|Beaven celebrating spring with a melodica|
Monday, May 20, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Last year in my post I wrote about eating the young leaflets as they got bigger and bigger. This April I got a little rash on my wrist (same spot as 2 years ago) and so I decided to try the treatment again. I started as the leaves were first bursting open 2 weeks ago. Each day for a week I ate a tiny leaflet (progressively bigger, starting with a piece about half the size of my pinky nail). I then moved to about once every other day. Plants are less potent when they're young (why you harvest medicinals later on in their life cycles when they can put more energy into their chemical defenses). So as I developed a defense to the urutiol by ingesting the plant, the dosage was getting more and more concentrated as the leaves get older. It's probably too late to start this year if you're interested in this treatment, but maybe next year. And some people have much much worse reactions than I do so I would strongly suggest doing lots of your own research on folk remedies and this type of tolerance-development before trying on your own. You run a risk of having a severe systemic reaction.
Labels: poison ivy
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
|Adult Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)|
|Overwintered adult mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)|
Both species breed in the spring, and this is the only time of year this territorial behavior is observed. Apparently my theory of defending breeding areas has largely been dispelled in recent years according to a local entomologist, but it seemed the easiest and most obvious explanation. More appealing than, "the commas get confused and can't tell the mourning cloaks from a female comma").
Where: Centennial Woods
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
What: The forest is mostly green now that all the buds have opened or are opening. While out in Centennial Woods the other day I was collecting leaves of all different sizes from Norway maple (Acer platanoides). Like other maples, the scales on Norway maple buds open and form these elongate leaves that subtend the normal leaves (seen as the plus sign in the photo below). Buds are made out of modified leaves and these are deciduous once the normal leaves (there's probably a technical name for these) are more fully developed.
Monday, May 6, 2013
|Cut stem of bloodroot oozing red sap|
|Bloodroot rhizome cut in half to show showing "blood" beading up on surface|
|Celandine leaf stem broken to show yellow sap|
Friday, May 3, 2013
Phenology notes from previous month:
- Osprey nesting
- Woodcocks "peent"ing
- Spring ephemerals coming up (e.g. bloodroot, hepatica, spring beauty)
- Grass greening
- First dandelions coming up
- Spring migrants arrive in droves, big flush still to come
- Colder species of amphibians singing in full force (toads, treefrogs, bullfrogs still to make their full debut)
- First leaves appearing in understory
- Maples starting to leaf out
- Sapsuckers returning, as second flush of sap starts flow (as non-maple species start to get sap flowing)
- Woodchucks are out and about
- First warm nights
- First 70 degree weather
- Fireflies out and about, not mating yet
- Shorts and t-shirts abound!
- Snow and ice has all melted
- Dawn chorus is louder and louder (starting around 5am with robins then chickadees then cardinals then song sparrows, at least near my house).
Thursday, May 2, 2013
What: The most fascinating thing for me about hepatica is that as it comes up some of the leaves don't quite make it above the leaf-litter, or make it just part way. Where the leaves are exposed to the sun they are a dark purple, while the shaded parts are a bright green.
Another common adaptation of spring ephemerals is fuzziness (lots of species of ferns have some similar adaptation covering their fiddleheads). The fuzz is analogous to the loft of a down jacket. It creates a buffering layer around the plant. I'm convinced that this layer - ecologically called a boundary layer - is one of the most significant factors that plants and animals have adaptations for. We experience a boundary layer in cold water. If we stand in calm cold water we feel it get warmer and warmer the longer we stand there. Our body heat radiates out and warms the water, effectively increasing our boundary layer. The boundary layer can dwindle if we start walking or if the water is moving (e.g. wind action or water flow in a river). Wearing a wetsuit creates a thin boundary layer between the suit and our bodies that helps warm us.
Regardless of how strong the wind or current is, we always have at least a thin layer of no friction around us. It's why even on the highway, that layer of dust stays pressed against the hood of our car. It's also why at the top of Camel's Hump, all the plants hug close to the rocks to shelter from the wind. It's also why the reproductive part of the moss up there sticks up above the moss, to get out of the boundary layer and let the wind drag the spores away.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The leaves come up first, cupped around a flower bud.l The flower opens first as the leaf begins to unfurl. I got to the spot around 3pm, but got distracted by a pair of deer. I followed the deer for a few hours and when I got back I noticed that many of the flowers that had previously been opened began to close up.
Turns out bloodroot flowers are indeed nyctinasitc (flowers that open during the day and close at night; from nycto: nigth + nastic: non-directional response to external stimulus). My initial suspicion for why plants do this is that they might be selectively pollinated by a specific diurnal pollinator (but the flowers don't appear very specialized for this) or that it could protect the flower's reproductive parts from the cold night temperatures of the early spring woods. I found another proposed theory that points to weather as well, but a different threat. With temperatures so high during the day and cold at night, the temperature swing means lots of dew in the morning. If the stamens - where all that pollen is - get wet from the dew, then pollen the pollen won't transfer as well to insects.
|Seedlings sprouting up. These first year plants won't develop flowers.|