Saturday, July 31, 2021

Black leaf-leg bug

Black leaf-leg WHAT? Yes, that's what I found the other day in the orange bucket under the A/C drip pipe. I always check the bucket for potential drowning victims. Usually I can fish them out. Sometimes I'm too late. ANYWAY, this little guy was in the bucket. First one for me! It's a black leaf-leg bug (Phylloscelis atra), a type of planthopper. And yes, I did see it hop. I thought it was a very striking bug!

Flat-headed snake

Yesterday, Prima (our cat kid) found this small snake after I photographed the grisly murder scene that left one male Argiope aurantia dead and a female happily fed. This is a flat-headed snake (Tantilla gracilis). I snagged some photos with help from James, then released the little guy under the bushy lantanas.

Final saga

Molt. Mate. Murder.

The final saga to my July 28 post, "Argiopes in love." I don't think it was love after all! 

My daughter, Lindsey, spotted the skipper (butterfly) in the background before I did. LOL!

Friday, July 30, 2021

This one is a HUGE surprise!

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking on the other side of our property, just mulling around and pulling weeds from the compost heap. (We don't have much planted over there, other than some esperanzas and crape myrtles.) Anyway, I happened to glance at the coral honeysuckle vine that volunteered a few years ago to grow on our chain-link fence in a corner. It is HEALTHY big! As I was passing by, a different leaf caught my eye. What was that? I looked closer.....
A morning-glory! I found some unopened buds, which confirmed my basic identification. Hmmm. I looked at the leaves again. It definitely was NOT our local tievine (Ipomoea cordatotriloba). Could it be Alamo vine (Merremia dissecta), which I planted further down the fence? No, I decided.

I followed the mystery morning-glory's stem down to the Mohr's thoroughwort (Eupatorium mohrii), a little volunteer off the mother thoroughwort. The vine was growing from the thoroughwort's base.

Could the vine be Lindheimer's morning-glory?

YES YES YES! (This morning, the open blooms confirmed the species.)

And, pray tell, why is this such a surprise, Sheryl?

Why, I thought you'd never ask! Well, we bought and planted a Lindheimer's morning-glory (Ipomoea lindheimeri) in April 2013 in this same location. It didn't survive, and it must not have bloomed because I don't have photos on my blog of any. THAT WAS EIGHT YEARS AGO! I just can't explain this one! Did our recent abundant rains have something to do with it? I'll never know. In the meantime, WELCOME BACK, LINDHEIMER'S MORNING-GLORY! Please stay this time! (Yes, it's a perennial vine.)

Alamo vine flower and leaves.....

I love Alamo vine. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Look closely...

See that little green thing in the Meadow? I stepped up for a closer look and.... Turned out to be a monarch chrysalis! Another first for me! I'd never found one in our Wildscape before. It was TOUGH to get a good picture of it! Enjoy!

Argiopes in love

A first ever for me! I got to photograph a male yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) WITH a female! He's waiting for her to molt for the final time. Then they'll mate.

July 30, 2021 Follow up:

Molt. Mate. Murder.

Zizotes follow-up

This is more like a "Notes to myself" post.  Last September, I was so excited to find a volunteer zizotes milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides) in the Meadow. Then it "disappeared." I couldn't find it! But I KNEW it had to be there still because milkweeds put down deep, strong taproots. They mean to stick around once they pick a home. Anyway, as you might guess, I found my zizotes! This time, I took some photos and marked the location so I can find it easier next time.

Crestrib morning-glory update

Our prolific rains this season brought me a WONDERFUL surprise. They germinated seeds dropped in 2019 by my transplanted Edwards Plateau crestrib morning-glory (Ipomoea costellata var. edwardsensis). If you'll recall, that's the uncommon species that I found in November 2018 in Blanco. Because of that discovery, I had some amazing adventures. I also presented a program at the 2019 Texas Master Naturalist state conference and wrote an article, "New Plant on the Block," for Wildflower magazine. Last year, I was so sad when a few seedlings didn't survive. But this summer, five or so are going STRONG! Welcome back, crestrib! I'd sure like to preserve this species in our Wildscape.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Amazing summer weather!

