Wednesday: 31 May 2006
An incredible number of meteors are being detected by radio. These meteors are associated with comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. If the radio activity is an indication of the possible visual activity, we should be in for quite a show providing it’s clear enough.
If you have decent skies after dark, take a look to the sky and let me know if you see any.
And if you do - let Tom know here, and let me know too!
Second, if you have 40 minutes to listen, Terry Gross of Fresh Air has quite a good interview with Al Gore. Contrasts and comparisons are unavoidable. “I’m Al Gore, and I used to be the next president of the United States of America.”
Finally, if I lived in Atlanta I’d have made an exception and already seen An Inconvenient Truth. As it is, I can only content myself with the 2.5 minute trailer. And this 30 second ad.
Tuesday: 30 May 2006
Here I was, 7:17am, doing the Mrs. Wilcox thing in the (relatively) cool morning, and in my innocence ran across this marvelous tiny (1") damsel dragonfly. In my high-paying job as insect modeloid I assumed Paris would be willing to pay. I mean, I see the revival of Betty Boop here, don’t you? Probably not, you’re so much younger than I, but here she is, unidentified for all to drool over. Isn’t she a delicate beauty? And isn’t this just a shame, considering the sad tale you must endure below? (There’s more and better to come eventually too, I have some great mouthparts waiting.)
I just happened to glance toward a nearby buttonwood leaf when what should I spy but a heinous crime. At first I thought it might be a diligent trashbug - “How jolly,” I thought, and took a few photos, but when I touched it with a twig to make it scurry, it was ooey and gooey. Not only that, but doesn’t this just remind you of when Vera Miles turned the poor old mummified Mrs. Bates around in the chair at the denoument at the Bates Motel? I sure think so!
I ran to the house to dial 911, but fortunately stopped short. “Wayne!” I said, “Are you nuts?? Sure, sure, the Good Sheriff of Oglethorpe County is off getting PR photos of marijuana patch raids, but *listen*! Here you are - no one else here, no witnesses, and a corpse. What could you be thinking?”
Good point, and there’s nothing more important than photographing the evidence. In my alternative guise as a detective, I soon found the perp. “Fire Fannies,” I said, “Just as I thought.”
Now understand please - in more delicate, Victorian days, we’d have asked the women to cover their eyes. “HA!” I say, “how silly!” After all it was Bev who told me to look closer and under things and thereby undercover these heretofore undocumented horrors. *But*, if you’re faint of heart (and I know there are plenty of flighty males who won’t be able to take this), you just might want to surf somewhere else. To some “pretty picture” site.
Here’s the *real* Perp, I feel strongly, with *yet another victim*. Probably an eggmate of the former unfortunate. You know, if we just taught morals in the schools like we used to, none of this would happen. It never did then. And now, things like this go on under every leaf outside every house in America. Thank *goodness* for the NSA.
This is merely up-close documentation. You probably think I’m being exploitive. You just haven’t been in my position, and you can’t be none too careful in Oglethorpe County. I mean - does that look anything like me? C'mon. No.
And an hour later. *Look*. He’s just laughing at us. He hasn’t even tried to flee the scene. That’s what this country is coming to.
(And by the way, Tom’s Astronomy Blog has had some great features on the comet, and on Cassini at Saturn.)
Now back to business. I was pleased to catch what I’m thinking is Eastern Tailed Blue, Everes comyntas.
It was enjoying a repast offered up by some pink oxalis, and was very cooperative about opening its wings.
Eastern tailed blue larvae apparently like legumes, and especially those in the pea subfamily.
Speaking of caterpillars, this one was munching on some Gaillardia pulchella, blanketflower or firewheel. I haven’t immediately been able to figure out what he is - about 2" long. Anyone have any idea?
By the way, I’ve noticed over the past week a significant downturn in numbers of swallowtails. I wonder if the adults have mated, laid eggs, and then died?
Monday: 29 May 2006
Eggs on the underside of a milkweed (Asclepius syriaca) leaf. Probably milkweed bug eggs.
Orange-Patched Smoky Moths, courting, I guess, on the bottom of a white oak leaf.
Ever seen skeletonized leaves? Pyromorpha dimidiata is in the Leaf Skeletonizer Family, Zygaenidae. They’re diurnal moths.
Funky baby bugs.
Sunday: 28 May 2006
It’s only slightly cooler deep in the hardwood forest in the hollow where Sparkleberry Springs Creek runs more and more slowly, but flitting in and out of visibility at the Rock were these Phantom Crane Flies, Bittacomorpha clavipes.
Phantom Crane Flies are actually flies, and are about as benign an insect as you’ll find. The adults eat little or nothing and the larvae, which resemble the wrigglers of their familial counsins the mosquitos, eat only organic detritus. With no real scandals or skeletons in their closets, phantom crane flies are sort of the black sheep of the insect world.
How amazing to watch one moving slowly in its preferred position above the shaded creek. The extremely long legs (nearly 2 inches legspan) dwarf the body, and move hardly at all as the little wings propel the fly slowly in orbit. The black and white banding is hard to focus and the insect seems to flit in and out of existence as you watch.
These were taking a little rest in between short jaunts, hanging from the grass stems with their forelimbs.
Saturday: 27 May 2006
HA! At 6am, 48.5 hours after it became inaccessible to us, Niches finally became accessible again! Just in time for the weekend slump.
At the risk of further intruding into TF23’s exclusive domain today I’m concentrating on two active insects. I hardly mention plants at all!
I am guessing this to be a blue skimmer, Libellula vibrans.
I like the activity of the above photo, even if it’s not much good for identification purposes. Going through Bugguide I’ve noticed from the flying pictures that it’s the ventral or lower wings that seem to do the most work, vibrating much more madly than the dorsal or upper pair of wings.
The skimmer family of dragonflies (Libellulidae) is a large one. The broad abdomen, the all-blue coloration, including the eyes, and the long pigmented stigma at the *tips* of the wings seem to indicate its identity.
There were a number of individuals here resting in the sun atop tall stems overlooking the ponds. Occasionally one would dart into the air and catch a small flying insect and audibly, visibly, *chew* it! Notice how they didn’t perch on the stem with the tips of the legs - the legs appear to straddle the perch.
Another incoming flier, this time a greater beefly, Bombylius major. (I think - there are some other lookalike species in the Bombyliidae beefly family.) This is indeed a fly, and not a bee, as evidence by its single pair of wings. As far as I know there are no flybees!
I think it’s cunning how the little guy puts his rear legs up into the air while in flight. Long spindly legs, and a long proboscis for getting the nectar out. The proboscis looks alarming but it isn’t. Its use is more like that of the beak of a hummingbird. As far as I know beeflies don’t bite or sting.
There are a lot of different species of beeflies, and quite a few don’t look much like this one. They have a sneaky life cycle. The adult female, which only sips nectar, follows a solitary bee or wasp home and hangs around until it leaves its dug nest. Then the female beefly lays her eggs in the entrance to the nest. The beefly larvae will feed on the wasp larvae (which in turn are probaby feeding on spiders or caterpillars). Why, really, would anyone forego the drama of life in the insect world for that of made-up tv shows about human interactions?
