Reist Wildlife Sanctuary, Niskayuna, New York
|Our ECOS Natural History class|
Wednesday morning dawned clear but chilly. Undeterred by the cold, our intrepid group of ladies, Beryl, Elaine, Marion, Lois, Susan, Peg, and I, bundled up and headed into the woods to learn from our wonderful teacher, Ruth Schottman.
In these woods, I was again excited to see American elm trees growing. Ruth explained that the elm trees are evolving. By coming into fruit at a younger and younger age, they have found a way to survive Dutch Elm disease. Young trees are immune to the disease, and many now reach reproductive age before falling victim to this foreign fungus. In this way, the species has kept going.
Another beleaguered tree survives - sort of - in these woods: the American chestnut.
The blight, imported to the US on Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus that enters through a fresh injury in the tree's bark, killing tissues as it advances. The flow of nutrients is eventually choked off and the tree above ground dies.
But see, here above are chestnut leaves, close to the ground! The roots do not die off, Ruth told us, so the tree continues to put out suckers. Find these leaves and a stump is surely very nearby. And yes, here below, we found it.
|American chestnut stump.|
Research on breeding blight-resistant chestnuts continues. Maybe like the elms, nature will find a way to help the chestnuts evolve and adapt.
So, what else did we see?
|This dead snag, possibly an oak, was being eaten from the inside out by a wide array of fungi.|
|Pale green foliose (leaf-like) lichen and the brownish fungi Stereum ostrea, also called false turkey-tail, colonize a fallen tree trunk.|
|Another fallen tree has been colonized by moss.|
|By mid-October, most wildflowers have gone by. Here, in a sheltered patch of sunlight, a heartleaf aster continues to bloom.|
|The bark of a striped maple.|
|Not a true maple, the leaves of the shrub Maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) can look like a maple seedling on the forest floor.|
|The deep-blue fruits of Viburnum acerifolium are a strong clue that it is not in the maple family.|
|The horizontal marks on the bark of this Red maple are part of the tree's defense against an invading fungus. The cracks isolate the infected areas from the healthy parts of the tree.|
|Don't touch this fuzzy guy. The hairs of the Hickory Tussock caterpillar can cause an allergic reaction or rash for some people.|
|The mitten-shaped leaf of a sassafras. How charming is that?|
|This polypore has flat, fan-shaped, bright orange to salmon, overlapping caps. It is sometimes called chicken of the woods and we were told that it is delicious.|
These white mushrooms (I don't remember the variety) had begun to form a "fairy ring", below.
The fairy ring was a fitting way to conclude this day's walk, for Ruth Schottman makes every foray into the woods a magical experience.
For more information about ECOS classes and guided walks in the New York State capital region, click here.