This is a July like none other than I can remember! These were yesterday's morning temperatures. Plus we've been getting RAIN, too!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Another garden tour

This morning, we hosted another fun garden tour. This time, a group of farmers and ranchers drove over from New Braunfels, Marion, Spring Branch and Fredericksburg. Afterward, they had lunch at the Redbud Cafe. From there, they planned to visit the Arnosky Family Farm. Fun time! Thank you for coming, y'all!

Prima was sad to see everyone go. (See the red tail lights in the upper right corner?)

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A mother's love

Yesterday, I spotted this ground crab spider and her egg sac on a black-eyed Susan. Then I peered closer. Some of her spiderlings had already emerged! I also noticed that, when I moved, she'd turn and stretch out her front legs toward me, as if to scare me. I could sense that she wanted me to know that she was NOT going to let me hurt her little ones. Or ELSE! Some spider mamas are just amazing.


Blue fingers and parralena

Yesterday, I was kindly invited to attend a Texas Master Gardener meeting at the dyeing and weaving studio of Deb McClintock. At her home north of the Pedernales River, Deb collects plants, lichens, acorns, galls and other ingredients from nature to create beautiful dyes and pigments. During her program, she had us crush leaves from her Japanese indigo in our fingers. At first, I just had a green mushy mess between my thumb and fingers. Then, like magic, the green turned to BLUE! And stayed blue on my hand the rest of the day. Fun!

Before we left Deb's home, I noticed a pretty clump of parralena (Thymophylla pentachaeta) growing by the parking area. When I asked, she said, sure, I could collect some seeds. So I did! The reason why I was happy to get some is because one lone parralena used to grow alongside the street in our front yard. I posted my find in June 2014 and  October 2016. For protection, I put rocks around the parralena. But, sadly, the rocks fell away, and the plant disappeared. 

Before supper yesterday, the skies turned dark. REAL dark. I just KNEW it was gonna rain! So I grabbed my envelope of parralena seeds and headed for the Meadow. I figured it'd be a great time to spread them. Which I did. But alas, the storm split and went around us. Darn. Maybe another late afternoon shower will pop up and wash the seeds into the soil. But that's completely up to Mother Nature.

Indigo fingers!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Put 'em up, buster

Ever wonder how some things get their name? This evening, James and I learned firsthand how this little critter–a glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis)–got its common name of sharpshooter. Take a look at these videos that I took: 

According to, the family's name of sharpshooters (Cicadellinae) "refers to their habit of forcing excess water droplets out of the tip of the abdomen with an audible popping noise." See another video of the behavior here. What do you think about THAT? As usual, I was AMAZED!

UPDATE: Thank you, Carrie M., for sending me this article: "How some insects fling their pee." 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Happy discovery!

April 19, 2021
In April, I posted a "Taking roll call" list of plants that hadn't yet come back after our rough February weather. Thankfully, we only lost a few. As for our Texas ebony (Ebenopsis ebano), I'd about given up on it. No green buds appeared on its thorny branches. But I kept thinking, It's got to have a good root system because it's several years old (we planted in April 2015).



Yesterday, I leaned over for a closer look and spotted GREEN SHOOTS coming up from the base! Our Texas ebony is ALIVE! After all this time! O Happy Day!

Wet, wet, WET!

By this time of year, the Meadow has turned a crispy brown, and James has it mowed before July Fourth. But not this summer! July Fourth yesterday brought four rain showers and temps in the mid 80s. Can you believe it? Our gardens are like JUNGLES. I am SO outnumbered. Plus, I'm afraid I'm getting VERY spoiled! This is like PARADISE! Thank you, Lord!

Friday, July 2, 2021

Look, a firefly?

 Look, a firefly, I told myself as I was passing the plateau goldeneye yesterday in our back yard. But darn it, the insect flew away. I was VERY disappointed. Then another one (or the same one) landed on a goldeneye leaf that was within easy reach. Bingo–I snapped at least five photos and shared my observation with iNaturalist. Later, I was looking at the photos. Hmm, those antennae sure were long. Longer than what a firefly has… 

In the meantime, someone on iNaturalist IDed my “firefly”–Dylobolus rotundicollis (Mecas rotundicollis on, a firefly-mimicking longhorn beetle! This beetle even has a luminescent-mimicking abdomen. It’s believed that the larvae feed on the roots and stems of asters and other members of Asteraceae. Like plateau goldeneye in our yard. Amazing!