And, oh yes, the plants above are a native Verbena species.
Friday: 26 May 2006
This isn’t a usual post - I can’t get to the blog page itself. I’m inserting this manually into the database and have no idea how it looks.
If you’re seeing this and haven’t noticed any problems in the last day, then you might find the site inaccessible shortly. If you’re not seeing this, then you’re not seeing it.
A big rock plunked into the pond of the internets early Wednesday morning at 5:35am EDT, wiping out sparkleberrysprings.com from its registration site. The ripples are fanning out in all directions and as they reach you, the sparkle goes out of sparkleberrysprings.com, as Jenn said.
At some point - it’s been 23 hours so far for us - another big rock will plunk into the pond and re-establish the registration and the ripples will have to reach you again before the sparkle comes back.
The first big rock fell out of the sky because our host site failed to transfer the hosting of the registration as we’d requested (three weeks ago) and the original registration site deleted us (as they should have). The ripples are the propagating instructions to whatever DNS server you use that tell it to remove the association of “sparkleberrysprings.com” with its IP number, hence clicking on your favorite sparkleberrysprings.com link doesn’t work.
The second big rock is our effort to get that registration back. The ripples that will hopefully come from that will put the number back into your DNS server and all will be well in the pond.
It can take up to a couple of days for the propagating instructions to reach your DNS server and re-establish contact, so don’t be surprised if you see that annoying “under construction” page. Of course you won’t see this until it’s too late, and if you do, it’s probably already happened without you knowing it, but just in case, that’s what’s going on.
Thursday: 25 May 2006
The composites average about 200kb each, so I’m not putting them on the blog itself. A new page with a composite will open upon clicking the link, complete with fascinating but irrelevant descriptions.
It’s amazing what a difference 15 years make, but even 5 years show a lot of changes.
If you were to approach the house, you’d come down a long driveway. But not as long as it used to be! The View from the East.
If you walked down to the house and looked back, you’d see The View up the Drive.
Walking around the south end of the house you’d have the View from the West.
And finally rounding the northwest corner, peeking around it, and finally looking down at the house from the hill above gives you The North View.
Wednesday: 24 May 2006
My little wasp of the other day almost certainly didn’t construct these little nurseries that adorn our outside porch. That accomplishment probably goes to the organpipe mud dauber, Trypoxylon spp.
Some people like to hang pictures on walls. I kind of like to keep these around. The breakout holes for the larvae that used to be there tell the story of how long these inactive nests have been around.
I’m a little conflicted about mud daubers. On the one hand they are solitary, non-aggressive wasps that pose no real annoyance and are kind of interesting. On the other hand their favorite comfort food for the younguns is spiders, which they paralyze and stuff into their nests, laying eggs atop the future dinner. Apparently different species of sphecids have preferences for particular species of spiders.
Tuesday: 23 May 2006
Growing along the banks and into the floodplain are large sunflower-like plants that we used to know were Southern or Yellow Crownbeard, Verbesina occidentalis, but right now are having a hard time placing the seeds so there’s a tiny possibility that we’re wrong.
(Actually we’re probably right and scattered through this population is an additional species, Hairy Leafcup or Bearsfoot, Smallanthus uvedalius).
This crownbeard is a southeastern US plant, but there’s 18 species of crownbeard scattered throughout the US so there’s almost certainly one near you.
The crownbeard is greeting the morning sun below left. It stands only about 3 feet tall now but will eventually become 6 feet by the time it flowers. The flowers have a small number of small yellow rays and so are not exactly what you’d call magnificent. But the plants do supply caterpillar food for a number of butterfly species: azures, blues, crescents, AND baltimores.
This large colony is coming back now. Ten years ago it was so abundant it was difficult to walk through, and was practically extirpated by the massive Microstegium growth. Last year there were probably a hundred plants, which is good news, and this year even more.
Bottom left is crownbeard greeting the morning sun a week ago. The stems look strange, and so take a look at them - bottom right. Occasionally you’ll garden plants with outgrowths that make their stems look broad and flat - pea plants seem to do this a lot. That’s fasciation, and can be caused by disease or genetics. This isn’t fasciation in that sense; the botanical key for crownbeard describes what you see here as “tissue decurrent in the stem as a wide ring”. The effect is to give a “winged” appearance to the stem.
Although it’s not necessary to ascribe a positive selective advantage for every tiny hair on a plant (such tendencies are called “just so stories”), I can see a couple of advantages. Extra photosynthesis, for instance, and if you know the story of the evolution of the megaphyll (the leaf), it makes some sense. I can also imagine that some insects might not be able to climb such a face to get to those scrumptious leaves and nutrient laden flowers. But on the other hand, it could just be “one of those things” that has no selective advantage, but on the other hand has no selective *disadvantage*, and is therefore passed on to future generations.
Now, the insect. It was hiding under a crownbeard leaf and was determined not to make a more cooperative appearance. So the pictures are not so great, but perhaps good enough to offer some suggestions from those who, unlike me, don’t have to prowl through hundreds of bugguide pics looking for a match!
Here it’s facing us.
Monday: 22 May 2006
At first I thought this 2 inch long insect was an eastern dobsonfly Corydalus cornutus, but it seems more likely to be a fishfly, Chauliodes spp., based on the yellow coloration on the pronotum. Could be Spring Fishfly, C. rastricornis, but more likely Summer Fishfly, C. pectinicornus.
*Note*: Screen mesh doesn’t make the best photographic background.
Very interesting body - lots of flexibility in the head movements, but overall the thing was pretty feeble. The mandibles look threatening but are apparently rather weak compared to the dobsonfly, which can give a considerable nip. Male dobsonflies have mandibles that might be two or three times longer than the head!
The children are aquatic, and occupy a niche similar to dragonfly nymphs, voracious feeders on other aquatic insects. Corydalid larvae are also called hellgrammites and are a favorite live bait for fishing. The adults are nocturnal (or confused) and may not eat anything. Corydalids are found throughout North America so you’ll be happy to know what it is when you see it.
I’d bet that our ponds are just full of these things.
Tolweb has quite a bit of information on this insect order, the Megaloptera.
Sunday: 21 May 2006
This (presumably female) spider wasp was enthusiastically searching the spaces between the keys of the keyboard yesterday morning, with perfect comfort. By the time I’d gotten the camera she was surfing the internets.
With the very long back legs and the nervous twitching of the wings, the blue bands on her abdomen, and the red spot on her back, I would guess she’s a Blue-black Spider Wasp, Anoplius spp.
UPDATE: Swampy points out that it’s a great mud dauber, which induced in me a major cortical association - I hadn’t made those neuronic connections. However, we always call them dirt daubers. What do others call them? Is the “dauber” attribution a southernism?
Despite her fearsome appearance, she as an adult consumes only nectar. But she does go after spiders, stings them, drags them to a nest site prepared from mud, and lays her eggs on them. The larvae feed on the spiders.
After a time of searching and cleaning herself she took off for better hunting grounds elsewhere.
