Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday observations and thoughts

 My favorite Milkweed observation site this summer has been on the western end of Chandler Road.  That's the first patch where I found the Red Milkweed Beetles emerging.  A couple of weeks ago the plants were at their peak of blooming and almost all of the beetles I saw were mating.  The Showy Milkweed has one of the nicest fragrances of all wildflowers.  I stop at this spot daily on my way to camp, and this morning there were still a few active Milkweed Beetles.  The flowers have wilted and the seedpods are beginning to develop.  In a few more weeks the release of the seeds to the wind will be a new photo opportunity.

 Another place I check often is a patch of Indian Hemp on the side of the road going into camp.  When I pass by in the morning, this particular patch is always in the shade and there's no insect activity.  By mid-morning, the sun has landed on the flowers and the insect activity has begun.  Today I thought I'd check around 11:00 a.m. to see if there any Thread-waisted Wasps on the flowers, and I was rewarded.  This scary-looking (to the uninformed) wasp feeds on the flowers and is no threat to humans.   

This next one is an outlier.  That is, it's most likely an escaped cultivar.  I have been watching one small patch of it in a hidden place under creek side willows and alders for several years.  It had puzzled me and fellow naturalist Rex Burress until another naturalist, Sandy Steinman, identified it for us.  It's Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia.  It can be purchased at many nurseries and on line.  In this very dry summer, it's not doing so well.  In fact, the photo below is of the only healthy-looking plant remaining, and it looks like it won't bloom this year.  The flowers would be yellow.
The Indian Hemp, in the family Apocynaceae, has been combined with the Milkweeds, formerly in family Asclepiadaceae, and here's some of the evidence.  It doesn't "bleed" as profusely as the traditional milkweeds in the genus Asclepias, but it's nevertheless convincing to the people who come on my nature hikes.  This milky fluid is toxic to humans, but apparently not to all other animals.
The Fireweed is still in full bloom and looking fresh, at least in this shady spot along the road into Oakland Camp.
Further down the road I checked various patches of Brewer's Angelica, and on this one I found what appeared to be a different species of Thread-waisted Wasp.  These two might have been courting.

Then, on a plant I've been watching for over two weeks, the Goldenrod Crab Spider I first spotted on July 1 was still there today.  In the first photo, she was still hiding, but with a little encouragement
from a stick she showed herself for a better photo.  There was also a Spotted Ambush Bug on this plant and I wondered if the spider would discover it, or if it would discover the spider.  I'll check again tomorrow.
Somehow this dried up Mule's Ears full of seeds appealed to my camera.
I found just one specimen of Rose Campion on the dirt road by Berry Creek.  How does one plant get to a place like this.  Wind?  Help from birds?  A remnant from a bed of them at a former dwelling?  If so, there should be some other artifacts around.  This plant is common in gardens in town, but it is startling to find just one in the dense forest.
For some reason, I seldom photograph the California Poppy.  Maybe it's because it seems almost like a postcard cliche.  I can't really take a unique photo of a poppy.  They've all been taken.  But this one got to me.  I guess I liked the lighting which made it easy to get a black background.  And I like the shadows cast by the anthers.

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