Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tiny pink

Awhile ago, I went outside to check on the Wildscape after last night's rains and spotted this tiny moth (approximately 3/8 inches) nearly camouflaged on a salvia bloom. Had to go get my camera, of course. I believe it's a southern pink moth, also called inornate pyrausta moth (Pyrausta inornatalis).

Great day to be a bee!

It was a challenge, but I snagged a few photos of this busy guy (Anthophora sp.), gathering pollen among the salvias.

Found treasure!

At least to me, I've found treasure right in our Wildscape. 

We'd been letting this little plant grow in a back-yard bed. I thought it was cow-itch vine. James was skeptical about letting it stay. As it grew, it branched out like shrub, not a vine. Cordelia, a friend who came by for a garden tour yesterday, shook her head and said no, it definitely wasn't cow-itch. I agreed and peered closer at it. Then what the heck was it?

I took a photo and sent it to plant expert Jerry Stacy with our Highland Lakes chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists. "That's aromatic sumac," he replied. "It will be a pretty shrub that provides great bird food."


According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's Plant Database, Rhus aromatica is larval host for the banded hairstreak (Satyrium calanus) and red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops).

"In spring, fragrant sumac flowers appear before the foliage," the account states. "This shrub turns fall colors of red, yellow and orange. The flower is a nectar source for adult butterflies. Fragrant sumac colonizes to form thickets and looks best when planted en mass or in drift-like plantings as it occurs in nature. It is fast growing, generally pest and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries."

Oh, please be a female! Please please please!

Thanks, Jerry! I love finding treasures in our Wildscape. 

An elegant roach

Last night's rains blessed us with more than 3 inches! Not to mention this interesting insect that's presently latched onto an exterior wall of our garage. I spotted a smaller one, too....

I checked with, and the insect appears to be a Boll's sand roach (Arenivaga bolliana). A little further Googling led me to Insects of the Texas Lost Pines, which says that this species occurs only in Texas. "Boll's sand cockroach is the largest and most commonly seen cockroach of the forest," the book states. "A better common name would be the 'elegant roach.'"

The species does NOT infest homes and is not considered a pest, my dear James.  :-)


Friday, September 28, 2012

Blooms galore!

The sky's dark, and more rain's on the way. Thank you, Lord! I decided I'd go outside and shoot some photos before everything gets wet and soggy.

Cowpen daisy, upclose

Cowpen daisy

Trailing lantanas and salvias....beautiful!!
Annual asters (Symphyotrichum subulatum)
Mexican bush sage
'Indigo Spires' salvia
Salvias salvias salvias

I heard a noise, something talking to me, while I was shooting. I looked up, and at first I thought the squirrel was climbing down to visit me. But it didn't.

Gray scrub sage and 'Henry Duelberg' salvia
Salvia, green santolina, four-nerve daisy, lemon verbena, mealycup sage
Turk's cap and mistflower
Fall aster
Shrimp plant
Galena salvia
View of back yard from the side
Climbing snapdragon vine (my new favorite native!)
Drummond's woodsorrel
Salvia 'Otahal'
Inland sea oats

My fun stock tank pond for a grand finale!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When a snake gets mad

Depends on the species on how dangerous a mad one can be. Still, snakes don't scare me. So when I spotted a long rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) stretched across the ground in our front yard, I dropped my broom and immediately picked it up. Naturally, I wanted to show my find to James.

It, of course, did not share the same goal. It wanted out of my hands NOW. Stubbornly, I held onto it while James dashed off for his camera. In the meantime, the green snake writhed and turned and struggled to get away from me. Then.... latched onto my index finger. HARD! "Does that hurt?" James asked, alarmed. No, I replied. The snake's jaws squeezed tighter around my finger. "Are you OK? Are you sure?" James asked. I nodded. 

"I'm taking it to the back yard," I added. Tight as a vice grip, the snake held on.
I figured as soon as I let go of the mad snake, it'd let go of me. Fair trade off. Gently, I set it down in the turk's cap. Sure enough, the snake released my finger and slithered up a branch. "I'm sorry!" I said. It just glared at me.

A bit later, I returned to the turk's cap, where I found the snake, looking a bit bewildered, wound atop some leafy branches. "I'm going to move you," I said, "real fast." Which I did. Before it could find another finger, I transferred my green friend to an elbow-bush thicket a few yards away. Much better! The thick foliage completely concealed the snake. I couldn't see one sign of it. 