Saturday: 20 May 2006
Now - I did think this was a wheelbug until I sat down and looked at the real photos. I wasn’t aware that there were any Coreidae that had the resemblance, but I know now! This one was big, at least 2.5 inches long
So FC and Bev gave credible answers, and
I figured anyone who got Coreidae (leaf-footed bugs) or Reduviidae (assassin bugs, and that’s because that was my id ) deserves accolades, considering it was only from a silouhette and no idea of this one’s large size.
Last night, on an inspiration, I went into BIOS during a reboot. There it was, three levels in - Sound Card - disabled. Enabled it. Viola, as they say on Usenet.
OK, the puzzle: should be easy.
These were flowering not so long ago. Fast track to a fruit that is not a berry (you probably know better than to ask me why not ).
No hints here!
Friday: 19 May 2006
I understand that the second generation overwinters in the chrysalis, but what about this generation? Where are they now?
This isn’t my first anglewing, a brush-footed butterfly (Nymphalidae), but it’s the first I’ve undertaken observation in the hot sun and biting flies to photograph. I’m pretty sure it’s a Question Mark, because of the white marking that gives it the name, but it could have been an Eastern Comma had I not spied that marking (do Eastern Commas have a comma marking?).
These photos are kind of surreal, and taking them even more so. Do you know the little trick when someone drops a dollar bill just above your fingers and you’re supposed to catch it before it falls through them? That’s what this butterfly was doing - wings closed, and then suddenly *open* and snap shut.
That’s why there’s a blur to them - not for depth of field reasons, but for motion and even in the bright sun with short exposure times!
Well worth it though to see what they look like on the dorsal surface, which is quite different than on the ventral surface (as in the first photo above). This looks a lot like this bugguide photo.
Thursday: 18 May 2006
|Skulking through the floodplain of Woodvamp Alley yesterday I came across this dramatic little tableau unfolding on a split rotting log. Two Six-spotted Green Tiger Beetles were on opposite sides of a gaping chasm. The one at the bottom of the photo had two extra white spots on the dorsal that the other lacked, and was relatively quiet. The other one that became increasingly agitated over a period of a few minutes. Then it leapt the chasm.|
They grappled briefly and then fell into the uncharted depths below.
Sex or cannibalism? You decide. Tiger beetles are voracious predators. Even the sound of the scientific name, Cicindela sextaguttata, merely accentuates the mystery.
Wednesday: 17 May 2006
Now I want to look at the flowers of sedges, and in particular those that are in evidence everywhere right now, sedges of the genus Carex. You’ve probably heard the little piece of doggerel:
Sedges have edges,
Rushes are round,
Grasses are hollow
All the way to the ground.
Or something to that effect.
It’s a fairly good way to distinguish between these three families (Poaceae (grasses), Juncaceae (rushes), and Cyperaceae(sedges)) of grasslike plants that, without looking at the flowers and fruits look a lot alike.
Like grasses, the first thing you’ll look at in figuring out a sedge is the type of inflorescence. Sedges though, tend to have tighter clusters of developing fruits and less of a range in inflorescence type. The minimalist sedge inflorescence below gives you an idea of the parts of a sedge flower used in identifying sedges:
In the upper left quadrant you see something that we don’t see much in grasses. The male flowers are in a cluster separate from the female flowers, and are located above the females on the stem. This placement is called androgynous, a word that we normally have another meaning for. The opposite placement, with female flowers on top, is gynaecandrous, a word which we generally don’t know at all!
The general shape and numbers of male and female flowers in each inflorescence is an identifying trait, and so is the subtending bract that lies below the whole inflorescence.
In the upper right quadrant is a magnified male, or staminate, flower. Each male flower has a subtending bractlet or scale, and as you might guess this can be an identifying feature.
In the lower left quadrant is a similarly magnified pistilate flower. More parts! As with the male, there is a subtending bractlet or scale that’s important. The whole single-seeded ovary is enclosed inside a perigynium, a little vase-shaped bract, so that all you really see is this vase with the stigmas protruding and blowing in the wind. The shape of the perigynium is a very important identifying character.
So not only is the inflorescence shape important but so are the positions of the male and female flowers, their numbers, the shape and size of the perigynium, and the shapes of the various subtending bracts. That’s why when you look through the images at USDA Plants or at a key of the 490 species documented in the US and the 118 species found in Georgia, you’ll see something like this.
Here’s a real plant to look at.
UPDATE: After 10-15 hours of keying out through 70 sections of Carex, Glenn declares that he knows more about this plant than the plant itself does. It’s Carex chapmanii, Chapman’s Sedge, and occurs in FL, GA, TN, VA, and the Carolinas. It’s threatened in Florida and Tennessee.
If you’re sharp you’ll have already seen that we have a variation on the earlier minimalist flower picture. There’s *two* inflorescences here. From top to bottom, we have a long male inflorescence, with a few female flowers below it. That’s one. Then we have another inflorescence below that which looks to be a long one of many more female flowers. There’s actually a few male flowers on top of this one that you can’t see at this level of magnification.
Like in grasses, there’s only one seed per fruit. In grasses the fruit was called a caryopsis (or grain), and often the fruit wall is fused to the seed so they come together. In sedges the fruit is called an achene, and similarly is fused to the seed inside.
Right now is a great time to handle some sedges; they’re literally everywhere. Carex is the genus mostly in flower now; the equally large genus Cyperus will be in flower later in the summer. Feel the stem that the flowers are on - if it’s a sedge it will feel distinctly triangular. If it’s a grass it will feel round. Take a look at the inflorescence and use your teeny weeny eyes to see if the male flowers are separate from the larger female flowers.
A word about wind-pollinated plants. Grasses, sedges, and many wind-pollinated dicot plants generally tend to live in the open, and at high density. Wind pollination isn’t very efficient otherwise. If you’re surrounded by mating partners there’s a better chance your pollen will blow onto them than if your nearest partner is a mile away. So you tend to find these plants in large numbers at high density. And of course the wind blows better in the open than in closed, shady places, so wind-pollinated plants have a little difficulty reproducing in enclosed places.
Sedges in particular offer unique habitats. Although the one pictured above was found growing on a dry woodland slope, many sedges are water-loving and form massive clumps that catch water-borne silt and thereby prevent erosion and build up soil. The clumps themselves offer protection and cover to wildlife and the seeds supply a food source for birds. Sedges are nice!
Tuesday: 16 May 2006
DPR said: “put us on the list for a glenn clone.”
And Pablo responded:"Might as well get the whole package. I’d like one Wayne and one Glenn, please!"
TF23 is aiming for a budget package: “Or just provide me with the cut-rate, scrap-heap version with two heads. That’d be fine.”
OK, in response to customer demand, here’s the Sticky Willy Deal - we’re not going to offer a two for one, so to speak - a Glenn and Wayne is still twice the cost of a Glenn or Wayne (and lemme tell you right now, the Glenn model is unusually needy and high maintenance).
