Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New-to-me flowers and an OUCH

Alas, James plans to mow later this week. I know, I know. The horseherb (our volunteer native ground cover) needs some discipline. But I always hate to think of all the resident creatures that get run over and chewed up in the process. James said he'd buy me a little flute so I can whistle a warning to everyone before he gets going. Har har.

In the meantime, I thought I'd better get some pictures of plant mysteries I'm trying to solve before...well, you know what....

Purple spiderling
Boerhavia purpurascens
I identified this tiny but pretty bloom per Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi.

Mystery #1
A rouge-plant?
I don't think so but that's my best guess so far.

Mystery plant #1 (second photo)

Mystery #2
A species from the pea family?
UPDATE JULY 12, 2012--It's a coastal indigo (Indiogera miniata)!

Mystery #3
I brushed against this little plant in the Meadow the other evening and OUCH!! Stung/burned like crazy but no visible reaction erupted on my skin. I'm guessing a nettle species but haven't figured it out as yet. Click on the photos and you can see the bristly hairs on the leaves and seeds. OUCH again!

UPDATE JULY 12, 2012-- It's a branched noseburn (Tragia ramosa)!!

Mystery #3 (second photo)

Wildscape update

False garlic
Nothoscordum bivalve
(Also called crow poison)
Warning: This plant is poisonous and should not be tasted!

So my wanderings through the Meadow yesterday and across the front yard of our Wildscape today brings more photos. The evening rain lilies have all gone to seed now. In their place are growing false garlic blooms. With our recent rains, the blue mistflowers have rejuvenated, just in time for the arrival of queens and monarchs. We've already spotted three or so monarchs and numerous queens. All the lantanas are back in bloom (look up close and you'll likely find a sneaky spider, lurking). And there's a grass photo for James, my "grass" guy.

Queen on a blue mistflower

Lantana with crab spider
Lantana urticoides

Sideoats grama
State grass of Texas

Monday, September 28, 2009


The eastern fox squirrels in our neighborhood love the corn cobs we put out for them. One squirrel has even learned how to jump on a "squirrel-proof" bird feeder and nab some sunflower seeds. I call her Squirrel Gurl. I'm not sure if this squirrel is her, but thought I'd grab a photo while I could.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Oxalis cousins

Oxalis drummondii

All the recent rains enticed a new-to-me species to spring up in our Wildscape. My neighbor, Monta, noticed some blooming in her yard as well. Naturally, I had to figure it out, and I believe it's an oxalis called Drummond's woodsorrel. Which means it's related to the oxalis we bought and planted in the back yard (violet woodsorrel) and also a yellow woodsorrel (common yellow oxalis) that springs up everywhere.

Just in case you're interested, oxalis is pronounced "ox-alice." Took me FOREVER to remember how to say it, but I finally did!

Windowbox wood sorrel
Oxalis rubra

Oxalis stricta
(My daughter, Lindsey, calls this plant "her clover")

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Through James' lens...

Salvia coccinea

Inland sea oats

More salvia coccinea

Friendly red admiral

Red admiral
Vanessa atalanta
So here's the outgoing red admiral that showed up yesterday evening in our backyard. This one was extra friendly and kept landing on ME. James snapped a few photos. I got one of him, too, with our butterfly friend.

As a teenager YEARS ago, growing up in Corpus Christi, I remember how this same species was friendly like this. I'd stand outside on our patio, hold out my arms, and wait for one to land on me, which they'd usually do. It was cool. From what I've observed then and now, admirals enjoy sunning their wings in bright sunshine in the evening. Even on people!

Lost Ladybug Project

Yesterday evening, I just happened to spot this little ladybug on one of our backyard birdbaths. Actually, James and I were trying to photograph a friendly red admiral butterfly that kept landing on me. After I saw the beetle, then I turned my attention to it while James kept shooting the butterfly on my back. We are easily entertained!

