Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Toad in a hole for real

Yesterday I saw this hole in the back yard. Darn skunk got back here again, I grumped to myself. I nearly knocked the dirt back into the hole with my foot when I leaned over for a closer look....

When I checked this morning, the toad was gone.

Closer look turns up new species

This evening, we were strolling through the back yard as per our usual after-supper routine. I looked up at the pearl milkweed vine (Matelea reticulata) that's growing around a pole. Near the top, a thick green stem caught my eye. Hmm, I thought, milkweed vine stems aren't THAT fat. I squinted harder at the "stem." Sure enough, its top part moved. It was the head of A CATERPILLAR! I challenged James to find a caterpillar among the green leaves, and it didn't take him long to spot what I'd found. Plus, James found MORE munching away. Lots more!

On two more milkweed vines, we found another nursery of nearly grown caterpillars. One was especially grouchy when James touched it with a twig. It flung its heard around and acted like it was going to "bite" James. Very entertaining! But what I found interesting was their white knobbed heads. I've never seen this sphinx species before. After a bit of nosing around on the Internet, I found the identification–we have a large brood of Lassaux's sphinx (Erinnyis lassauxii) caterpillars. The adults are unremarkable looking.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

American germander tale

I'm a bit late in reporting that last June the Blanco County Master Gardeners had their monthly meeting in our back yard. I need to tell you that now because that's how this American germander (Teucrium canadense) tale starts. Pat (above) brought some cuttings of the species for show-and-tell. They came from a Blanco County property. After the meeting, Pat didn't want them so she offered them to me. Just stick the stems in some root starter, she advised, and put them in dirt. So I did. And darned if the cuttings didn't take root and GROW!
Yesterday I decided it was time to get them out of the pot and into the ground. WOWZER! Those sneaky guys had already sent out rhizomes deluxe (see photo below). I may wish I'd never planted them because I've read that they can spread. But American germanders also require water so that may keep in check. We shall see!

Blanco County Master Gardeners, June 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

Busy evening

 After I found the trapdoor spiderlings, James spotted this FAT caterpillar, likely a sphinx species, in the American beautyberry. It was HUGE. It's a rustic sphinx larva (Manduca rustica).

 Twice-stabbed ladybug eating an oleander aphid.
 Another ground beetle wandering along....

Trapdoor spider babies

Every few days, we dump out the bird baths and refresh the water. Which is what I did this evening. I just happened to notice a "knob" of some kind on the side of one bird bath. What was that? I stepped up closer and looked....trapdoor spiderlings! Oh, my goodness! Such a cool find! But I felt bad, too. I sure didn't mean to bother them. I think the water splashed right over them. These spiders typically burrow in the ground. James theorized that maybe the mama moved them up because of all the rains? Maybe so.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Farewell to a friend

For nearly 20 years, this wooden wind chime of Noah's Ark hung both in my former yard and our Wildscape. Patrick, my son who's half past 31, presented it to me for my birthday probably around 1999 or 2000. The chime was handmade and painted by our dear friend, Martha, who's now serving as Blanco mayor. This morning, I was sad to see its rotted condition when James rapped on my office window to show me. 

Farewell, friend. Thank you for your many years of sweet jingles.

Friday, September 7, 2018

I love mallows (plus a surprise)

 Narrowleaf globemallow (Sphaeralcea angustifolia), Blanco County
 Velvet-leaf mallow (Allowissadula holosericea), Wildflower Center's October 2014 native plant sale.
Narrowleaf globemallow (Sphaeralcea angustifolia), Brewster County
Indian mallow (Abutilon incanum), Medina County

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog post....I had assumed this plant to be a globemallow. In fact, some months ago I'd even given it its own garden label to that effect. Recently I posted the above image to iNaturalist, hoping to confirm my plant's ID. In the meantime, I nosed around and figured out that this "globemallow" is actually a showy fanpetals (Sida lindheimeri), which is a globemallow cousin. Where did it come from? I wish I knew. I pulled it as a seedling from the sand in our brick patio last year (or the year before?) and relocated it to its present flower bed.  
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For the record, we had a gray globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana) that we bought from the Wildflower Center, but it died. Sniff. I still miss it. It was so pretty.