BUT for every Glenn AND Wayne order, you get an additional choice of one (1) : Bev, 1Jenn, Swampy, Laura, OR Don; OR two (2) each of 3TF23, DeadMike, Mark, OR Leslie (please be very sure about this Leslie clone; it has a tendency to dig).
!!!Plus!!! unlimited (N) freebie quantities of the 2FC model. Get 'em while they’re hot, before they’re not. Please inquire for additional copies.
All primary choices guaranteed for ten (10) years from date of purchase, or 1000 identifications, whichever comes first. Offer not valid in Texas or Kansas.
Coming up (as we like to say here at Sparkleberrysprings.com Research Division), a new PZ Myers line, which we think you’ll agree is (or better yet, *are*!!!) perfect for intellectual, home, and property protection. We proudly announce the special pint-size model, the “E-Z PZ”, which at just a hair under 12" high boasts *twice* the signal to noise ratio and still provides that same level of performance you came to expect from the old full size model while minimizing neighbors' complaints. Smarter than a pit bull, and cheaper to feed!!! Preorder now!!!
Sparkleberrysprings.com *listens* to customer comments!
1The data sheet on the Jenn model has been revised in comments: Jenn v1.0: “By the way, I have it on good authority that you should go for the extended warranty on the Jenn model - extremely argumentative and tends to go off id-ing on its own so your warranty runs out pretty quick. Also there are rumors that the it malfunctions due to convulsive laughter if you keep saying ”Sticky Willy."
(Yes, but what the Jenn v.1.0 didn’t know is that we’re ever-improving our quality. Check out the upcoming JennClean1000 in the comments.)
2The FC v.2.1 model, while more robust than ever, still has some quirks. We’ve ironed out the spontaneous “coastward beeline tendency”, but still haven’t solved the treeclimbing inclinations. We’ve left intact the practical joke multicluster of loci of the v.1.7 model, which our customers unanimously agree provide endless entertainment at cocktail parties and family reunions. We provide a full instruction sheet, but no guarantee, and you must understand we can accept no liability for damages.
3Order at your own risk.
We’re constantly working on improving our inventory, for you. Unfortunately some of the blog scrapes we’ve taken haven’t been suitable for cloning. The Bums' DNA just seems to be STRs of GATTACA repeated over and over. We have no idea what to do with Pablo’s - it too is a single STR repeat - RONDROK, which as far as we know aren’t any of the recognizable nucleotides. But there’s nothing that the Sparkleberrysprings.com Research Division likes better than a mystery and we’re excited at the prospects of figuring this out.
If I left anyone out, remember, we need to keep up our customer base. Apply here for cloning.
Monday: 15 May 2006
There are 83 species of bedstraws in the US, according to USDA Plants, 13 are non-native. This one is found throughout the US, and probably then all of North America, so you probably have it too. I’ve basically given up on trying to weed it out. Along with the chickweed I’ll pull out the masses and then use it as mulch. Thank goodness it’s an annual!
Then my shoes and socks look like this:
Because the fruits look like this:
One thing I did discover is that I have a dermatological sensitivity to the hooked hairs of the stems and leaves. It left a temporary itchy rash. Admittedly I was in considerable contact with it over several hours weeding, so I would emphasize the word “mild”.
Not all Galiums are pesky - below is a pretty little plant that grows quietly and modestly in the understory down in the hollow above the creek. It’s much darker green and has only four whorled leaves.
UPDATE: Yup - I’m going to have to change that. Glenn took a long hard look and decided it was Galium orizabense, Bald Bedstraws, probably subspecies laevicaule. This based on the glabrous (=hairless) aspects of the stems and leaves, and the three veins running through the leaves.
Galiums are in the Madder Family, Rubiaceae, and most have the typical tiny four-petalled flowers, smaller than but resembling bluets, which are also in the Rubiaceae. I’ve also photographed what I think is probably Coastal Bedstraws, Galium hispidulum. Neither of these other two plants have anywhere near the density of hooked hairs that Sticky Willy has!
Sunday: 14 May 2006
And now, the long-awaited post on grasses. Grasses are monocots and are in the family Poaceae. They haven’t been around long, having evolved in a coevolutionary manner with horses, first appearing around 50 million years ago from a bamboo-like ancestor. They are not simply primitive wind-pollinated plants from which showy-flowered plants evolved; rather it’s the reverse. The common ancestor of monocots (grasses) and dicots was probably a “showy-flowered” plant. So grasses and their flower parts are highly modified from the common ancestral plant, and modified to take advantage of the wind as a pollinating mechanism, rather than insects.
Here’s a simple minimalist portrait of a grass. Whether you’re identifying a grass by a horrid dichotomous key or by comparing with photos, this is the first thing you’ll look at. And the names here apply to plants other than grasses too, so these are not specialized names.
Going from bottom to top, the roots are often an important key. They can be ropy, or rhizomatous as shown here (creeping grasses, the ones that can be so invasive and hard to get rid of). They can also be fibrous or tap roots (much “nicer” clumping grasses that don’t spread so).
Grass stems are hollow and called culms. Leaves (or blades) may emerge at ground level in which case they’re called rosettes. Or they may emerge at the nodes on the culm above the ground and then are called cauline leaves. I haven’t show any details of how they’re attached to the stem but it’s usually by some kind of sheath. All these gross parts, their length, shape, color, are important taxonomic features.
Finally - the inflorescence, or cluster of flowers. Inflorescences can be any of the types I’ve written about before - spikes, racemes, corymbs, and in this case a panicle. That link will allow you to review your inflorescences, with drawings of my own construction!
At this point, the resemblance to showy flowers ends, and a whole new set of terminology crops up. Better sit down.
Here’s a pleasant drawing of several levels of a minimalist grass inflorescence. Remember your showy flower parts - bracts, sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils.
Whatever the inflorescence type, it will probably sport individual units, shown in the upper left quadrant as little circles. These units are called spikelets and may hold one or many florets (or flowers), as shown in the upper left quadrant. Each floret is connected to the others through tiny stems called rachillas. At the base of each spikelet there are a first and a second glume, which initially enclose the spikelet and protect it. The glumes and the numbers of florets in a spikelet, and the lengths and shapes of all these things are important taxonomic features.
At the lower left quadrant is a figure of a single, perfect grass floret. (Perfect here isn’t a judgement call; it means it has both male and female parts. Imperfect would mean it lacks one or the other.)
The floret, and remember it may be one of many in the cluster called a spikelet, is itself subtended by two leafy structures, the lemma and the palea. It’s likely that these are homologous to sepals on a showy flower.
A word about this word homologous. In evolutionary biology, homologous means a structure that you can recognize as being evolutionarily related in two or more distantly related organisms. If you took a college biology course you’ll probably remember the drawings of the bones of the forelimbs of a human, a horse, a bat, and a whale, and if it was a good drawing it showed each bone and its position in each of those four organisms, and how the bones are all homologous. PZ Myers at Pharyngula has much to say and many examples of homologous structures all the way from homologous genes to homologous organs. And we have homologous structures in plants too, and the lemma and palea are perhaps homologous to sepals; they are evolutionarily the same thing, however different they may look.
