Field Notes: a Nature Walk

Having a botanist/biologist for a friend has always provided lively and interesting conversations (bird flu, flesh-eating viruses, pandemics, poison mushrooms) but this year we’re going into the field. The other day Sharon and I hiked the nature trail in Cutler City. Sharon said we would look especially for lichens and mosses, which we did, but she pointed out some other things to me that made it a pretty fascinating hour. You probably know all these things, but I’ll pass on what I learned anyway because it enlarged my view of things natural.

Here’s the entrance to the trail and some Maiathemum dilatatum, wild lilies of the valley.

Here’s a wild rhododendron, which proliferate in the nature preserve. Sharon is pointing out to me the small dots on the interior of the flower which she described as “bee highway signs”. The dots signal to the bees where they need to go to get the pollen (is that cool or what??).

This looks like a grass, but it’s a sedge. Sharon told me to put my fingers on the stem and if it was a sedge I could feel it because “sedges have edges.” And it was–the stem is triangular, not round, with definite edges.

Polyporus oregonensis, or shelf fungi. This one is about 5 years old. The white outer ring is the new growth from this year, then there are earlier sort of orange strips–each one signifying a year.

This is a ground cone, Boschniakia hookeri. The purple cone-like item is the new plant with the tiny flowers just visible. The brown cone form behind is last year’s model. This plant is a parasite–it gets all of it’s nourishment from the roots of other plants–most notably salal and kinnikinnick.

Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry), fiddlehead fern, “Old Man’s Beard”–a lichen.

So ends todays lesson. More to come.

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