But I bet it saw me. And I bet it was still mad. 

At me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nature knows what it's doing

Yesterday evening, I was walking back from across the street, where I'd been watering our neighbors' potted plants. Like I sometimes do, I stopped and peered at plants in the adjacent vacant lot along the fence line. Maybe a little cenizo was coming up beneath the adult. It'd sure be cool to have one in our Wildscape. No luck, though. Darn it.

Then I looked at the cenizo leaves. A caterpillar! First, I thought it was a crimson patch larva (Chlosyne janais), which host on flame acanthus and other members of the acanthus family. I looked around other leaves but couldn't spot any more caterpillars. But what was a crimson patch doing on a cenizo? 

Back at my desk, I looked up cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) and found two species that it hosts: theona checkerspot (Chlosyne theona) and Calleta silkmoth (Eupackardia calleta). No, I concluded, my caterpillar wasn't either one of those. Perhaps a butterfly mama had made a mistake and laid her egg on the wrong host plant? Or maybe I'd observed a new species on the cenizo, one that hadn't been documented before?

HA! Dumb me!

Like Mother Nature would make a mistake? Hardly! I went back to looking at images of Chlosyne theona larvae and quickly realized that my caterpillar friend on the cenizo WAS indeed a Chlosyne theona.

But just now, I also realized that my initial theory of finding a crimson patch wasn't too far off. The two butterflies are in the same genus: Chlosyne.

Maybe I'm not so dumb after all.

Theona checkerspot larva (Chlosyne theona)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hackberry galls

Pachypsylla sp.
Sometimes, we find the most unusual and strange things in our Wildscape. The other day, James spotted this hackberry leaf on the ground and showed it to me. Hmmm. Verrryyyyy interesting! I'd never seen anything like it before.The tiny protrusions looked like miniature flowers. I took some photos and emailed them to daughter Lindsey, who's taking at botany course at Angelo State University this fall. She shared them with her professor, who observed that "the leaf growth is altered by feeding of insects or mites. These look like leaves with blister galls from feeding by psyllid larvae."

The leaf's top side
So I checked and found similar photos....looks like we have hackberry blister gall psyllids (Pachypsylla celtidisvesicula), also called jumping plant lice. According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension's online field guide, hackberry gall psyllids are not considered to be pests and will not harm the tree.

"Common leaf gall forming species overwinter in the adult stage in bark cracks and crevices," states the AgriLife field guide. "Adults mate in the spring and females lay eggs on the underside of expanding leaves. Nymphs hatch from eggs in about 10 days and begin feeding, which causes leaf tissue to expand rapidly into a pouch or gall around the insect. They develop through several stages before emerging as adults in the fall (September), although the hackberry bud gall maker overwinters inside the gall as a last stage (5th instar) nymph to emerge as adults in early summer. One generation occurs annually."

Just a while ago, I fetched a second leaf. Then I took a small knife and opened a blister. Inside was a teeny-tiny white larva. Next, I broke open a "flower." Inside was another tiny larva but butter yellow in color. How in the world do they get out of the leaf?

"Nymphs mature and then exit the gall once leaves have fallen," states a Ohio State University Extension fact sheet. "They cut a slit in the gall to permit emergence. Thirty minutes later, nymphs molt to adults. Several thousand adults may emerge from a single hackberry tree in late-September, reaching their peak in October."

By the way, adults resemble tiny cicadas, which also molt in a similar process. All verryyyyyy interesting!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 2012 in our Wildscape

Last weekend, Mother Nature blessed us with at least 6 inches of rain. What a difference it's made in our Wildscape! Last month (August), I didn't have the heart to shoot "This month in our Wildscape"....too hot and dry. And depressing. So are lots of photos to make up for my laziness last month.....

Our front yard....

Now we go the oak motte in The Meadow.
The Meadow.
We're in the back yard now...

The Buck-hannan bed (named in honor of Lake Buchanan–that's how the locals pronounce the name), where my northern spicebush is struggling along with morning glories that James gave me for our sixth anniversary.

We've just got to figure out what to do with the paths, which get muddy after rains...mulch maybe? It's got to be inexpenstive!
My assortment of pots contain native plants that I collected from our land or yard– greenthread, wedelia, prairie verbena, dayflower and yarrow.