Wednesday, July 27, 2011

transformation takes many shapes.

Just another day in paradise.  Much to my annoyance, a milkweed along the side of our driveway that showed no signs of anything happening just three days ago, suddenly produced this while I wasn’t looking:
(That’s my delicate ladylike pinky finger there, which has been scientifically measured at 1/4” wide.) Later on, I found a different milkweed on our neighbor’s property that is just STUDDED with flowers – it did way better in the reproduction game than the ones in our driveway.
As you can see, several of the flowers seem to be busy with incipient pod-formation. I haven’t noticed anything that looks like a monarch caterpillar on the way, but I may not be looking for the right things or in the right places.
At this time of year, while new flowers do show up, there are plenty of old buddies to check in on.
Crowfoot (Ranunculus allegheniensis). This hasn’t really seemed to change much since the middle of June, when it looked like this. (As for the flower – click here for just two months ago.)
In the meantime, the False Solomon’s Seal berries are getting bigger, and still look gold from afar. But lovely and speckled up close.

White baneberry’s “doll’s eyes” berries are also ripening – in their case…
…to an eerie white.
Golden Alexander looks about the same as it did a month ago.
You wouldn’t know that, because apparently the last time I mentioned this flower here, it still had its petals. But trust me: all is ho hum in Golden Alexander land. Perhaps things are furiously happening under the surface.
But Ah! Much has changed with the roundleaved dogwood!
The stems have gone bright red! This made me laugh, as I wasn’t expecting it. That’s one of the virtues of being an amateur – everything surprises me. Although come to think of it, other kinds of dogwood also have a habit of red twigs. Still, though, I wasn’t expecting it. I will be expecting it, however, with that white baneberry.
Down by the road, the Eastern Joe-Pye Weed is going great guns.
Bees of many stripes are all over the emerging blossoms.
The cattails are going brown, generally from the top down.
…which makes sense, since it’s at the top of the what you see here that the male flower bits are divided from the female flower bits. The female flowers closest to the males apparently got fertilized sooner?
I noticed a new species today, maybe two, that are very similar.
In both kinds, the leaves are super divided and toothed – basically, really lacy leaves.
In both, all the flower action is in densely-studded racemes (that’s clusters of flowers along, and mostly at the end, of a stalk).  In some of them, the flowers look like this:
Zooming in…little fuzzy capsules, jammed close together.
(Then I got distracted by this awesome fly – TINY – perched on the tip of one of these unopened flower sprays.)
Back to the flowers. I realized that in other examples, the flowers were more in a long spike, ranged evenly along the flower stalk.
(Whoops, blurry. It’s my only shot at this perspective, though.)
I maneuvered the camera to get a look up into these little flower bits – they’re open on the underside.
oh, WOW.
Some of these are…fertilized, I guess.
Honestly, just when I thought I’d seen it all, some new plant wanders in with a completely new way of doing things. This is crazy. You have to understand, each little green cap is maybe…at most, 1/16” of an inch across. I have NO CLUE what this/these plants are.
In other exciting news, I filmed a sleeping (presumably) caterpillar. Did you know they sort of breathe? I mean, sort of, in that they don’t have lungs, really. They have little holes along their sides called spiracles, and they expand and contract their segments to force air in and out. I guess that counts as breathing, right? Anyway, this guy was hanging out on the edge of the table we have in our magic portable screened in porch.
If you can stand 42 seconds of thrilling excitement, watch him (her?) breathe. 

Once you’ve watched a caterpillar stirring in its dreams, you kind of tend to take an interest in the little bugger. According to the angels at, this is a Heterocampa guttivitta, and according to, whose pictures appear below, it goes through a bunch of stages (“instars”) before arriving at its ultimate Basic Gray Moth destiny.
Who knew that just becoming a moth was so complicated? Maybe I should cut myself some slack for all the various twists and turns my own life has taken.

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