If you pull apart the lemma and palea, and look closely surrounding the ovary, you may find one or more tiny structures called lodicules. They’re usually really small and hard to find. These are probably homologous to the petals on a showy flower. And then you have the ovary itself, the female part, atopped by usually long, hairy stigmas, configured so as to best catch pollen drifting on the wind. And there’s usually three stamens, which look much like their homologous counterparts in showy flowers.
I should point out that the ovary, or immature fruit, contains only one ovule, or immature seed. In many of our familiar grains, such as wheat, maize, barley, oats, rice, and so forth, the “seed” is actually the entire fruit, the mature ovary. The structure in grasses is called a caryopsis, or grain, if you prefer. The glumes are what we think of as the husk, and is usually thrown away.
And that’s it! Again, the appearance of all these things are important taxonomic features, but usually aren’t essential unless you really want to get down to the species and subspecies levels.
Let’s take an example. Earlier I posted a boring little post about an obscure little grass that I like a whole lot, Variable Witchgrass, Dichanthelium commutatum var commutatum. Remember the genus, Dichanthelium and what it promises - two flowers.
Here’s another view of a part of the panicle inflorescence of this grass.
Each of the round things is a spikelet and each spikelet contains two florets, hence the name Dichanthelium. These florets are not equal - one is imperfect and sterile (lacking the female part) and the other is perfect and fertile. Let’s take a closer look.
Here’s a side view of a spikelet. The spikelet never opens but the nice purple anthers and purple hairy stigmas protrude from the top of the spikelet.
And here’s a front view of the same thing. Aren’t the anthers and stigmas pretty?
Let’s open the spikelet up.
Here’s how it breaks down. Glumes subtend the base of the spikelet just like they should - one is tiny and one is large. A first lemma and its palea encloses the first floret, the one that’s sterile (we really can’t see it under all the trash there). The big shiny object in the center is the fertile floret, and its second lemma and palea, which have not been removed to show the ovary and lodicules. The purple anthers and stigmas are out of focus at the left.
So why, parenthetically, and without the parentheses, would a plant devote energy to making half its flowers sterile? I ain’t got no idea. Maybe it’s not a drain on the system. But a lot of plants do this.
There were a couple of surprises in this example (such as the sterile florets). And it no way exhausts some other adaptations such as awns, which can be quite decorative, are not present in this plant. I may add another example later but for now that should be more than enough, don’t you think?
Thanks to Glenn for helping me out with the mysterious Variable Witchgrass.
Some other resources, which are also extremely good books, especially the first one for terminology, and the second two for descriptions of plant families:
Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary (James G. Harris and Melinda Woolf Harris)
Flowering Plant Families (Wendy Zomlefer)
Vascular Plant Taxonomy (Dirk R. Walters and David J. Keil)
Saturday: 13 May 2006
When we get up in the wee hours of the morning (not because we’re *such* old people, but because we have always arisen way earlier than most), and go into the kitchen to make coffee, we often find this:
And not only that, but this too:
If you’ve been paying attention, and, really, there’s no reason why you should, you’d probably have guessed that the culprit is Genie-weenie:
Gene (who you might recall, or perhaps not, is the one who not just follows me into the woods, but *tracks* me into the woods), is, I’m afraid, hyperactive. Once he’s up, he’s up, and so should be everyone else, if for no other reason than to entertain him. And if we decline, well, he can find plenty of things to do. He really needs to be on ritalin, or the cat equivalent (which we’ve discovered is buspar). He knows how to open everything, including several doors in the house. We’ve had to secure two doors, one to the attic and one to a closet, with bungee cords, because he’ll open them in a heartbeat.
And that’s what you get on a Saturday morning.
Friday: 12 May 2006
Today is going to be much the same, and everyone was so good yesterday that we should take a field trip instead of going to class. (Well, almost everyone. )
I’ll just add to the post during the course of the day, confounding and irritating the RSS feed as I go. We can call it liveblogging, with a time delay. You don’t have to wear yourselves out commenting (of COURSE they’re always appreciated), just enjoy.
Let’s have dessert first. I always wanted to do that.
What can you see in this picture?
How about now?
I’ve mentioned Barred Owls (Strix varia)before, oddly enough almost exactly one year ago to the day, and then this past January, where there is a sound file available. We hear the occasional Great Horned Owl and very seldom a Screech Owl. Barred owls are the kings of the forest here.
I was doing some photography of the shorthusk field when I saw out of the corner of my eye, the flicker of this fellow landing, noiselessly of course, in a tree 50 feet away. He was very definitely interested in what I, a mere plebe, was doing in his territory, and peered down at me haughtily for three minutes before flying off without a sound.
Added 8am ————————
Our next stop on this field trip is actually the last one yesterday, but I’m telling this story.
I’m supposed to do the ten beautiful birds meme. Including the barred owl above, I’d list ruby-throat hummingbirds, great blue heron, chickadees, titmouse, and brown-headed nuthatches, all of which I’ve photographed however ineptly (but I’m workin on it, I’m workin on it). OK, that’s six. Add to it the ones I haven’t photographed - pileated woodpeckers (and you’d better go see Thingfish’s fantastic photos earlier this week, since I ain’t never gonna achieve that kind of shot!), indigo buntings, and our redtailed hawks, and that’s nine.
Number ten: Great Crested Flycatchers. They’re back. For the last month I’ve been hearing their piercing “phwEEP! phwEEP!” as they rock getting the nest in order. Such a work ethic as you see in phoebes and flycatchers is hard to top. Late dusk, yesterday afternoon, this one was eyeing cedar chips as fashionable accessories for the casa. (No, he’s not showing his great crest, but it’s there.)
This is our second year for great crested flycatchers. I saw them maybe once or twice in earlier years, but they always moved on. Now they want to stay. Welcome!
Fall’s the time for all box turtles to be prancing about, sowing their spring oats, but this time of year they’re concentrated on eating.
It’s always a little bitty shock to be scanning the ground, seeing the usual stuff, and suddenly there’s something new. Closer to Goulding Creek, I came across this young lady hiding underneath the bedstraws. She was very shy, so this is the only pic I got before she went into her shell.
It was Swampy who briefed me on ways to sex a turtle, last November. Besides not having red eyes, this one has a flat plastron, no concavity. I’m guessing from counting the scutes that she’s 17 or 18 years old. Her shell was in pretty poor shape. Perhaps a tomboy.
On April 22, I had encountered, but did not blog, another box turtle, this time a male, out for a jaunt on a wet spring day. If you compare his picture to the link to last fall’s box turtle, it’s clear they’re different, though about the same age.
Look at that nice dent in his plastron (Thanks, Swampy!). Completely different from the female. This one looks a couple years younger than the female above, but his shell is in much better shape.
They’ll probably still be roaming Sparkleberry Springs 20 years from now.
Mark speaks of habitually looking up, rather than down. Looking up is something I’ve had to learn, but I’d not have seen the barred owl otherwise.
Here’s a fellow, on the way up from Goulding Creek (and again I’m out of order) who spends a lot of time looking up.
