Friday, May 29, 2009

Caterpillar ID!

Remember the caterpillar that crawled over a cactus last month (April 15)? Oh, well. Never mind. But ever since we spotted and photographed it, I've wanted to know the species. This week, the mail guy delivered two new reference books that are GREAT: The Life Cycles of Butterflies by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards; and Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner.

The first book is a visual guide to 23 common garden butterflies. Plus it also includes information on larval and nectar host plants for each species.

The second book by Wagner is lists nearly 400 species so it's much more extensive.

So what kind was our cactus visitor? A variegated fritillary (Euptioeta claudia)!

Grasses goin' to seed

Bromus catharticus

Western peppergrass
Lepidium montanum

Texas grama
Bouteloua rigidiseta

Nassella leucotricha

Bouteloua dactyloides

or Hairy Erioneuron

Two new wildflowers to me

Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata

Small bluets
Houstonia pusilla

We found these two wildflowers growing in the Meadow, which is now overgrown with different grasses now going to seed. It's so interesting to explore the different plants. I just hope the neighbors don't mind our "messy looking" corner! James, I know, is getting antsy about mowing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Caterpillars and butterflies

So James wins. He spotted the first Gulf fritillary caterpillar for the season. On one of our two passionflower vines. Last summer, they laid eggs and chomped down on one and ignored the other. This year, they're eating the other one and not the first vine. Go figure! We counted at least four, maybe five, caterpillars this evening.

Over at our huge patch of bluemist flowers, the queens and monarchs have really begun to arrive. That's a monarch above....

A monarch in the middle surrounded by queens....

...and a closeup of another monarch.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Obnoxious vines

Smilax bona-nox

Cocculus carolinus

I'm sorry, but I really despise these two vines. One has awful thorns, and the other spreads with a vengeance. I've been pulling snailseed runners (I never knew it had a real name...duh!) for years. Now that we're working on the Meadow (our adjoining lot), we've started removing the snailseed, greenbriar and Japanese honeysuckle. The snailseed has an amazing underground network of runners that send up foliage every foot or so. It's kinda fun yanking them up and seeing how long of a vine you end up with.

However, I also wondered if we were doing the right thing to remove the snailseed. So I e-mailed Mike Reagan, our regional biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and here's what he offered: "You can pull up the greenbriar and snailseed vines if you want to, even though they are natives to this area. Both vines produce fruit that birds eat so they can work well in a Wildscape. However, if you are trying to grow more colorful flowering plants, the vines might take up a lot of your garden space. You might want to consider just removing a good portion of the vines and leaving some in the garden."

That's the problem: the snailseed in particular acts like a darn invasive plant! It goes EVERYWHERE. In its place, we've already planted coral honeysuckle and pipevine (host plant for pipevine swallowtails).

In the meantime, I Googled snailseed and learned how it got its unusual name. Check out the photo of the snailseed seed, compliments of the Image Archive of Central Texas Plants.

Snailseed wrapped around greenbriar

According to Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of Texas (Lone Star Field Guide series), snailseed's red, shiny fruit is not edible (for humans?) and the vine is used in landscaping (really???). Likewise, says the guide, greenbriar's blue-black berries are inedible. However, "berries and roots yield dyes for wool, new leaves are edible," the guide states.

Salad, anyone?

Snailseed and greenbriar

Monday, May 25, 2009

First bee box occupant(s)

Megachile sp.

Yes, James and I were out touring our Wildscape this evening when James exclaimed, "There's a bee!" Oh, my stars over Blanco! There was a bee, busily working in my bee box, which I made and put up this past March 18 (see post). Evidently, she'd already laid her eggs because she was hard at work, sealing the hole, by the time we happened by. I had a hard time getting a good photo of her seal, which appears to be constructed of shredded-up green vegetation. But you can make it out, I hope.

Isn't it just COOL how nature responds? Put up an owl nest box, and the owls come (sometimes the titmice, too). Put up a bee nest box, and here they come. Sure, I'll admit it takes time sometimes. It doesn't just happen. Like Saturday evening, a male purple martin checked out our martin house but didn't move in. And we still don't have any bats in our bat house. But they'll come. Eventually, they'll come.

I'm just gonna keep believing that!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Our first harvest!

We picked five yellow squash today! VERY exciting. A grab-the-camera kind of event!

James picked his first "baby" and gave it several "welcome to the world"
whacks on its bottom. Very funny, James. :-)

Friday, May 22, 2009

What's blooming

So much is blooming and changing in our Wildscape that I can't keep up! I'm way behind in photographing and posting on this blog. But here goes!

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium
These are so beautiful right now, full and thick with seed fronds.

Rock rose
Pavonia lasiopetala

Longwood blue
Caryopteris clandonensis

Blue mistflower
The queens and monarchs arrived as soon as these started to bloom a few weeks ago.

Butterfly bush

Salvia 'Hot Lips'
I took these photos several weeks ago but am just now posting them. I love these
little flowers, and the two plants are flourishing in a front bed.

Salvia 'Hot Lips'

Even our little chives sent up a bloom!

Thelesperma filifolium
Over in our meadow, we have several species of wildflowers
blooming, including tons of greenthreads plus...

Prairie verbena
Glandularia bipinnatifida

Indian blanket (firewheel)
Gaillardia pulchella

And the cacti that neighbor Jeri Bowles gave us is blooming!

What's new

Last Monday, we visited Rainbow Gardens in San Antonio....and brought home more new additions for our Wildscape...

Woolly butterfly bush
Buddleja marrubiifolia

Babylon 'White' verbena DIED

Babylon 'Red' verbena

Babylon 'Blue' verbena

Tampien 'Salmon' verbena

Tampien 'Pink' verbena

Jerusalem sage
Phlomis fruticosa

Lonicera sempervirens
(Bought from the Natural Gardener in Austin last week)

Caradonna Meadow Sage
Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'
(James bought this salvia and the next one from Super S Feed Store.)

'East Friesland' sage
Salvia nemorosa 'East Friesland'