Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Take a peek

Ever since I joined iNaturalist in October 2015, I've posted my nature observations there and not so much on my blog any more. That said, I thought I'd share some cool and unusual critters I've seen, going back to March. Nearly all were new species for me. To date now, our "The Pink House, TX, US" species list has reached 511! My goal: 1,000 someday.
Jagged ambush bug (Genus Phymata)

Long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus)
Clearwing moth (Carmenta armasata)
Southern spreadwing (Lestes australis)
Ichneumonid wasp (Compsocryptus texensis)
Thread-waisted wasp (Podium rufipes)
Rufous hummingbird (Selaphorus rufus). James Hearn/photo

Black assassin (Apiomerus longispinis)

Two-lined spittlebug (Prosapia bicincta)
Four-lined plant bug (Poecilocapsus lineatus)
Mournful thyris moth (Thyris sepulchralis)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Juniper Jo and her magic plant

Sensitive plant (Mimosa strigillosa)
Once upon a time, Sheryl wrote a children's book. She titled the chapter book Juniper Jo, Nature Nerd: Make Way for Weeds and made her main character a second-grader named Juniper Jo Waters. Then Sheryl gave Juniper Jo a best bud named Reed Park and a mean neighbor named Ember South. After that, Juniper Jo went on to discover a "magic" plant on the Fox Hollow Elementary School playground. See, she'd been watching a little yellow butterfly go by during P.E. and missed the kickball when it rolled past. When she reached down to get the ball, she touched a plant, and its tiny leaves folded up like praying hands. Magic!

What Juniper Jo found, she later learns, is a native plant called powderpuff (also sensitive plant). What's more, she learns that her magic plant hosts the butterfly that she was watching on the playground!
Little yellow (Pyrisitia lisa)
What happens next? Well, you'll just have to wait and find out! I'm in the process of finding a publisher and/or agent to help Juniper Jo find a book home. In the meantime, check out this nifty "product" I found while online one day–The TickleMe Plant

[JUNE 2019  UPDATE–– I am now represented by Steven Chudney with The Chudney Agency! ]

What a great gift idea! Which is why I recently purchased a kit as a birthday present for some little Blanco boys I know. Later, I emailed company co-owner Larry Chipkin and told him about my Juniper Jo book in progress. 

"That's exciting that you are writing a book about this sort of plant," Larry wrote back. "We are also trying to get kids more excited about plants and nature. My older brother Mark and I would grow them when we were children, and I never forgot the experience. He later became a science teacher."

"When we grew TickleMe Plants as kids, I was just amazed by how few people knew about the plant," he continued. "It became more or less my mission to share this amazing plant with the world. My brother makes sure our kits have an educational value as well, and he is also the plant doctor when customers have questions."

Like Larry (he and I are the same age!), I remember touching sensitive plants as a kid and being so amazed. I still think they're magic! Which is why....

I ordered some sensitive plant seeds of my own to germinate and try to grow. I want a sensitive plant of my own to keep me company at my desk. Larry and Mark's TickleMe plants are actually Mimosa pudica, which is not a North American species. So are my seeds. For purposes of demonstration and not planting in our native gardens, that's okay with me! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Big milestone!

500 species! That's how many plant and animal species I've documented in our Blanco yard SO FAR! (Note: Flora does NOT include those that we planted, which are several hundred.)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Cardinal beauty

Not the kind you're probably thinking of! Meet a cardinal jumping spider (Phidippus cardinalis). I believe she is the first of her species that I've spotted in our wildscape. I think she's beautiful.

As a bonus, here's a photo of another beauty–a crab spider on a damianita bloom....

Monday, October 1, 2018

Stock tank pond photos

 Photos recently requested by reader Judy in California....

Mandarin time

Harvest time! My Texas satsuma mandarin tree (Citrus unshiu 'Miho') has about 25 mandarins on it. I picked our first ones yesterday. They are always sweet and juicy.