I’m convinced it’s a robber fly (female?). He or she was resting on a broad leaf and entirely resistant to being disturbed. The body shape and red knees (elbows?) suggest it’s a Machimus notatus, but it could be some other species. Love the red elbows.
Whoever it is, it’s looking for some big juicy tasty insect to fly by, and then that victim is history.
The final entry, I think, until Sunday (probably). Who knows?
Last June, I posted a pic of Calopteryx maculata - Black-winged Damselfly, or Ebony Jewelwing, but it was in the shade and not nearly as vivid as in real life.
This male (I think) was resting on an Allium flower just above Goulding Creek. Although damselflies, unlike dragonflies, keep their wings folded instead of straight out when at rest, he was periodically opening and closing them.
They’re still vicious killers as adults and kids, though!
Thursday: 11 May 2006
|But... here’s what popped up in the old house site in the fairy ring. I know I’m going to think I’m going to be really sorry I napalmed my bridges to the evil Garden Voices because maybe, just *maybe* there might have been some folks who knew the answer and couldn’t have made it through the labyrinth of attributions which at the bottom lead to me even if they’d spotted the unapproved reblog in the first place. And even if I *had* thought GV was the best thing since white bread, well, if that turns out to be the case, I’d rather not know.|
Nonetheless, and because of that, here it is. Glenn keyed it out to a Gladiolus, and my guess is that it’s a heritage kind of glad (say, before 1930s). Or perhaps some other kind of iris.
Any recognition? It’s rather nice. Is it good caterpillar food?
In that order, then, they are Bryophytes, or mosses and such, Pteridiophytes, or ferns and their friends, and neither of these groups encompassing seven phyla, produce seeds or make pollen, as sophistocated a jump toward life on land as being able to lay your eggs on land (reptiles), instead of in water (amphibians). Bryophytes and fern allies are evolutionarily primitive, which does NOT mean they don’t have sophistocated modifications. We could think of these as the Amphibians of the land plants.
Then there are the seed plants. The Gymnosperms, which you might consider to be the Reptiles of the terrestrial plant world, encompass four phyla: those of cycads, conifers, ginkgos, and the weird gnetophytes, and while they make seeds they don’t make flowers or fruits - they make cones, and the seeds are naked on the cones.
Finally, and the subject of this little treatment which holds you irresistably captive, there’s the single phylum of Angiosperms, or Flowering Plants. We might think of these as the Mammals of the terrestrial plant world. The 230,000 species of flowering plants have been wildly successful since their ancestors appeared on the scene sometime around 140 million years ago.
One thing that always strikes me, and it could be an artifact of classification, is that while all the phyla (and more) of animals appeared “simultaneously” within a few million years 550 million years ago during the Cambrian explosion, land plant phyla appear along broad intervals of time, from 420 million years ago until the appearance of the flowering plants, 140 million years ago.
Plants are seen as simple organisms, compared to animals. Even the flowering plants that appeared in the Cretaceous and are the most evolutionarily modified of all land plants are simple. They have just three organs - roots, stems, and leaves. You might think of flowers as being a fourth organ, but developmentally all parts of a flower are actually modified leaves. Roots, stems, and leaves are important taxonomic features but are nowhere as flagrantly modified into different forms as flowers, and so it’s flowers we should be talking about.
Flowering plants are classically grouped into either Monocots (grasses, irises, lilies, orchids, palms, etc.) or Dicots, which group is about twice the size in numbers of species. Dicots include most of our trees and shrubs and perennials, and herbaceous plants that are not monocots. We now know there are quite a few plants, sometimes called Paleoherbs, and trees such as those in the Magnoliaceae, that fit into neither the monocot or dicot classes.
Let’s start with something easy - so easy that many people already know much of this. Showy dicot flowers (or showy monocots - they fit the mold, too). Of course the easiest way to identify plants with showy flowers is to match them up with a photo or drawing in a field guide, but this doesn’t prepare you for the majority of flowering plants that aren’t showy, and can’t be found in a field guide. That’s what we’re working toward.
When you think of a typical flower, you probably think of showy flowers rather than those invisible, “green or brown” flowers you encounter with trepidation in a field guide. You probably think of showy petals, a typical flower form, like the Oenothera fruticosa, or Sundrops, here, modified to attract insects for pollination:
Here’s my own minimalist flower drawing, labelling the parts that are often used taxonomically.
Flowers can be solitary, or clustered into inflorescences. This is often the first point of identification, and I’ve written about inflorescences, such as the panicle above, before.
Your basic flower has four whorls, emerging points along the flower stem or pedicel from which the four flower parts develop. The lowest whorl is the whorl of sepals, where the leaf ancestry can be most easily seen - sepals are often green and leaflike and serve to protect the developing flower bud. More modified than that are the next highest whorl of petals, which are often highly colored and show off a variety of numbers and shapes. These two whorls are sterile, meaning they are neither male nor female. Some species also have a whorl of bracts below the sepals. Bracts are also modified leaves, and play a large part in taxonomic identifications.
The uppermost two whorls are the sexual ones. The whorl of stamens are male and have bags of pollen, anthers, placed atop a filament. The last whorl, the carpel or pistil, is female. She consists of the ovary, which houses the developing ovules or seeds, and a sticky stigma, perched atop the style.
Vast permutations and modifications of these structures abound. There can be any number of any of these parts, and their colors and shapes are important. Sepals can be colored and almost indistinguishable from petals (in which case both are called tepals, e.g., Magnolias, or lilies). Petals or any of the others can be connate, or fuse together, to make a colorful funnel or corolla, such as in petunias or foxgloves. Stamens may be adnate to other parts, fusing with the style for instance to make the column of the orchid, or with the petals as in mints. Stamens can fuse together to make a ring, such as in milkweeds.
Ovaries come in all sorts of shapes and positions on the plant. They can have one or more ovules inside, with all kinds of arrangements. Two or more ovaries may fuse to make a multicarpellate structure with partitions inside.
All these permutations have names and descriptions, and I’ve mentioned many of the names you encounter when looking at a botanical key.
Quite a few dicots have given up on insects and other animals as pollinators and their flowers have become modified to catch the wind and drive the pollen to the female flower which itself is modified to do the catching. Oak trees, and their relatives, for instance, use wind pollination, and have lost or reduced or modified many of the features of the minimalist dicot flower that I show above. Most people identify oak trees by features other than their flowers, so I won’t go into that at this point.
We’ll do less showy flowers, as exemplified by grasses and by sedges and complete with my own drawings, lifted from nobody, tomorrow!
Wednesday: 10 May 2006
I didn’t hear the altercation, but Glenn says he heard the sound, and then immediately after one of the cats, apparently Squit, screamed.
Squit’s not coming down, unh-uh, no way. He seems ok, though.
Tuesday: 9 May 2006
|"Variable" here doesn’t mean that the plant itself has a range of appearances; it means that it resembles closely some other species. The commutatum epithet is used to indicate this. Glenn thinks the species that this one resembles is probably D. latifolium, Broadleaf Rosette Grass.|
These grasses are, of course, all in the big family Poaceae. Al lot of the Dichanthelium species have been moved there but used to be called Panicum.
