Monday, April 10, 2017

Bloodroot and Blue Hepatica

The patch of Bloodroot in the front garden had a few more flowering plants come up. You can see how leaf grasps the stem to help keep it safe. They only lasted three days this year, the Twinleaf actually lasted longer! 

If I ever get more Blue Hepatica I'll be sure to plant it around the Bloodroot. The combination of the big white flowers of Bloodroot and the small ones of the Hepatica would be a nice combination. Though I don't think they could be mixed together very much as the Bloodroot would likely shade the Hepatica out... though the Hepatica is evergreen...

Hepatic flowers for a longer time and slowly changes color. Pictured here is the same flower as the one above it, but a day sooner. You can see how they start to fade over time.

My second Blue Hepatica has more flowers on it this year than it did last. Neither is in good shape but hopefully this is sign they're starting to establish. When they were all planted in the front yard they did start to reseed.


The majority of my plants have either white or pink flowers to them. Which I'm pretty sure are also the ones that reseed regularly as they tend to have far more flowers. They're pretty but I can only take so many white flowering plants. Need something to break up the monotint especially with such a large clump of Stonecrop right next to them which will turn into a carpet of white flowers in a week or two. 


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Eastern Comma on Native Plum

I found an Eastern Comma on my Native Plum today.


Polygonia comma is a species literally named for it's two C or   ,    shaped marks on the underside of it's rear wings. A similar-looking species, Polygonia interrogationis is known as the Question mark because of a break in the C shape, making them look more like question marks.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Bloodroot

A few years ago I threw a packet of Bloodroot seeds out in the front garden. I dug a little trench and planted them, and two years later I started to see very tiny leaves poking out of the ground. One leaf per plant. They remained this small size for two more years and then suddenly one or two made the jump to a great big leaf more typical of the species. 

This year three of those plants have decided to flower which is great, but also I'll say so far none of the others have emerged... of the whole seed packet maybe only three have survived. What's odd though is that last year one may have flowers because I found one with a seed head. But this one plant has yet to emerge, whereas the three I see flowering today I didn't even notice last year and I find this to be odd. Perhaps rodents or something are making off with the young shoots before the plants have a chance to grow?

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is in the poppy family. The flowers only produce pollen and don't have any nectar or floral oils of note. So you'll never see Bloodroot Honey being sold unless someone is grinding up the root and physically mixing it in with the honey, which begs the question, why?

The flowers to the true species the true species are short lived, lasting about three "good" days. If the flower stays closed due to rain or it being too cloudy, it doesn't seem to count towards the three days. I believe there are cultivars which bloom slightly longer which tend to be "double flowering" but this term is a little tenuous. 

All three of my Bloodroot plants are technically "double flowering" because they have more than 8 petals, which is what you find in established plants in the wild. No plant wants to be "double flowering" because it means they're producing more petals instead of reproductive structures, and thus won't make as many seeds. Plants do this when they're not getting the right nutrients or enough of them in the soil. It's the plant's way of cutting its losses, but can get to the point where they don't have any reproductive structures at all. 

This isn't restricted to Bloodroot. A flame Azalea I bought at Lowes actually came that way, very likely because in the 7 years it takes a nursery to grow a shrub to a sell-able size it wasn't fertilized enough. The following year it flowered normally though so it may have been stressed. 

So clearly "double flowering" is a nutrient issue... yet there are cultivars that are reliably "double flowering." This is because the plant likely has a mutation which hinders it's own ability to take in certain nutrients. This also means this cultivar can't be propagated by seed. That's not to say that they don't produce seeds, rather and the inability to take in certain nutrients is likely from a recessive gene, so the plant has to be reproduced by cuttings or division of the roots. 

Coming back to my Bloodroot plants, hopefully their rhizomes get a chance to spread out and grow into a nice sized clump. Ants actually disperse the seeds to these plants, so hopefully I'll get to play around with that later this year. This is the main reason I'm growing this and several other native ephemerals.

In the past, I've bought Bloodroot plants as bare roots. These grew the first year and flowered, but sadly something came along and ate all of them. Which is annoying. I've noticed with several species though that plants started from seed tend to fair better and aren't devoured by wildlife as much.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Twinleaf


 Twinleaf is flowering, Jeffersonia diphylla.

One of the most fleeting of our spring wildflowers, they only bloom for between 8 hours to 2 days, and that's it for the year!

This one plant in particular is flowering sooner than other ones in my yard, likely because it's positioned in full sun and not in a place where leaf litter piled up. I don't bother to remove the leaves from my gardens and use them as a natural mulch; even so, they still tend to gather up or blow out in places. Twinleaf plants that are only a few feet away from this one have only just pushed out of the ground.


Pollination has always been an issue for this species. The flowers basically open with the pollen anthers touching the stamin so they almost always self pollinate. I'd love to test out and see if cross pollination would increase the size of the elaiosome packets on the seeds but rarely get more than one individual plant flowering.

