Saturday, April 22, 2017

New additions

New additions from the plant sale today at the Riverside Nature Center in Kerrville:

Narrow-leaf coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)
Prairie larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum)
Rock penstemon (Penstemon baccharifolius) Replaces one that died

Another plant sale!

You know me. I just can't resist a native plant sale. For the second time, I attended the spring native plant sale at the Riverside Nature Center in Kerrville. I got there plenty early. Founder Susan Sander greeted me in the parking lot. She's so kind and full of enthusiasm. The center's garden celebrates its 25th year in the ground this year! 

Though, as you can see, I was surrounded by beautiful native plant friends, I was restrained again. I only bought three. IDs to come in a future blog post. 

I also got to see my friend, Cathy Downs, a monarch specialist with Monarch Watch. Like Susan, Cathy has a passion for her work.

Friday, April 21, 2017

That's a stick, right?

Ha! It fooled you, too! I just happened to be walking by when this "stick" caught my eye. Hmmm. Right. A stick ATTACHED to the brick? I don't think so. Time to run fetch my camera.

But, man, doesn't it look like a real stick? Finally, I nudged it some to get it to un-straighten itself so it'd look like what it really is....a caterpillar! Some folks might call it an inchworm.

I'm not certain which moth species my sneaky friend might be, but it's likely in the Geometridae family. Check out some of these images for similar mimics: common gray, Plagodis, long twig-like worm, and common lytrosis.

Bordered patch follow up

This was the original bordered patch caterpillar that James spotted last night attached to the house. It also morphed this morning. Can you see where its eyes are located? So cool!

How I mark plants

Melody in a blog comment asked about how I mark our plants. Well, Melody, it's been a process. In the beginning, I wrote on river rocks and shellacked them. They looked pretty but not for long term. Besides, I couldn't make enough of them for all the plants we were adding! 

In 2010, I found metal markers made by Paw Paw EverLast Label Company (I reordered more in 2014), which I really liked.
As illustrated, I hand wrote the plant's common name on the front and noted where and when we purchased the plant. 
Last year, Diane, a Master Gardener from Horseshoe Bay, said I needed to buy a P-Touch to make my plant labels. A WHAT? After I figured out what she was talking about, I ordered one and have been using it ever since. The stick-on labels hold up well, and I can simply put a new label over an old one (like when a plant.....sniff....dies).
Here's my shoe box of plant-marking supplies.
And here's my fancy Brother P-Touch in its cool carrying case. (Yikes, it's gone up in price since I bought it! Here's one without the case. There are other available models, too.)

A bordered patch miracle!

Right time. Right place. That's what happened to me awhile ago. I took a photo of a bordered patch (Chlosyne lacinia) caterpillar, then a few minutes later noticed something different about it. That's when I realized what was underway! I switched my point-and-shoot to video and did the best I could at capturing the process....What a miracle to witness!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Antelope horns inventory

This year, I got me some smarts and used orange survey markers to flag antelope horns (Asclepias asperula), an important milkweed host plant for monarchs, on our property. In years past, I marked them with tongue depressors. This system worked MUCH better! All I had to do was mark them, take a few photos, then remove and count the flags.
For spring 2017, I counted 15 antelope horns in our Meadow!  
In 2016, I  marked 14 in the Meadow. 
In 2015, I counted 12 TOTAL for our entire property 
(eight in the Meadow). 
We are expanding our numbers every year!  

 Add two in our back yard (one planted, one volunteer)...TOTAL 17 antelope horns on our property!

These last two antelope horns (below) live on our neighbor's property that adjoins the Meadow. Her sweet family puts up with crazy me and doesn't mow them down.

Another caterpillar update

Look at our bordered patch caterpillars on the sawtooth sunflowers. They're turning more orange now....
And look what I found on some pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) ... a white-lined sphinx! I didn't know they'd host on primrose, but according to this Native Plant Butterfly Garden list, they do.  Cool!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Caterpillar news

I've got good news. And I've sad news. 

Two days ago, James spotted a  new-to-us caterpillar species on the kidneywood in our back yard. I got some shots and later nailed down the species: southern dogface (Zerene cesonia), which host on small-leaved plants in the legume family. How cool is that? I was thrilled! But, alas, I lost the images because I didn't have a memory card in my point-and-shoot. So I went back to reshoot the caterpillars yesterday. 
When I did, I found the fuzzy yellow both under a caterpillar and near another one. What were they? And how did they just show up out of nowhere?

Imagine my surprise when I returned again to show James and the caterpillar was DECIMATED! So what are these yellowy menaces? Read on if you're not squeamish. (I'm not sure I can even write about it. Nature can be so MEAN!)
The fuzzy yellow pills are the pupae of parasitic wasps, perhaps Cotesia sp. Basically, female wasps lay their eggs INSIDE of a caterpillar. The larvae grow and chew their way out of the caterpillar. (For a more detailed explanation, read "The Real life 'Alien'") Then they create their (fuzzy) cocoons either on the caterpillar or nearby. Later, I spotted a hornworm in the back yard loaded with white coccoons, a first observation for me, though I've seen photos of infested caterpillars.

And now turning to our Dutchman breeches (Thamnosma texana) in the back yard...we're currently hosting one lone black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillar. Poor guy...I poked him several times so I could photograph his orange osmeteria (lost those photos, too). Those are horn-like organs behind the head that can spray an awful-smelling chemical repellent. Yes, my fingers got sprayed, which I shared with James (you should have seen his scrunchy-faced reaction). Very interesting behavior! (The caterpillar, not James.)

Meanwhile, the bordered patch (Chlosyne lacinia) caterpillars on our sawtooth sunflowers are growing and changing in appearance.