This particular one grows singly or in small patches, down in the rich woods soil. The inflorescence is a panicle, hence the old name Panicum, or panicgrass.
Deer don’t seem to care for this grass (in general they don’t eat grasses at all; deer are not grazers, they’re browsers). Caterpillars of a large number of butterfly and moth species use grasses for their larval host food and for overwintering on or under.
In our ongoing effort to find shade-loving grasses we bring it to your attention and our records along with some other species we’ve noted or discussed: Brachyelytrum erectum (Bearded shorthusk), Chasmanthium laxum (Slender Woodoats), and Vulpia octoflora (Six-weeks Fescue), and Dichanthelium clandestinum (Deertongue). To this list we could add a number Carex (sedge) species.
Monday: 8 May 2006
In this case I had noticed the blocking vegetation and removed it to take a few more, but of course none of THOSE turned out. This was right after I startled a large water snake who took off to the creek a little too fast for me to get anything more of him than a fuzzy image of his retreating behind. One of those days.
(By the way - notice how *cleverly* I made use of an embarrassingly flawed photo, by sucking you into a sob story. Waste not want not. Lemonade!)
So the bristly fellow here is perhaps two inches long, fairly sizeable. I’m guessing he’s a tiger moth caterpillar - one of the Arctiidae. He doesn’t show the underlying red bands of a Giant Leopard Moth, and I didn’t test him to see if he rolled into a ball. There is some resemblance of the caterpillar to the Virgin Tiger Moth, but those pictures don’t show that appealing, apparently astonished cute face that mine does, despite its other flaws.
By the way, I recall that there are a few species of tiger moth cats that do have stinging bristles. Don’t know about this one; Glenn wasn’t there to test it.
How close am I?
Sunday: 7 May 2006
|VLG is in the bluebell family, Campanulaceae, which also includes lobelias and cardinal flowers. It used to go by the lyrical and evocative Specularia perfoliata, but now it’s the curt and harsh Triodanis perfoliata. Woe.|
This is a little sun-loving annual, about 8-12" high. The leaves are clasping about the stem, hence the name, and the small flowers will sequentially emerge from those leaf axils from top to bottom. It seems to do quite well in drier areas.
The nice thing is that it occurs through the continental US, so it’s a probable sign of a certain point of spring that we can all see. We could call it the Looking Glass Point of Spring. When do you reach it?
Full Spring here means that the woods have closed up now. The understory is completely shaded, and you can’t see very far. Here’s what the hollow at Sparkleberrysprings Creek looked like in January.
And here’s what it looks like now, viewed from farther up the slope of the hollow. Tick city! Actually the ticks aren’t that bad. Yet. I only had to deal with one from yesterday’s walk. But the deerflies are emerging too.
The green leafy shrubs in the understory include painted buckeye, azaleas, and some redbuds and dogwoods. The trees along the slope include northern red oak, white oak, tulip poplar, and American beech, with a few sourwoods thrown in for flavor.
Down to Goulding Creek, this grass skipper was resting on a Crown-beard leaf. As far as I can figure grass skippers are so named because the larvae have a preference for various grasses such as bluestem or panic grass. He was too jumpy for me to get a ventral view, but I think he’s probably a Poanes species, a first for me. Perhaps a Hobomak Skipper? OR Broad-winged Skipper? Maybe Yehl Skipper.
If anyone knows, let me know!
Saturday: 6 May 2006
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, my original post is here and Thingfish23 has hosted an extensive discussion of the points in several posts at Taming of the Band-Aid. Briefly, we’ve had a problem with Garden Voices monitoring RSS feed and pulling entire posts off and reblogging them on their own advertising site, without permission. That’s the ethical issue, and an additional practical one, for me at least, is that they’ve hotlinked to all the photos, thereby charging me for the privilege of being reblogged. Yowzer! What a deal! But see below for the numbers.
(In my previous post last week, I never identified the reblogger or the manager, preferring to write only in general terms. She let slip that she knew exactly who I was talking about though, so I feel ok in revealing the identity here. Just sayin'.)
I wrote GV last week outlining the problem. I offered a number of constructive suggestions that might have allowed us to reach a compromise, and received only a response commenting on the deficiencies of my personality while ignoring the beam in their own eye. You’ll find the unaltered text of my email to GV here, amid the comments at TF23’s blog. I don’t think anyone would disagree that it’s an extremely polite email.
After waiting a week through three requests for GV to cease reblogging my posts (which they did, sort of) and to remove the link to Niches and to take down the posts and photos they had reblogged (which they didn’t), I implemented my own version of Thingfish’s Nuclear Option. By the way, I wouldn’t normally ever post, and have never yet posted, email from others, but WILL make an exception if I get further flack from GV or its multitudinous affiliates.
It took a little while to educate myself on hotlinking and .htaccess files but the internets are full of exciting information from fellow victims. In the end I successfully wrote a few lines of script that turn off hotlinking except for my own site and a few others, replacing the stolen photos with a little gif of my own choosing. Thus, scattered about the internets, but concentrated especially in the bowels of GV, are little bombs just waiting to go off when someone looks at them.
It’s rather dramatic to go to one of my posts that GV has reblogged and watch a half dozen of these little gif bombs scroll down the page. Here’s an example. Get it while it’s hot, and before it’s not. I rather suspect that this extreme measure will give them the incentive to finally remove my posts.
Note the sophistocated advertising at the top - it changes every time you reload the page. And now they have a cute little advertising banner that floats across the page, demanding your attention. And by the way, before anyone asks, the screenshot is NOT hotlinked, but I betcha I get a complaint from GV that I’m stealing their content , and wouldn’t that be the height of irony? More fun: should they demand I remove the above screenshot which documents at least 50% of my stolen material, I can guarantee I’ll replace it with something even more embarrassing to them.
Fortunately for me I have access to the files and folders on sparkleberrysprings.com, so I can modify them. Unfortunately most people uploading images to free host sites don’t have that kind of access so this solution won’t work for them. On the other hand at least they don’t have to pay the bills and maybe those free photo storage sites would appreciate an alert. Those sites are being charged and might be amenable to placing an option for you to turn off hotlinking if you want.
Just to document the extent of the problem for me (and to answer those who think GV is doing Niches a favor by giving us exposure), here’s the breakdown of the numbers for the last two months, since the end of February when GV started reblogging my posts without permission.
In the month of March, when this started, our *site* (not the blog) received over 7000 hits from GV viewers downloading a total of 2.5 gigabytes of download (38.7% of our traffic).
In April so far our site (not the blog) received 6500 hits from GV, downloading a total of 2.4 GB (44.1% of our traffic).
I estimate that the blog has received no more than, and probably much fewer than 200 visits from GV (a very liberal estimate of 3 per day). None has ever commented that I know of; certainly none has ever contacted me.
If you want to talk about the efficiency of exposure, it’s 200/13500 = 1.5%. That’s how much I benefit from GV. 1.5 people visit my blog for every 100 that view a GV page that somewhere on it includes a post from me, while GV hits me for a total of 4.9 GB of download.