Just a few feet away, other Twinleaf plants are just emerging. Clearly I should have put them all as one clump instead of spreading them out as I did. You wouldn't think 3' would make that much of a difference in bloom time but for this species it does. The slightest difference in sun exposure and leaf litter greatly effects when they emerge. And for a species with such a short flowering time, it's an issue. 

This one is just coming up with it's bud and likely won't even flower for another week or two. By then the first plant will have faded.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This Week in Anting 03/23/2017


Ants in Order of Appearance: Formica pallidefulva, Tetramorium caespitum (species e.), Ponera pennsylvanica, Lasius interjectus.

Focusing on the Lasius interjectus a bit. I was surprised to see these under the stone because other species like Aphaenogaster rudis and Camponotus castaneus were no where to be found under the rocks and logs I usually find them on. Apparently L. interjectus is a bit more cold hardy than I gave them credit far though it's not surprising as the related L. claviger has queens which spend the winter wondering out of the nest.

You can sort of make out her one of their root aphids producing dew. (This was directly in the middle of the stone they were under so I don't think I squished it.)

I chanced upon a worker with a curious gaster (abdomen) which has a large white patch in it. As you can see in all my other photos, this is not the norm.

Most likely it's just full of honeydew and the crop (social stomach) is positioned oddly inside the ant. Though other possibilities include a parasitic nematode, the worker was born with ovaries and is readying to produce eggs, or maybe I'm just seeing things.

The Twinleaf plant featured in the video a few days ago, Jeffersonia diphylla. I'll be sure to take pictures when it opens.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Camponotus chromaiodes colony 03/19/2017




A colony of Camponotus chromaiodes which I obtained last August has started to wake up. The workers have started foraging and exploring their setup, which is nothing impressive. I'll be moving them to a new setup in a few weeks.

Also their brood has started developing again. Lots of ants have different strategies to survive the winter. For Camponotus their larva simply stop developing, remaining in the size as the two on the right. As food becomes available to them though they begin to develop.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Plant List, So Far

Around this time each year I start to form a plant list. I don't bother with a whole lot of seeds except for annuals like Sunflowers and filler annuals I like more for sentimental reasons and color. The focus is more on plugs and bare roots, often things that will flower in late summer and autumn.

Phlox 'jeana'
I don't have actual photos of this cultivar, but  I was at the Mt. Cuba Center in the fall where they're currently doing a trial run of basically all the true species and cultivars on the market today. They said of all of the verities available this one had twice as many butterflies on it compared to all the rest. They noted the flowers were smaller than most other Phlox which likely makes it easier for the butterflies to work, but other factors like nectar quality and fragrance probably also play a roll. A failing might be that it's otherwise fairly average besides. Flowering wise I'm told other verities did better at offering blooms later int he year so it's still good to diversify. I'm looking forward to their complete trial when it's released in the next year or two.


Ironweed, Vernonia angustifolia 'Plum Peachy'
This perennial turns into a bush of purple flowers in late summer.

I tried planting it in the autumn once but it failed to survive the winter. I think if I plant it in the spring it will have a better chance of establishing.



Aster leavis, 'Bluebird' (actually this is Symphyotrichum leavis but no one seems to care.)
My picture really doesn't do this plant any justice. I have a few planted and love them all, sadly they're not in the most photogenic of places. The one I have nest to a tree with a bird feeder next to it so the squirrels are always snapping the stems off the thing. Even with several dozen stems snapped though it still manages to impress me with tall pyramids of flowers. The perfect compliment to Showy Goldenrod.


Cliff Goldenrod, Solidago drummondii
I bought this plant from some random nursery online and didn't expect much of it. Now that it's established I'm surprised it's not more popular. A failing, if you can call it that, is it forms a rosette of leaves with a couple dozen stems arching out in all directions. The stems tend to get a little long and arch all the way to the ground. I think it's because of the soil I'm growing it in though, too rich. In nature I believe this is meant to be a rock garden plant (hence the name) where the soils tend to be nutrient deprived.


Stiff Goldenrod, Solidago rigida, Actually what's pictured above is Seaside Goldenrod but the two species look similar. They still have broad leaves at the bottom, but Stiff Goldenrod has more flat top flower heads.


Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa
This plant lives up to its name very well.... when it grows right. I bought it because I needed plants for my meadow garden which is dry clay but after flowering great for two years the plants slowly petered out. It's either a short lived perennial or benefits from slightly wetter conditions. Whatever the case I'm willing to give it another chance, perhaps in a more formal setting.



Meadow Blazing Star, Liatris ligulistylis
Same issue as the Showy Goldenrod. I plant these in the Meadow Garden and they do great for two years (being a biannual) but don't reseed on their own. I do have one that has lasted the test of time but it's planted next to our pond. So I'm thinking if I plant more of them in slightly wetter locations, they'll do better.


Bush's Poppy Mallow, Callirhoe bushii
This is a fantastic burst of color. Originally I was against planting these because it's not really a true meadow plant, at least not a plant everyone instantly thinks of when they think of a short grass prairie. Their distribution threw out the US is somewhat limited as well (to the point of being threatened in the wild). Something I noticed about the plant though is that they do well in dry conditions.... making it the perfect candidate for my meadow garden where few other natives seem to be able to establish.


