Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014 Roundup of Pics from Mom's Yard (+Vid)

Anyone who knows me could probably also tell you that I'm a super nature geek. Mycology and Geology are strong contenders on my list of potential college majors. Sometimes, wherever I am, I like to go outside with just my camera and rummage around to see what I can't dig up to snap pictures of. In October, I took a lot of pictures in mom's yard this way, and I have no idea when each batch was dated. A lot are from the 22nd, thus the chosen backdate. Here are the noteworthy finds, nevertheless, in no particular order:

This was snapped on a tree at the corner of her house. Still unsure of what kind of tree this is, I took a snapshot of one of the leaves. It was dicot and the leaves seemed to be springing forth out of strange bulbs. I'm unfamiliar with this.

A beautiful specimen of a Lynx spider was found on the top of a tall dead weed. She was poised over an egg sack and had recently caught and eaten what looked like a dragonfly. Lower down the stalk of the weed was a caught moth. I believe she is a green lynx variety, despite her brown appearance, but could also be common lynx.

The picture at the beginning of this blog entry is a close up shot of this spider.

Goldenrod flowers were still going strong. There was an entire stand of them on one side of the house. This wasp (who I named Dave) was one of many buzzing bugs that were presumably feeding on the flowers.

I don't know of these are, in fact, daisies, but they look a lot like them. What throws me off is that they were growing down from the bush and tree at the corner like a draping vine. Do daisies do that?

These are the berries on the tree in mom's yard... which I thought was a cherry dogwood, but now that I'm googling/wikipedia-ing it, it seems I was wrong... I have no idea what this is.

These chains of berries, often confused with the Elderberry plant, are not to be eaten and prove fairly toxic. These are the berries of the full grown Pokeweed shrub. The only household use for a plant this old--that I know of--is that you can gather the berries and boil them into a pretty purple dye.

This is a Green Lynx Spider. Contrasting the one posted earlier, this one is bright grass green. She was found on the same side of the house as the goldenrod stands. Farther down the wall was another almost identical to her whose egg had already matured and hatched. Look for a video of her and her babies at the end of this post!

These may look like tomatoes or similar gourds, but these are not to be eaten. These are juvenile fruits on a Horsenettle plant, named due to the rashes Horses break out in when they give into these plants. These berries can cause great harm to humans.

This little guy is the common Buckeye Butterfly. Its wing was damaged, but it could still fly. I felt pretty blessed and lucky to have gotten to hold it long enough to take multiple pictures of it.

 This BEAUTIFUL pupa was on the side of the house with the green lynx spiders. I have no idea what it is despite trying to figure it out for hours. Any ideas are welcome.

This nasty, testicular looking thing is the egg sac of the common Garden Spider. Talk about ugly duckling syndrome.

Speaking of, this is a common Garden Spider. People love to take pictures of these, so you've probably seen them. If you get to close or blow on them, they'll rock their web back and forth in an intimidating fashion. I named this one Emelia.

There was a bed of wild strawberries under the giant pokeweed shrubs, but this one was alone in the front of the yard. Turns out, turtles love these.

Lastly, there was this (big) little guy. I'm not good with ants, but this guy was surprisingly well formed and pretty as well as somewhat large. How cool!

Needless to say, it was a bountiful year. This is only the tip of the ice berg, though. I'll be posting the hikes and trips soon, which will be full of more natural nuggets.  (I'm posting this at the end of the year and backdating it for archival purposes.) Here is that video I took of the Green Lynx Spider and her babies. Bear with it, it was super windy that day so it starts out unsteady.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Hike to Goat Rock

Trip to Goat Rock Summit
October 14, 2014

So, Shane had been telling us off and on about how he'd gotten completely lost in the mountains around Hot Springs one day in the past. He'd went up the mountain expecting to come back down, but managed to hike north mountain, west mountain, goat's rock trail, and through gulpha gorge, among others. My mom got pretty excited about seeing Goat's Rock, so we planned our next adventure for the foothills above town. I won't lie; I was hoping we'd avoid the tourist trails and outlooks and go back to Cedar Glades or somewhere likewise grown over that I haven't been to before. Regardless, it was fun getting out and about with Shane again. Not knowing exactly where the trail to balancing rock began, we started off at one of the outlooks and headed down a trail that would take us up the mountain.

There were some pretty radical loblolly pines up on this trail. Featured below are a few of them:

The remains of a massive pine stump.
Me by a huge living loblolly pine.

My mom on a tree that was crazy bent at the base.

And this one. I've never seen a pine grow with such crazy curves!

At a certain point, we realized this trail wasn't going to take us where we needed to be, so we followed the road back down to the outlook and set off again, this time heading down the trail instead of up.

This seemed like a great idea... at first. We walked all the way down the trail until it hit a fork, but neither were the trails we were looking for. This lead to a very long wait as they tried to find a map of the trails on their phones.

I talked them into heading down the left fork for the sake of adventure, but that didn't take long to fall apart either. Although that leg of the trail was a bit more grown over and pretty, a bug (or pine needle, we're still not entirely sure) attacked Shane via route of pants' leg and we had a minor struggle trying to save him from certain death... or temporary itching. We called that trail quits when the ordeal was over and marched back up to the truck... or tried. It was so steep up hill that we had to stop and rest. We had a long talk about random things, telling random stories, and heard the story about Shane getting lost on the mountain trails in a bit more detail before heading off. even with the midway rest, it was an excruciating walk to the truck.

