Sunday, April 22, 2018

This Month and a Half in Anting

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Winter 3 Finally Coming to an End

A week ago the weatherman announced "Winter is coming... again!" and we got a nor'easter that brought up to 18 inches in some places. Between my home in Somerdale, NJ and where I work in Cinnaminson we got between 4' and 12'. What makes the storm odd though is because we're so late into March, the next three days had a high above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. So this was something of a freak, late season storm. In spite of this though not much was damaged.

Out in the meadow garden the Camassia, Wild Hyacinth, have been giving off their own heat and melting the snow around them.

Once the ground is exposed around them the snow will melt more quickly as the ground warms up.

Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica, doesn't do this as well but also doesn't seem that effected by the snow.

Crocuses have been flowering in force and were in full bloom when the snow started to fall. Most of the flowers were damaged to some degree as they had to remain closed up until the snow melted around them.

They're not native to North America but do well here in both lawns and gardens. They're indigenous to the mountains of northern Europe and are often seen flowering when early in the season when weather conditions force other plants to stay below ground.

Though pretty, at some point I intend to move them all out of the garden and into the lawn. After flowering their grass-like foliage blends right in with the other grasses. And they hold up to mowing for a time as well. Eventually they do go dormant over the summer but in the spring time the foliage gets in the way of other plants I'd like to be growing and need to find space for.

Trilliums are one such plant I think are more worthy of the garden and have been coming up through the snow just as well. The three leaves to each plant remain tightly coiled around the precious flower bud within. They're mono-floral, meaning one flower per plant, per year so it's protection is of the upmost importance. 

Another Trillium bravely poking its head out through the snow. They won't really be flowering until the first or second week of May here but just south of us at the Mt. Cuba Center in DE they'll be blooming around the last week of April.

Another native that's an early bloomer is this Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla. It's a short lived flower but a pretty one.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

This Week in Anting 09/16/2017

 This week I got to try PawPaws for the first time ever and Lasius neoniger flew! 

Asimina triloba is the northern most member of the custard apple family which is largely tropical. This is the only species native to the United States and one of the few host plants to the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly. The flowers are pollinated by small vinegar flies and are supposed to require a second cultivar or genetically different tree of the same species in order to produce fruit.... but this is the only tree in my yard and probably the only tree in the whole county. It would seem this cultivar is semi-self fertile. The tree is roughly 12' tall and produced 12 sizable fruits though not on every branch that flowered. Presumably had there been a genetically different tree nearby it would have made even more fruit. (It's either 'Sunflower' or 'Pennsylvania Gold')

The smell is amazing when ripe or slightly damaged. The fruits perfume the air with a fragrance that leaves one assuming some sort of Banana and Orange factory has exploded somewhere. It's very potent and alerts the homeowners, hikers, and wildlife that the fruit is ready. 

The inside texture is somewhat gooey verging on vanilla pudding except for the fairly large and flat seeds with are like skipping stones or pebbles. The taste of a slightly unripe one is that of bananas with hints of cantaloupe (or musk melon as it's known in most of the world). A fully ripe one tastes more like a really sweet banana with a candy-like quality to them. It's a shame this fruit has such a short shelf life of about a day and a half because that's been the main reason it hasn't become main stream. (When they are for sale they can sometimes go for $15 a pound!)

 Fruit such as this is intended to be eaten by animals and carried away from the tree in the wild. If it just falls to the ground though it falls on other creatures to then remove the fruit and free the seeds within. Fungus and mold will do the job otherwise but may also destroy the seeds within.

 Members of what must be a very happy Prenolepis imparis colony spent the day cutting up the fruit and hauling it home after most of the workers had engorged themselves on it.

 A fairly decent anatomy pic showing off the acidopore, a slightly tuft of hairs at the tip of the gaster/abdomen. This is a key trait when identifying ants in the subfamily Formicinae and a conclusive way to tell them apart from members of Dolichoderinae.

 Another good anatomy shot. Here the tiny waist segment is clearly visible separating the gaster from the mesosoma.

 Brachymyrmex dipilis was also flying that day. This is one of the smallest ants in the U.S.