Today we’ll have a plant identification quiz. I have an answer but you may have a better one.
I found this plant on June 29 at Dead Man’s Hollow in Allegheny County. The leaves are so distinctive that its identity begs for some detective work. Here are the clues I gathered:
alternate on the stem,
edges are entire (not toothed),
leaves are perfoliate. (The stem perforates the leaves, a very cool feature.)
bottom leaves are larger than the violet leaves nearby.
The plant had no flowers and no buds. Instead it had developing fruits which gave me clues about the flowers. Here are two photos of the fruits.
The fruits are:
on stems that sprout from perfoliate spots on the leaves
three sided with a seam in the middle of each side. Does this mean the flower was three-petaled or six-petaled?
still maturing? Or are they in their final form?
I looked up “six petals with alternate, entire leaves” in my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and found a familiar spring wildflower with perfoliate leaves.
However, I am not completely satisfied with my identification. I have never seen “my plant” arc horizontally like this when it’s blooming and the fruits in the illustration look different. Is my Newcomb’s Guide missing a species? Have I never noticed that the plant “lies down” in the summer? Are the fruits going to match the illustration when they mature in a few weeks?
So here’s the quiz: What plant is this?
Leave a comment with your answer. I’ll post my guess after I’ve heard from you.
UPDATE: See the Comments for the answer and a link to the flowering version of this plant.
It was alive when it fell. It grew leaves this spring so the structural weakness wasn’t evident until the tree broke.
This is the only broken tree at this location in Schenley Park. Even if a strong wind snapped the trunk it wasn’t strong enough to damage other trees.
The trunk is not hollow inside the break though there are air gaps between the light outer wood and dark inner core.
There’s a white flaky substance inside the trunk that coats the light wood layers. Is it a fungus?
Did the white stuff weaken the trunk? Is it responsible for the break?
The trunk isn’t hollow, but…
Here’s a close look at the white flaky fungus. It reminds me of the white correction tape I use on paper.
Do any of you know what this is? Is it the reason the tree fell over?
Leave a comment with your answer.
(photos by Kate St. John)
UPDATE on June 5 with the ANSWER! It’s a species of Armillaria or honey fungus. (See Maureen Hobma’s comment below.) Well, I feel a little dumb. I wrote about Armillaria on 16 January 2014 because I was fascinated that it’s the largest living organism. I even included a photo of the white sheets inside the heartwood but, having never seen the white sheets before, I did not remember them. Until now I had only seen the black rope-y strands and the honey mushrooms so that’s all I knew of Armillaria. The white sheets are the newer growth, the mycelium, and can be bio-luminescent! I learn something new every day.
This morning I heard the sound of a lonesome dove.
When seeking a mate male mourning doves call like the ones in this video. Those who’ve found true love don’t need to sing because the cooing is a solicitation call, not a territorial defense.
Unmated males perch-coo from the heights as loudly as they can, “Ladies, I’m available.” It’s amazingly loud considering they don’t even open their mouths. A few have already begun calling in my neighborhood but the peak time will be late April through June.
Males also use flap-glide flight to attract female attention. Taking off with exaggerated wing-claps, they fly up above the trees and rooftops, then spiral down with stiff wings held slightly below their bodies. From a distance their silhouettes resemble kestrels or sharp-shinned hawks. They’ve fooled me more than once. Here’s my attempt at what they look like, gliding from left to right:
Today sunrise is at 6:49am so a lot of us are awake before the perch-cooing begins, but lonesome doves can be annoying in June when they start calling at 5:00am.
Quiz! Test your “birding by ear” skills with this video. In addition to the mourning dove there are at least seven other species singing in the background. Who are they?
(video by Carl Gerhardt, musicofnature.org via YouTube. Silhouette drawing by Kate St. John)
Fill your feeders and get ready for the bird count you can do in your pajamas.
For four days — tomorrow February 14 through Monday February 17 — you can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count from the comfort of your home. All you need to do is count birds for at least 15 minutes, keep track of the highest number of each species you see, and record your count on eBird (instructions here). If you take pictures, submit them to the GBBC Photo Contest.
Join with others across the continent in this weekend science project. Your data will show trends in winter bird populations across North America as you can see in these statistics from prior years.
Don’t want to stay indoors? You can count birds anywhere or join others at one of these local events. (Scroll down for the many events in Pennsylvania.) Here’s how to participate no matter where you choose to count.
Meanwhile, you can practice counting with this photo by Marcy Cunkelman. What species and how many birds are in the picture?
Test your skill. Leave a comment with your answer.
(photos: top and middle footprint photos are from Wikimedia Commons. Last photo is from the Ode Street Tribune blog. Click on each image to see the original … and it will give you the answer to the bird’s identity.)
Are there other birds in North America whose legs and feet are different colors?
The immature blackpoll warbler has them. Adult blackpolls have bright orange-yellow legs and feet but the youngsters have black legs. Their contrasting feet are a good identification tip during fall migration. This one is wearing orange slippers.
Beyond the blackpoll I was stumped. I searched my field guide page by page and discovered that golden-crowned kinglets have dark legs and pale yellow feet. Who knew? I never looked at their feet before.
Do any other North American birds have fancy feet? I don’t think so, but maybe you know of one.
In the meantime I’ll leave you with this thought …
While writing about dripping pine cones I learned that mature cones open and close many times and can do so for many years.
They do this in response to wetness — even after they release their seeds, even after they’ve fallen from the tree. In fact the open/closed status of fallen cones is a simple indication of wildfire risk because it shows the dryness of the forest floor.
So what does a wet cone look like? Can you tell which one is wet and which is dry, above?
Here’s a view of the tail end.
And here’s an overhead view.
By now you’ve probably guessed the answer so you’re ready to play Cone In A Bottle.
Put the closed cone in a bottle and wait for it to open. If you want to get the cone out, do you add water or remove it?
In honor of Western Hummer Season I’ve made a quiz with a twist. These recent hummingbird photos were all taken outside of Pennsylvania by former Pittsburghers. Some of these birds can be found in Pennsylvania, one cannot, and one of Pennsylvania’s rarities isn’t pictured here at all.
Can you identify these hummingbirds? (starting with Mystery #1 above)
Experts will know what they are. The rest of us can appreciate the beautiful photos. Don’t feel bad if you can’t identify them — I couldn’t without looking them up. Answers are in the first Comment.
Mystery Hummingbird #2:
Mystery Hummingbird #3:
Mystery Hummingbird #4:
Mystery Hummingbird #5:
Keep your hummingbird feeders full and watch for unusual birds this fall. The hint may be just a slight color difference.
After October 15, any hummer you see in Pennsylvania is a western rarity to report on PABIRDS or to Bob Mulvihill at the National Aviary (412.323.7235).