Dunwoody Nature Center 5/31/13
This morning I went for a walk with my dog at the Dunwoody Nature Center. There were quite a few interesting organisms in the park. The birds were fairly quiet as I only counted 6 species. The coolest was definitely hearing sweet melody of a Wood Thrush ring through the forest. Standing tall and mighty beside the tree house was a Devil’s Walkingstick – Aralia spinosa.
Devil’s Walkingstick is a small shrub or large tree generally shorter than 25 feet in height. Its bi- or tri- pinnate compound leaves are the largest of any temperate tree in North America at 3 feet long, 2 feet wide and with leaflets from 2-3 inches long. It gets its common name from the spines on its trunk and stems. This intriguing plant likes moist soils, which is why I found it by Wildcat Creek.
I was treated to a great view of a flowering Southern Magnolia by the parking lot. Found on the edge of water and in swamps, the Southern Magnolia is native to the coastal plain although it has been planted as an ornamental by people living in the piedmont region and it has become naturalized. Its beautiful blossoms are in season. In fact, its species name – grandiflora, comes from the latin words grandis, meaning “big”, and flor, meaning “flower.” Squirrels, opossums, quail and turkeys eat and spread the seeds – 50% of which will germinate.
Cat Briar, also known as Greenbriar or by its genus name, Smilax, is an often thorny genus of vine with 20 species in North America. The leaves are usually heart-shaped. This plant fruits (a berry) in the fall and stays through the winter, when it becomes an important source of food for many birds and mammals. Smilax is a hardy plant that can grow back after being reduced to essentially nothing due to fire or cutting. It prefers wet soils. When on its own, the plant grows as a dense shrub that provides cover for small birds and mammals from predators.
The Ebony Jewelwing – Calopteryx maculata – is a species of damselfly whose range extends throughout Georgia and that, while it prefers to live near streams, can be found in practically all habitats, including far from streams in the woods. They flutter from perch to perch frequently, flapping their wings like a butterfly. They feed on aphids, crane flies, caddis flies, dobsonflies, copepods, scud, beetles and worms. They also serve as prey for many animals like the Great-crested Flycatcher, Mallard, Eastern Painted Turtle, Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch, Channel Catfish, Red-winged Blackbird, Southern Leopard Frog, Blue Jay, Common Water Strider, Common Carp, Common Snapping Turtle and Big Brown Bat.
Along one of the paths, I found a species of wild ginger, probably Asarum arifolium or Hexastylis arifolia. This herbaceous plant gets its common name due to the ginger-like smell of its leaves when broken and the similar taste and smell of its rhizomes to ginger root.