This morning, I uploaded these photos to the Lost Ladybug Project. I'm guessing our species is an ashy gray ladybug (Olla v-nigrum). Pretty, eh?

What's the Lost Ladybug Project? Researchers at Cornell University are asking kids and adults to shoot photos of ladybugs across the nation so they can survey species. Check out their website! One of my two articles on ladybugs and the project (published in Jakes children's magazine) is posted there under the "media" link. The other article, "Ladybug Lookout," appeared in the August 2009 issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lantana anomaly

There among our white trailing lantana, I spotted two lavender blooms this afternoon!

Beetle beauty

This afternoon, I found this shy fellow scurrying among the horseherb in the front yard. As best I can tell, it's a male blue-margined ground beetle (Pasimachus elongatus). According to my friend, biologist Mike Quinn, the species belongs to the family of ground beetles.

Backyard updates

Buffalo burr
Lo and behold, a buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum) appeared in the back yard a few days ago. Right now, you'll see their bright yellow flowers alongside highways and across fields. Beautiful though they are, their stems are VERY prickly. So it's best to admire them from afar.

Chile pequin
Our two chile pequins (Capsicum annuum) that we planted earlier this summer are blooming and putting on fruit! The little chiles will turn bright red soon. That'll be pretty!

Flame acanthus
And our flame acanthus tilted over, much to my dismay. But now it's bushing out and looking really healthy! The change in angle doesn't seem to bother it at all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Eastern hognose snake

A pickup pulled up in the driveway earlier this evening. It was one of our neighbors, Loris Perkins, dropping by to tell me about a snake his dogs had found in his backyard. As I stood on the front porch and listened, he described how the snake looked and acted. I thought maybe a Texas rat snake? Another neighbor, John Hardin, had guessed a hognose. Hmmm, I'd never seen one of those. Then James appeared on the porch.

"Bring it on over here!" James exclaimed. "We'll take it!"

We would? I worried about what our "other" snakes might think. We've got at least one, maybe two, resident rat snakes in our Wildscape. Somewhere.

Loris agreed and off he drove. He returned a few minutes later with a huge white bucket. We peered inside.....What a pretty thing!

Loris rattled the side of the bucket, and the snake immediately puffed up its head.Wow! I ran for my camera and a field guide. Thumbing through the snake section, I found that John was right. Our slithery friend is an eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos).

As Loris described, eastern hognose snakes can flatten their heads, inflate their bodies with air and hiss menacingly. Which is why they're sometimes called "hissing adders" and "puff adders." The only thing this guy didn't do for us was roll over, open its mouth, convulse and then play dead, which hognoses can also do quite well. Loris said he saw this one perform the trick earlier.

Are hognose snakes venomous? No! One way to tell is check out a snake's eyes. See how this hognose has round pupils? The pupils of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and other venomous snakes are slitted.

As for this hognose, James released it in our Meadow....I'm OK with that. But then I'm not, too. Because eastern hognose snakes eat TOADS AND FROGS! It'd better not find the chubby Gulf Coast toads that enjoy soaking in our stone bird baths on the ground.

Hummers, beware!

Every other day or so, I walk around the Wildscape and round up the hummingbird feeders so I can rinse and refill them. Today, though, I didn't bother this feeder....

Get a load of this sneaky praying mantis! After I went back outside with my camera, I had a heck of a time trying to shoot him. I'd aim my camera at him, then he'd scoot to the feeder's other side, out of my range. We played that game awhile until I finally got a few good pictures.

Guess I'll go see if he's gone so I can refill that feeder.....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rain lilies everywhere!

Evening rain lily
Cooperia drummondii

On my way to San Marcos yesterday, I was amazed to see all the many rain lilies blooming everywhere! Pastures, ditches, yards, highway right-of-ways. This afternoon, I took some shots of the lilies in our Wildscape. They're beautiful.

I also snapped a shot of the tiny seedlings that are also coming up across the yard, thanks to the bit of rain we've have in the last few days....