Friday, August 26, 2011

Bits and Pieces, Including a Wing and a Prayer

I can't say there's any theme to today's post, just a series of photos showing things that captured my interest this morning....

While we don't have many cattle egrets stopping in our yard, we do have a lot flying overhead on their way to the horse pasture next door. This summer I've particularly noticed a fair number of single feathers, one or two or three each day, that seem to have drifted down from their passage. When I see one, it reminds me of a "prayer bush" that I saw in a National Geographic article once - individual feathers tied to a shrub, each one symbolic of a wish or a prayer.

The Letterman's ironweed (Vernonia lettermannii) is starting to bloom in my front garden. I've really come to like this plant: its finely textured leaves add a nice filler throughout the summer and fall, it's absolutely no care, and the deep purple blooms completely cover the top of the plant when it's in full bloom. Technically it is native south of here, in Oklahoma and Arkansas, but it's doing fantastically, so maybe I'm just helping it accommodate to the changing rainfall patterns of global warming.

While most of our native Baldwin's ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii) has gone to seed already, I found this one bloom still brightening a rather shady glade down near the draw.

Not too far away was this little understory plant whose identity I have no clue about. What caught my eye, though, were the patterns made on its leaves by leaf miners. These are known as "serpentine" leaf miner patterns, but I don't know much beyond that. Leaf miners can be larvae of moths, flies, sawflies, beetles or wasps. In the case of serpentine leaf miners, you can see how the larva developed, from the narrow little beginning of the pattern to the big broad end, where the larva pupated and emerged as an adult. Leaf miners do not hurt the plant. (On the close-up, look at how the little larva paralleled the edge of leaf, really adding to the lace-like effect of its pattern.)

Below is a closeup of one of the few species of butterflies I'm seeing around the property right now. It's a common buckeye, here shown resting in a red cedar tree. Males can apparently be quite territorial; I commonly see these butterflies near the draw with its trees and relatively lush vegetation. The larvae eat plantain, Ruellia, and members of the snapdragon family. Apparently the spring and summer forms of this butterfly look a bit different from the fall form. I'm going to have to see if I can compare them next year.

My last intriguing find for the day is this little wasp that I noticed feeding diligently on the seedhead of white prairie-clover (Dalea candida). I think it may be a potter wasp, but I'm not at all sure. I may post this to BugGuide to get a firmer identification. I also have no idea what it was looking for/eating on this seedhead, but I assume it was finding something that it liked.

Nothing earth-shattering today, but I can almost always find something that sparks my interest and curiosity. And, as my husband likes to say, any day in which I learn something new is a good day!


~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

There's always something going on in the garden. One hates to miss it. We saw our first humming bird this evening!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Congrats on the hummingbird! We've been lucky enough to have them nest in the area for the last couple years, so we have a pair coming to our feeder all summer long. I would guess that migration has started, since I'm seeing more now.