Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 2: Blackwater Falls Wildflower Pilgrimage 2011

Day two was just a much fun as the first day. Again we headed up into the mountains, this time to Bickle Knob. Our first stop proved fruitful with the following finds: Clintonia umbellulata, Panax tribolius (Dwarf Ginsing), Streptopus amplexifolius (White Mandarine), Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower) and many more.

 Streptopus amplexifolius (White Mandarin)

Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower)

Trillium undulatum (Painted Trillium)

And then onto Otter Creek.

On the trail we found this birds nest. Inside is lined with deer hair. I wondered if the hair came from a live or a dead deer, there are probably plenty in the area. We suspected that it came from a cavity we found on the side of the hill and replaced it. It probably won’t be used this season but one never knows. Maybe a mouse will find it has all the comforts of home.

I know this was a flower walk but that is one of the good things about naturalist, they stop for everything. This Blister Beetle caught our attention. It is in the family Meloidae and I believe it is a Meloe impressus. You can observe its dark violet color. They are called blister beetles because of their defense mechanism of secreting a blistering agent called cantharidin, a poisonous chemical that will cause the skin to blister. When we first found them there were three and two were getting on top of this one. Mating was suspected but this one was having none of it and ran away leaving the other two confused. The adults feed on pollen. I read that in May to June the female digs into the soil about 1 inch deep where it places about 2,000-10,000 eggs.

Back to the cars and on up to Bickle Knob, we stopped to see the highlights of this trip. First the Stair Step Moss (Hylocomium splendens), a perennial clonal moss. Each year a new feathery frond starts and produces the stepping effect you see below. This makes it possible to estimate the age of the moss by just counting the steps. It is the only moss with this stair step arrangement.

Stair Step Moss (Hylocomium splendens)

Stair Step Moss (Hylocomium splendens)

The next highlight was another moss called Knight’s Plume Moss (Ptilium cristacastrensis). Ptilium means “plume-like” and crista-castrensis from the Latin is crista, “plume”, and castrensis, “military”, referring to the similarity between the moss and the plume on a knight’s helmet.

Knight’s Plume Moss (Ptilium cristacastrensis)

Knight’s Plume Moss (Ptilium cristacastrensis)

At Bickle Knob we found a blooming Halberd-Leaved Violet (Viola hastate). As you can see the leave is long and triangular in shape an apparently reminder early botanist of the halberds weapon in use during the 14th and 15th centuries. The halberd looks like a long pole with a pointed ax on the side.

Halberd-Leaved Violet (Viola hastate)

Bickle Knob is the home to one of the few remaining observation towers in the Monongahela National Forest. I climbed to the top were I was 4,000 feet in elevation and had a great panoramic view of the mountains.

Driving back down the mountain we stopped to see a large stand of Wild Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis). The wild columbine in my area are not as lush and frequent as these.

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)

Another of my favorites was the Wood-betony also called lousewort.  Both the red and the yellow form were on the bank beside the road.

Pedicularis canadensis (Wood-betony)

Pedicularis canadensis (Wood-betony)

This was just a small sample of what we found along the road. I would have to write about 5 more blogs to show everything but these were the highlights for me that day.

Stop by Outdoor Wednesday to see how others spent their time outside this week.


Woodswalker said...

What a beautiful trip with many wonderful finds! I have never seen Halberd-leaved Violet or White Mandarin. They probably don't grow in northern NY, although we do have Rose Mandarin, a close relative of the one you found.

squirrel said...

While I was on that trip thoughts of you often came to mind. I know you would have enjoyed it immensely. By the way Happy Birthday.