Sunday, July 31, 2011

milkweed pods, strange black-eyed susans, spider eyes…

My dearest readers, have I really neglected you since Thursday? ‘Tis true. Where are my manners? What have I been doing? Ummmmmm….I’ve been enjoying life! I seem to be doing OK with the plantar fasciitis so far, via a ton of stretching/strengthening exercises and a teensy six mile run yesterday. And I’ve added to the blueberry stash: we’re up to 30 pounds of blueberries in the freezer. That was my original goal, but now I think we might…just…need…more.
Onwards to the flower report. The milkweed pods are growing by leaps and bounds.
Let’s review: just three days ago, this pod was the same size as my nail.
That one milkweed on our neighbor’s property is also taking off, pod-wise.
I was asked by a fellow blogger who does amazing macro shots of wildflowers whether I knew if that crazy tubular-petaled black-eyed susan is a cultivar, or a different species altogether. I have no idea, but here’s some more data to feed into the hopper:
Crazy tubular – this is over at my dad’s house:
Let’s compare this to a lone hybrid mutant out in back of the pole barn
Some of its petals are that tubular, and some are regular.
Another thing I’ve been noticing about black-eyed susans: they are commonly hosts to tiny white spiders, perhaps more than one kind. Some seem to have markings, while others are straight-up white:
Others seem yellow, or maybe it’s just because this one is lurking at the base of the yellow petals:
Yellow or white, check out her fierce little eyes!
Nothing says “back off!” quite like a thistle:

Goldenrod: distilled sunshine.
Congress of aliens? Or merely Queen Anne’s Lace?
Incipient Deliciousness: the first of the purple-flowering raspberries has ripened.
While others are still doing the “fertilize me, fertilize me!” dance.
An unexpected invasion of hostas on the hillside bordering the driveway. I guess they’re not content being confined right up next to the front of the house.
Somebody’s been eating the ripe berries of the wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis, and previously erroneously identified as ginseng or as red baneberry.)


Speaking of blue berries, the blue cohosh leaves are beginning to fade, but the berries…
…are not yet blue.
Some lovely peach lilies along the side of the driveway are taking over from the long-gone siberian irises and spiderwort:P1120974

Thursday, July 28, 2011

sensitive feet, sensitive fern

This morning did not start off well. Two words: plantar fasciitis. A first for me. For those of you who aren’t runners, this is when the band of tissue along the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed, no doubt due to the runner foolishly never stretching and having racked up too many miles, too quickly, for 1/2 marathon #2 of the season, just a week and two days away from now, but who’s counting.
The symptom of PF is, you wake up at 5:45 am for a quick pee, stand up, and feel like someone drove a nail up through your heel. Yeah, that was my introduction to the day.
Things improved: it was a Reiki-at-the-hospital day, and I worked with a woman who, though interested in the general idea of being connected to healing energy, hates having people touch her. “Just not my thing,” she confessed. “No problem!” answered I. “I’ll do a distant healing on you.” So I squirreled myself away in a spare room and sent her a treatment from 20 feet away with a wall between us. VICTORY!
And then I hung out with a friend who is even more nuts about Nature than I am (in the sense that she is not content to visit her wild flora friends. She eats them. She had milkweed shoots for dinner the other night.) She was happy to accompany me on my usual dawdling mailbox run.
I spotted something I have always longed to see: the fertile fronds of sensitive fern when they are shiny and new and still green.VICTORY #2!

Rest assured, you’ll be seeing more of this guy in the coming weeks.
We seem to have a lot of hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) right by the brook.
These are its fruits. Thank you, zoom lens!

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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

jewel weed from bud to flower, action movie hero bug, etc.

I was out at my dad’s house today, and checked in on those crazy tubular-leaved black-eyed susans. They’re still going strong!
I can’t get enough of these.
Check out this crazy one – it was just opening when I was last here a week ago. Slow motion dancing.

Just can’t get enough of them.
Nearby, a Japanese beetle was checking out some sunflowers that have yet to open. I love the trident antennae, not to mention the overall action-movie poster pose.
I finally correctly identified this tiny beauty : it’s lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea). This is a wee little flower that likes grassy places (hence its name – graminea = grass).
I’m lucky I got to this in time, as you can see that it’s already fertilized; look at the bulginess at the center.
I have a lot to report on the development of jewel-weed flowers. Some of these are from dad’s house, and some from our own yard.
We begin with your basic bud. Note the tiny protrusion from the base of the one on the left. I think that might be the spur.
This one is just starting to peel open. You can see orange veins against a yellow background.
This one is a little farther along. The front is still encased in…um…not a sepal, exactly, but definitely a protective sheath of some kind. You can see the spur at the back, curled under the body of the flower. The whole thing looks like it’s covered in placental goo, doesn’t it?
And look! The spur is totally out and doing its happy dance! The front of the flower is still enclosed by the whatever-you-call-a-non-sepal-looking thing.
Here we have a partly emerged one right next to one that is fully open. And you can see a remnant of the protective bud sheath on the fully-opened flower – over the flower’s right shoulder, if you will.
I still don’t have a sense of what the difference is between this one specimen, and this other specimen (why do the innards look different, and what the time-lapse story of those innards’ development is. That’ll be my next jewel weed project.)
THAT was fun!
Back on the home front, the fringed loosestrife has started go to seed. To remind you, here’s what that flower look like:
And here’s the…berry? I love how you can just make out almost like cell walls or something – different sections – of the emerging fruit. (Is it a fruit? Doesn’t that look like a berry that presumably has seeds in it? Hm!)
That protruding stigma reminds me of something going on in our garden: the bell peppers are forming!
Here’s the tiniest one.