A Walk in Fern Bluff Park
March 10-11, 2001

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Archives of previous walks in the park: 12 May 2007 05 May 2007; 28 April 2007, 21 April 2007, 14 April 2007,  1 April 2007 Easter Egg Hunt; 24 March 2007,  17 March 2007; Nov. 03, 2001; April 04, 2001; March 25, 15, 10-11, 04, 2001; February 2418, 10, 2001

Besides the oaks, Fern Bluff Park is also home to many other trees & shrubs. Remember the mystery tree from last week with the odd leaf structure? Last week that structure was so prevalent that it appeared to be both typical and enduring. Today it was neither. The small leaves that were lobed last week had become larger, developing slowly into full-sized leaves that looked just like the others. In the photo at right, this small tree's flower clusters are also visible.

 The photo of the flower cluster does not provide sufficient detail to tell us if the leaves have red hairs or not. But could the reddish leaf stems be a clue? One of the leaves was examined under a microscope and- as the micrograph above shows- the red hairs on the leaf veins could be seen. They are pretty sorry representations of "hair" (botanical pubescence is generally not quite as robust as that found on animals, and in this case, it is downright puny), but they will do. The silvery stripe is the midrib of the leaf. 

Red hairs were also present on the leaf stem, as the micrograph at right shows, but the stem is also pigmented a dark red in general. All of this evidence seems to point solidly toward the Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum), of the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae). We will carefully follow this tree in the coming months to see if this tentative identification continues to hold.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With such ostentation, one might be led to expect these showy flowers to produce fruit (seeds) in abundance. One would be wrong. These fancy structures are almost entirely sterile. Does the expression "All hat, and no cattle" come to mind? In late Spring and Summer, after the yellow "gingerbread" has withered, this plant develops small, fertile cleistogamous (self-pollinating and unopened) flowers that are less than 1/8th inch long. The casual observer never notices these later flowers because, for one thing, they don't look like flowers. They are also hidden within the bracts, or the leaves at the base of each of the yellow constructions.

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These flower clusters (above) are presented in more or less flat cymes (each stem ends in an inflorescence, or flower, with the oldest in the center and the youngest on the periphery) composed of bracts and bractlets. We cannot see beyond the sepals yet, as the buds have not opened. But a close inspection of the leaves helps us narrow the identification of this tree down.

Note, for example, that the margins of the leaves are finely serrated. This character is particularly obvious in the partial leaf shown in the extreme right portion of the image. Note also that the leaf stem has a reddish cast. In one reference we pored over ("Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southwest", by Vines, Robert A., University of Texas Press 1976) several close matches of the leaves and bark could be found. One of these was described as having red hairs on the veins of the leaves

But let's get back on the ground, shall we? Several other wild flowers made their 2001 debut in the past week. One of the most interesting among them was this pretty yellow flower pictured on the left.  Its petals are ruffled, like the fringes of a 19th-century petticoat. Perhaps that helps explain the modifier included in one of its common names, "Fringed Puccoon".  

Before we leave the Fringed Puccoon for the moment, one or two other facts should be noted. Its juice is reddish purple, and was used by native American Indians to dye cloth. They also used the roots and leaves as ingredients in herbal remedies. Another name for this plant is the Narrowleaf Gromwell (Lithospermum incisum).

Back to Bugsinthenews ... Back to Yellow Flower Gallery pg. 1

Archives of previous walks in the park: 12 May 2007 05 May 2007; 28 April 2007, 21 April 2007, 14 April 2007,  1 April 2007 Easter Egg Hunt; 24 March 2007,  17 March 2007; Nov. 03, 2001; April 04, 2001; March 25, 15, 10-11, 04, 2001; February 2418, 10, 2001