Thursday, April 8, 2010

Morels, mites and a Puccoon

On Apr. 5 I went on a short hike along the Wildflower Greenway behind the Garden Apartments in Oak Ridge. This north-facing trail has lots of wildflowers. I was excited to find this Morel mushroom, I've heard they are really good to eat, but I would never eat any kind of fungus out of the wild without an expert's opinion!

I also saw some pretty little Smooth Yellow Violets (as opposed to Downy Yellow Violets). This area has lots of different kinds of violets. This type is considered a stemmed violet, it has the flowers on the same stalk as the leaves. The stemless violets have the leaves and fl
owers on their own stalks.

A little farther down the trail I spotted one of my favorite spring wildflowers, Squirrel Corn, a relative of the Dutchman's Breeches! This plant is also related to Wild Bleeding Heart, which is larger and has pink flowers. I'd like to go back next week and see if more of them are in bloom.

Another plant that was blooming on the other side of the creek was the Blue Cohosh (a.k.a "Electric Lightbulb Plant"). The flowers are an olive color and not especially interesting, but the berries that form in the fall do look like little blue lightbulbs.

One of the few critters I spotted along the trail was the Velvet Mite. I always enjoy seeing them, they are so colorful! They are difficult to photograph because they seldom stop moving!

On Wed. morning I met Morgan Simmons and Amy Smotherman, the Lifestyle reporter and photographer from the Knoxville Sentinel newspaper at Haw Ridge. We had a fun and interesting 2-1/2 hour, 2-mile hike around the peninsula. I told Morgan that Redbud flowers are edible (and actually taste good!), so he sampled a few --- that was all it took, he was hooked! I got tickled every time he passed a tree, he picked a few flowers and munched on them. :) Our most exciting event of the day was when we spotted a 5' Black Rat snake climbing a cedar tree. One of the interesting flowers we saw was Hoary Puccoon. The article will run in the paper this coming Sunday or Monday.

After the hike I went to Melton Lake and the Oak Ridge Marina. I was amazed as I watched a hawk fly by with a snake in its talons! Unfortunately, it happened so fast I couldn't react and take a picture! :( Later I watched a Great Blue Heron land in the middle of the lake several times to catch fish. That was the first time I'd ever seen one do that, they are normally wading birds.

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