I guess it depends on whether you think 1.5% is good or bad. 1.5% efficiency would probably get anyone else fired. So as an involuntary “source”, I fired them.
And then there’s the point that in fact your work and writing may not be getting recognized, when it’s reblogged. Then too, since your work is being dispersed, it becomes more likely that it will be plagiarized. There’s plenty of nice folks out there willing to do that.
Finally for those who think 4.9 GB over 2 months is trivial, remember this is the figure for ONE reblog for ONE target (me). Imagine ten rebloggers, or more! Imagine a free image hosting site hosting 100 bloggers uploading photographs while 10 rebloggers are downloading them! 1000 X 2.5 GB per month!
I realize that most folks, while perhaps sympathetic, don’t see this as their problem. I also realize that there are folks who like Garden Voices and its parent site Gardenwebs, and iVillage that owns them and is itself about to be taken over by NBC Universal and that’s perfectly fine. I understand that not everyone feels this way, and have no problem with that. I’m glad I was able to take care of the hotlinking problem for myself at least, and to continue working on the issue of reblogging.
Endnote for those who upload their photos to a free site: Investigate creating your own domain name and purchasing an account at a host site. We’ve used Startlogic for two years and have received exemplary service. The prologic option is $5 per month, from my understanding, which gives you 15GB of space for photos and 250 GB of bandwidth for downloading. It costs a little to buy a domain name. Your own hosting site will give you access to the files and folders and will allow you to turn off hotlinking. And Startlogic provides quite a lot of software for running things like a blog (although you can continue to do that on blogger, for instance), message boards, online stores, and other things. There’s plenty of other hosting sites; this is the one that I can recommend.
Friday: 5 May 2006
A few weeks ago we dissected a flower of Yellow Pitcher Plants, Sarracenia flava. These are Purple Pitcher Plants, Sarracenia purpurea. They are the ones most likely to be seen in the northern US - the other species are largely confined to the southeast.
The flowers have the same overall structure of the yellow pitchers, but differ in color.
The pitchers are quite different, however. Besides being much smaller, they lack the distinct hood that protects the pitcher from accumulating too much rainwater.
It was probably a mistake to plant all these pitcher species together. Pitcher plants hybridize freely, and the hybrids have their own names. This chart shows the hybrids that can be formed between different species, and their names.
Niches may be on and off today - or it may not. There’s a transfer of the site being made internally at our host site, so don’t be surprised if you can’t connect for a time.
Thursday: 4 May 2006
Here, at least once again, is my once-a-month summary of monthly temperatures, here in Athens and US-wide. You might recall that January overall was very warm for much of the country, February and March were fairly normal, and now April is found to be warmer than average.
From the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, this is a plot of mean temperature anomalies for the US. That’s the difference in the average temperature for this April above or below the average for April over many years, plotted in colors. The anomalies are in Fahrenheit.
Most of the country east of the Rockies experienced average temperatures 4-6 degrees higher than usual for April. A few scattered regions were 6-10 degrees higher than normal, and in New England and along the Atlantic coast and Florida temperatures were 0-2 degrees higher than normal.
West of the Rockies, temperatures were more or less normal, or perhaps a couple of degrees below normal.
Here are my plots of high and low temperatures for the month of April in Athens. The black dots are for the 15 years 1990-2004 (black dots), 2006 (green line), and 2005 (red line).
We had three spells of warm weather at the beginning, end, and middle of April. On only two nights in April did temperatures fall significantly below normal. We’ve had 11 days of above normal temperatures (>1 standard deviation above the normal high) and only 2 nights of cooler than normal temperatures. Only in 1999 was this number of higher than normal days matched.
NOAA’s weekly ENSO update tell us that the La Nina conditions of the last three months have pretty much returned to normal, maybe to a very weak La Nina condition. They expect ENSO conditions to remain normal for the rest of 2006.
Wednesday: 3 May 2006
|Vermin also decided to come *into* the house through the adjoining door, and led us on a merry chase for fifteen minutes before we chased him back out. |
Vermin knows how to use the cat door, and that’s the problem.
|Last night, Vermin got into the house again, while Glenn was in charge doing both photography and animal rescue. Fortunately it’s a simple three step operation in this case: |
The cats really think possums are disgusting.
Tuesday: 2 May 2006
Onward, and as you can see I’m making my first attempts at watermarking the photos. And there’s something called digimarking which I’ve just encountered and that adobe photoshop can do. Yes, I know, I’m really naive, but surely that is part of my charm:
When we first started the lab, way back in 1983, we were working on seed proteins and cloned DNA in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). We became interested in the mallow family (Malvaceae) in general and began collecting wild mallows and cheeses, as well as most of all nearly 50 species of wild and domesticated cottons (yes, there are wild cottons!). One of our first little cheeses, so named because of the wheelike fruits, was this one:
It’s Carolina Bristlemallow, Modiola caroliniana. It’s probably one of those little native plants that a lot of people think of as lawn weeds. It is a creeping plant that is drought resistant and therefore useful in xeriscaping, and is in fact found in the southwestern as well as the southeastern US.
It’s also a fairly fast grower, so depending on your priorities, it could be a great little groundcover, or a mild pain in the neck. I’ve generally found it useful in dry places and on steep hillsides.
It does however make beautiful, tiny flowers with an unusual color patterning.
Like all the plants of Malvaceae, this one has a lot of evolutionarily primitive characteristics: whorled petals and tons of stamens.
Now here’s two specimens that I came across down in the moist, completely shaded understory near Sparkleberrysprings Creek. I’m keeping an eye on them to see what they do, but in the meantime am curious to see if anyone knows what they might be. Neither were in great abundance.
This one is a viny little thing, growing out of a crack in a rock embedded in the soil. It could be a bindweed, but doesn’t look quite like that to me.
This one is a single leaf emerging from the soil. I don’t think it’s an adder’s tongue. It has an orchidy appearance to it, and I’d love to imagine it’s a lady’s slipper but it doesn’t have the curved appearance to it.
Monday: 1 May 2006
Here’s how the fairy ring looked last November. It looks bare, but it isn’t. There’s winter annuals and perennials beginning to come up, and lots of mosses:
Here’s how the fairy ring looked in mid-March, six weeks ago. The native volunteer, Vulpia octoflora, Six-weeks Fescue, is beginning to become evident:
Yesterday I shoved the camera onto Glenn and kicked him out of the house with express instructions to wander about the woods and use his much more discerning eyes to detect and collect new species. He came back six hours later with about two dozen new things, and also took this photo of the fairy ring:
The six-weeks fescue is now lush and knee-high and making inflorescences. I suppose if we lived in a suburban neighborhood, the neighbors would be taking up a petition and giving us nasty looks for not mowing. As it is, I can only imagine how many butterflies and moths are laying eggs and emerging, and how many birds and small mammals are using this well-covered, seed-producing area. And snakes too, almost certainly!
In about a month the fescue will die back in the heat of encroaching summer, and will fall to the ground in clumps and swaths. But as it does, a whole new set of summer-loving plants will come through the dieback, just in time for another photograph!