sturdy boardwalk. At the edge of the boardwalk, we spotted the red berries of Jack-in-the-Pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum). You can readily see the source of its scientific name, three-leaves, triphyllum.
The remains of an old lime kiln provide evidence of early industrial activity in the forest. The kiln was built by the McLachlin Lumber Company in the mid-to-late 19th century. The rocky ground, part of the Canadian Shield, is mainly marble and limestone. The igloo-like kiln was stocked with firewood and used to heat broken chunks of rock. When water was added to the burnt rock, it produced slaked lime (Calcium hydroxide), a product used as mortar in brickwork or as paint (whitewash).
Not far from the lime kiln remains, a set of stairs allows hikers to get a close-up look at the rock face.
There are a few points of interest here. In the little den formed by the facets of rock, there are piles of oval droppings. They are evidence that the den has been popular with porcupines over many years.
But the main attraction is the colony of rare Walking Ferns (Asplenium rhizophyllum). Their name is derived from the manner in which they reproduce. Whenever the long, pointed tip of a leaf-like frond touches down, a new frond can sprout up. A parent plant can thus create several generations of fronds via vegetative reproduction as it ‘steps’ across the rock. Walking Ferns are calciphiles, lovers of calcium-rich soils. Walking Ferns can be found in shady spots on limestone ledges and in limey forest places.
The rock also features a foliose lichen, perhaps an Umbilicaria species, known as Rock Tripe.
Back on the main trail, I notice this burl, or burr, high up on a tree. It looked for all the world like a small animal with its limbs wrapped around the tree. Burls are tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. They are the result of some sort of stress suffered by the tree, perhaps from an injury, virus or fungus.
We followed the sidetrail to the marsh lookout. To the east, the wetland is more marshy, while to the west, it is swampy, with trees growing into the wet area. Off in the distance, you can just make out Goodwin’s Bay and the Ottawa River. The marsh floods in the spring when the Ottawa River rises, carrying a flush of nutrients into the wetland.
There were splashes of bright yellow flowers sprinkled through the wetland, Nodding Bur-Marigolds (Bidens cernua).
There was quite a bit of diversity in the forest groundcover. Some areas of the forest floor were dressed in a variety of ferns, while other regions featured a groundcover of club moss. One section of the trail was bordered by the heart-shaped leaves of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).
When we came to a stand of Eastern Hemlock trees, we looked for the work of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. We had a family of sapsuckers nest in a large, old maple tree this summer, and I often saw them flitting about the garden, where their preferred tree to tap was a little locust. I didn’t know that sapsuckers are partial to hemlock trees until I read it in the guide. Sure enough, the neat rows of sap wells that the sapsuckers drill were readily apparent.
After passing through the hemlock grove, we continued back to the parking lot. These are just some of the highlights of our hike. The Macnamara Nature Trail was named after Charles Macnamara (1870-1944), a naturalist and photographer who loved these woodlands. A gifted amateur, he identified six species of springtails (Collembolans), and one species is named after him. The trail is a wonderful memorial to Macnamara. The guide book, provided by the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club, really enhances visitor understanding and enlivens the hike. This was one of our favorite hiking trails, and it is well worth visiting.
When RailGuy and I were out hiking near Arnprior, northwest of Ottawa, a couple of weeks ago, we spotted this amazing fungus. It’s Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). It would have been difficult to miss it! Its bright colouring really popped against the subdued hues of the forest and its size was impressive, more than 18 inches from top to bottom. Chicken of the Woods is said to be widespread and relatively common, but I hadn’t previously come across any, so was really pleased to chance upon it.
Autumn is a good time for fungus hunting. Chicken of the Woods are most likely to be found from August through October. Also known as Sulphur Shelf, it is a type of bracket fungus. The fruitbodies can be up to 30 cm across and are bright sulphur-yellow to yellowish-orange. It fruits on a variety of trees, both living and dead, both conifers and hardwoods.
Chicken on the Woods is edible and gets its odd name from a reputed similarity in flavour to, yes, chicken. We didn’t sample any, however, and left it intact. I don’t have enough confidence in my identification skills to try wild mushrooms (although I was pretty sure of this one), and even known edible mushrooms can be tricky. For example, eating Sulphur Shelf is not recommended if the fungus is growing on a conifer. Further, some people are sensitive to even normally benign fungi.
Beyond that, we were just visitors to the forest, and not part of the ecosystem. We left the fungi untouched, waiting for nature to run its course.
Late in June, this tree caught my eye when I was driving through the town of Prescott, along the St. Lawrence River. What a beauty! I stopped and took a few photographs, and looked it up when I got home. It’s a Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) in full flower.
The Northern Catalpa is native to North America, but its range is limited to the Mississippi valley. It prefers rich, moist soil and part shade as might be found at the edge of a forest. In some areas, it is considered to be mildly invasive, given the right conditions. That doesn’t seem to be the case around here, though it can clearly survive the cold winters of a northern climate.
A few mysteries surround the Northern Catalpa. It’s name is of Native American origin, but its exact meaning is not known. And why is its native range so restricted when it can survive conditions much farther north? Was it once much more widely distributed?
I can’t recall seeing catalpas growing in the area where I grew up, west of Toronto and it doesn’t seem to be widely planted around here. It has much to recommend it. The spring flower display is gorgeous, and appreciated by pollinators, including hummingbirds. The large leaves are attractive too, and provide good cover for nesting birds. And finally, the long bean-like seed pods add interest.
For a lively account about catalpas, see Sue Sweeney’s Monday Garden, linked here.