Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Thursday: 29 July 2004

it could be the alien!  -  @ 18:39:41
Listen to me. These little babies are a few dozen good reasons to a)NOT spray broadspectrum insecticides on your tomato plants and b) leave a few hornworms around (not that you'll have any choice!).

Tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) are the larval forms of the sphinx moth, that heavy-looking moth that looks a lot like a hummingbird (which is, really, a 3rd good reason to avoid insecticides: c) the adult form is pretty cool-looking). The spine is just for ornamentation; the worse the caterpillar can do to you is spit up all its green icky digested tomato leaves when you pick it off the stem it's clutching to so desperately.

The egg cases or cocoons (?) are those of parasitic wasps. Tiny harmless things, to you or me, anyway. These could be Braconid or Chalcid wasps. The latter is the family including Trichogramma spp. which are sold as biocontrols for Mr. Green. If you use insecticides, you're likely to kill the wasp too.

Monday: 26 July 2004

property map up  -  @ 14:32:10
I have spent the last week roaming the property and mapping it. At first I used stride-lengths and a compass. On level ground this didn't work too badly but suffered from sequential error buildup over long distances and large scale mapping.

Finally Glenn borrowed a GPS and I spent two days taking readings. The bottom of the line Garmin eTrex didn't do a great altitude, so we bought a Garmin eTrex Vista which oughta do the job.

Nonetheless the readings do convert into a decent map. Stridings and compass readings will be used for smaller scale work. You can view the map under "40 acre map" to the right. The arrows aren't in for image-mapped photos; I'll probably wait for the second version for that.

eradicating the microstegium  -  @ 09:17:08
It's just about time to break out the roundup and go after this year's crop of Microstegium vimineum, aka Nepalese browntop, Japanese stiltgrass, Chinese packing grass. We didn't know what the hell it was ten years ago when it started making inroads, and then kind of ignored it for a few years. Finally last year it became clear it was not only NOT going away, it was going to spread and choke out everything. So I experimented with roundup. Fortunately the monster succombs to a fairly low dose (<0.5%) glyphosate, and doesn't flower until late August after most good things have already done so and begun to go dormant. Unfortunately the seeds survive in the soil for five years, so yes, it's still there albeit at much reduced density in many places.

Ultimately it took 150 gallons of roundup to cover what I guess was about 3 acres of the stuff scattered here and there. This is what the plant looks like in mass, with the foreground showing the line of demarcation where the spraying stopped and the background showing the lush monocultural stand of the plant. Beautiful, isn't it. But nothing else will grow there.

A little further back, the top of a knoll after last year's treatment. This is a healthy stand of woods brome that was in flower this spring. The area looked like the background in the previous photo last year before treatment.

It's true that the trees in the above pic are primarily chinaberry trees, a non-native and they have since been cut down.

Thursday: 22 July 2004

seasonal extras  -  @ 21:49:59
This evening we had a light show occasionally typical of summer, but not very common. At dusk low clouds directly overhead reflected light from the setting sun which itself was shining through clear air. The crape myrtles, coneflowers, butterfly bushes and all the green vegetation glowed intensely in colors not usually seen. It was as if the usual blue wash had been removed from the scene. After a few minutes the greens diminished but the purple and red flowers, as well as now the trunks of the pines still shone intensely. Eventually they all dimmed out.

I see this as similar to the oceanside "green flash". In the summer we have broken low clouds, and outside the city we can simultaneously have a path of direct sunlight shining onto the bottoms of these clouds as the sun sets. As the sun sets the refracted light loses its blues first, then its greens, and finally the reds and yellows giving a fabulous progression of color presentation.

The only other time I've seen something like this, though in reverse, was during a near-total eclipse 18 years ago. In that case the reds and yellows diminished, leaving behind only blue and a frosty scene.

I don't think this is as common in large cities, where if you have low-hanging clouds they are largely unbroken and if broken, seldom clearly defined.

I love seasonal peculiarities. We never have such crisp, clear days in summer as we have in winter. One of the nice things about Georgia is that winter may be coldish, but seldom bitter, and on such a crisp clear day the sun still shines warmly however cold the air temperature. It's on such days that the red-tailed hawks are especially vocal; later in the winter and early spring they're likely to have red-tailed kids following them.