Shane and I were parched, but despite my blunt requests to get water somewhere, mom drove farther up the mountain and stopped at the next outlook anyway. She was pretty determined to find Goat's Rock. So, we got out and took to the trail again. Thank the divines we'd actually stumbled upon the correct trail! It wasn't long before we found a sign directing us down Goat's Rock trail, and a few twists and turns after that, we were there!

Despite being parched, I continued to run my mouth non-stop the whole of the trip, so I'm going to be in the middle of a gabbing session throughout most of these pictures. Anyway, those stairs in the background took us to the top of the summit, where we found this interesting hollow pyre of sticks (which mom considered a little too much like something from Blair Witch Project to be comfortable around.)

Just beyond that, though, was this amazing vantage:

This was the view from Goat's Rock Summit. Sure, we've seen the town from higher outlooks, but there was something about Goat Rock that felt a lot more personal than the other views. We tried to take a selfie with the background but, you know, phones...

Backgrounds got washed out. At least we tried. We lingered here a good while, talking and looking at the view.  By the time we were done here, I'd overcome the thirsties for the time being. Mom sought to remedy that by sending Shane and I back up the ascent so she could snap this picture of us on the summit from the bottom:

Magnifique. In the end, I was super glad we went out to Goat's Rock. Somewhere along the way, though, Balancing Rock was brought up, and soon it was decided that it would be our next hiking objective. Little did I know that it would be even more of a struggle to get to!

Here is the usual round up of specimens I found along the trail of note:

Nandina, Heavenly Bamboo
Nandina domestica

A beautiful nandina plant along one of the trails fruiting. There was also a healthy bush nearby with berries that were beginning to turn red.


Mom caught this bird in mid flight... it looks like an eagle to me!!! What do you think?

Wood Ear
Auricularia auricula-judae

Probably the best nature capture of the trip. Wood ear are prized in eastern medicine for a plethora of reasons, which the article on wikipedia thankfully covers.

Plain Brown Bracket/Shelf Fungi

As always, these were bountiful around every corner.

French Mulberry/American Beautyberry

Callicarpa americana

A fall favorite, these are not actually related to standard mulberries at all. Berries of this vivid violet-magenta are only found naturally on this plant, making the purple variants of Beautyberry hard to misidentify. The berries are edible, but not typically palatable, being bland and better suited for birds. There are ways to turn them into a nice floral tasting jam, though.

Eastern Fence Lizard
Sceloporus undulatus

If you haven't gotten this idea from other posts, these little guys are everywhere around here. I find them on just about every trip!

Vitis rotundifolia

Somebody or something got their hands on some muscadines, although I couldn't find from where! Probably a squirrel or something similar that carried them a way before eating them.


Could this common weed be a type of wormwood, or, perhaps, hemlock?

Privet (variety unknown)
Ligustrum v.

These are the juvenile green berries of a variety of privet plant. We have a lot of them around these parts (introduced here and spread by birds and landscaping.)

(A very bendy bunch of) Loblolly Pines
Pinus taeda

The loblolly pines fascinated me this trip. I've grown up around them--my old stomping ground was almost an entire three acre stand of them--but they were never so bendy, wavy, and crooked as the ones I got pictures of on the mountain side.

Plain ol' white bracket fungus.

Growing all fancy-like between the thick bark plates on a loblolly.

Amanita type on Haircap Moss
??? on Polytrichum commune

I'm not even going to begin to try to figure out what that mushroom is until I'm more studied on Mycology. I'm presuming amanita type based on the ring around the stem and the fact that it had gills. 

Yellow Jacket
Probably Eastern variant.

If you take a gander at the wikipedia article linked above, you'll know why I couldn't get the species narrowed down with just this picture to go on.

Oak Plum or Marble Gall
Andricus kollari

These galls form on oak trees when a species of wasp lays their eggs in them. Inside, if you crack one open, is a little larva at the center!

Smilax v.

A single berry fruiting on a smilax vine. If you follow these vines down to the base and find the massive tuber, they can be used as a great source of starch. (They are edible, like a potato, but a lot more involved to prepare.)

Lycoperdon perlatum

The common puffball for these parts. The juveniles are edible, but must be cut open to make sure they are not a deadly mimic.
Andricus sp.

These are also caused by a type of andricus wasp. These galls will not harm the leaves and also harbor little larvae inside.

Friday, October 10, 2014

2014 Run-in with a Redbud Tree

 On October 9th, 2014, the family and I hit Dallas, Texas for a concert at, coincidentally, a venue called the Trees. Outside, across the street, I spotted this beauty and absolutely HAD to snap pictures of it. It looked so old and beautiful! The leaves had this wonderful heart-shaped  quality that seemed familiar, but I was not sure where I had seen it before. Thankfully, this shape made the identification process incredibly easy!

Meet the Redbud tree, presumably the Texan variety. When in bloom, these trees are full of vivid pink/purple flowers, which is what the majority of results are for pictures on google. However, I find their lush green state much much more appealing. There's a rugged honesty about them that speaks to me. 'Plant one of me in your yard... plant me...' it says.

Here are some shots of the tree's leaves, bark, and limbs from a closer perspective:

Below is an intimate view of the leaves. Credit to the below picture belongs here.

Ecologically, this tree attracts several species of birds (notably, cardinals) as well as grey squirrels. It draws certain insects that are damaging to the bole of the tree, so if planting one, this may need to stay in check. However, the blooms are a plentiful source of honey for local bees, so I endorse planting these if you support the bee protection movement! The bark has also been documented as usable in the treatment of dysentery, 

Also, for identification purposes, here is a shot of the flowers of the Texas Redbud tree when they are in bloom! The picture credits are built in to the picture.

Happy autumn, everyone! Get outside and live a little!
~ Matthew Damaru Hammond ~