Tuesday: 20 July 2004

mapping the property  -  @ 14:10:43
I've been relying for several years on some crudely drawn maps of the property. With future re-introductions of native plants in the offing, it's become necessary to make a better map.

So I was out today with compass and notebook and measured strides and got a pretty good rendition of three or four acres that we have enclosed in an electric fence. This is where most of the plantings are at present. Converted the measurements into coordinates and plotted on an excel chart, resulting in a fairly usable map.

Besides mapping plantings and findings, we've been considering placing at least some of the property under conservation easement with the Oconee River Land Trust, since we are in that watershed. While we haven't acted on it yet, it seems that a good map would be important.

So tomorrow it's to map out the boundaries of the entire property. I'll present it as a resource on this blog when it's in reasonable shape.

The electric fence was a project several years ago, after repeatedly losing plantings to marauding deer. It was Glenn's idea to use 12' lengths of rebar - seems contraindicated, metal rebar with electric wire, but it has worked very nicely. We hammered the lengths 2-3 ft into the ground, slid on five insulators each, and they keep the wire away from the rebar well enough. The top wire is about nine feet off the ground, which means the deer won't jump over it. The only time in the last few years that deer have gotten in was when a baby would squeeze through the wires, then mama would come get him. In fact we've had a lot of our original plantings finally start growing; things we didn't remember we'd planted. Maintenance is easy - if a tree falls on the fence, the rebar bends, sometimes the wire breaks, but it's easy to splice together and the rebar can be bent back into shape. AND it's fairly invisible.

Monday: 19 July 2004

bats and bobcats redux, intro  -  @ 18:30:42
Just an intro following activation. Something like this will appear on the blogpage as I construct it. Please be patient as I modify things to my liking.
The blog is run by myself, Wayne Hughes, and my partner Glenn Galau. Glenn's an associate professor in Plant Biology at UGA and I've worked as a postdoc in same and continue to do tutoring at UGA in biology, chemistry, marine science, cell biology, unameit.
This blog emanates from Wolfskin District, near Arnoldsville, Georgia (USA) near Athens, GA by about 10 miles to the southeast as the crow flies. We're in western Oglethorpe County right near the Clarke County border. Oglethorpe County is a low-human-population density county with a lot of agricultural emphasis and a huge population of white-tailed deer. Clarke County is the home of Athens and the University of Georgia. This area is in the Piedmont area of northeast Georgia, about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta.
We're beginning a small business in selling native plants, in prep for retirement as it appears we can no longer rely on stability in conventional investments and social security... and medicare... and you name it. We scour the countryside for seeds, and grow them and evaluate them and maybe propagate the best and sell them. That's the idea, anyway.
We have 40 acres of variously forested land with a creek running through a hollow into Goulding Creek, which places us in the Oconee River Watershed. Watersheds are tres important! More of this will appear in description and in linkable map areas later.
For now, that's about it.

Bats and bobcats  -  @ 18:15:29
Our fire chief Phyllis Jackson and her husband the wildlife biologist Jeff came by yesterday morning at 6am to see the bats come in for the morning, and do some photographing. The bats, which we thought were little browns but Jeff said were too big and were big browns, occupy currently at a population of 600 or so an ornamental wing attached to the house. They've been there for about 10 years, when we first counted 40. The wing is about 25 feet tall, about 6" wide, and extends about 6' from the house. It faces east. The bats gave a great show, with their holding patterns as they waited for entrance into the two small holes in the overhangs.
Our conversation over coffee during this time led us to bobcats. Jeff and Phyllis remarked on having seen several, Jeff around their grassy areas and Phyllis while in deerstands during the fall. I haven't seen any evidence but then was pretty ignorant of tracks and scat, which Jeff described. So need to position myself at the lip of the hollow during early mornings/late afternoons to see what goes on.
Last night heard coyotes - yip - yip - yowwwwwwwwl. We've known about these - Andy next door has seen them in group while hunting last fall. Kinda nice.
I guess the electric fence, set up to disuade the deer from our multitudes of plants, has succesfully deterred the predators from the area. We hardly ever see a raccoon anymore.

I'm only placing five posts on the front page.
Go to the archives on the right sidebar for past posts, or use the search routine at the top of the page.

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