I'm also tempted to buy a second Button Bush. The one I currently have is doing okay, but has a dead limb or two I need to cut out. Also I saw it advertised for in an actual garden brochure I got in the mail. This species is rarely sold and I'd like to support that. I would liken it to Butterfly Bush in terms of attention but it has a far more limited bloom time.


Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Project Goals

Due to setbacks this past year I wasn't quite able to get out any new ant or bee related videos, at least not of a decent length. I have footage but it's not really enough to call an episode and barely enough to call a segment of something bigger. So for this up coming year I hope to get more footage on a variety of topics to flesh out these segments.

A Video of Wildflowers
I grow a number of these in my yard and they're beautiful though my yard isn't the prettiest setting for a video, hence a lot of my macro heavy photos of them. I'll also likely be visiting the Mt. Cuba Center for more material on this. I may even title the video Wildflowers of the Mt. Cuba Center because that place has been nothing but brilliant inspiration.

Another thing I'd love to do one year is set out baits at the Mt. Cuba Center to see what species of ants they have in the woodland gardens. They are technically gardens but mostly planted as a woodland setting in sweeps to look somewhat natural. So it's not really simulating a garden but also not really simulating nature as we'd find it; it's something all its own in a lot of places. So I think that would be neat do a quick survey of. (I doubt they'd let me chop into logs and things for the more cryptic hunting species but these don't have much to do with "living" plants anyway.) 

More Myrmecochory updates.
My wildflowers has been flourishing the past couple of years with small patches of it growing to look slightly Mt. Cuba-esque. Several new plants have started to sprout as a result of ants planting the seeds. It will only truly be rewarding for me when some of these plants make it to a flowering age, such as the very young Trilliums that have started coming up but we're still a few years off from that. 

Exploring A Rotting Stump.
Almost a decade ago we had a Norway Maple chopped down and reduced to a waste high stump. It's now teaming with life including some rather hard to find ant species. I'd love to film more of this and do a video about it to show you all.

Lastly over this past year I started walking my dog at a different time of day. And I found out that just by doing that I was finding all sorts of ant species having nuptial flights, often with queen ants and males landing directly on me. One thing about the hobby a lot of people don't seem to get is just how easy it can be to find a queen ant. I'll admit though it does take some devotion. I might get a new point and shoot camera just for this task.

Anyway those are my 2017 goals. I hope I'm able to bring them all of them to life in the coming year.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

I Survived 2016

Well this has probably been the worst year in recent memory.


On A Personal Level:
My grandfather passed away over the summer and I found myself saying things I never thought I would have. Things like "I don't want to stay for the whole funeral. I was there when they pulled the plug on him on that's more than several of my cousins can say." To put that into context I was just going to pay my respects to my grandmother and graciously then leave. Instead what happened was I was lined up with other family members and had to shake hands over three-hundred friends of the family including a couple dozen servicemen and fire fighters. To enter the parking lot you had to drive under two ladder truck with the American flag hanging between them. There were two chaplains who each had something to say, neither wishing to graciously step down as both had been tremendous friends with my grandfather. The only odd moment came when it was time for two military personnel to preform the flag ceremony. They were a man of color and a women which was presumable intentional, though that wasn't the odd part. He'd been cremated so there was no casket for the flag to be laid upon before hand, thus it was already folded... so a room of 300 plus people watched two military personal unfold a flag, then fold it back up again. 

At the reception I had to face a grim realization. When I posted the details of my grandfather's funeral on Facebook it received 91 likes and an uncounted number of comments of support and condolences.. of whom only one person attended from my social circle. Oddly enough it was the one person who I made the above statement to. He saved me a seat and stayed with me the whole night. He took pictures of everything and even tried to get some of his friends to stop by. 


On A Political Level:
Hopefully four years from now we'll be able to look back and laugh. You know, like that time the president made fun of cripples and grabbing women inappropriately. Not that Hillary Clinton was any prize. She offered nothing more than what Bernie Sanders wasn't offering in spade. And my friends were personally screwed over by the DNC for supporting Bernie and getting his name on the ballet. WHY they were even invited to Hillary's announcement celebration only to be kicked out by seat fillers simply because they went to use the rest room just shows how stupid political parties can get.

In a nut shell, no matter who the president is, they are virtually powerless to do anything without the Senate and House of Representatives under the control of the same political party. Even if Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic ticket and won the election, I don't believe for one second that he could have done half the stuff he promised he would do. Hillary Clinton may not have been perfect but at least the crap being said about her sounded like something that would happen to a politician.

I don't understand the E-mail controversy and hope not to. I know this sounds odd but I really don't care about the content of her E-mails. The fact that her E-mails were able to be leaked in the first place is the Red Flag that makes her unfit to be president. Whether it was just spam she was receiving or the nuclear launch codes, this shouldn't be getting out there. On the other hand though I was hearing people saying things like "She is directly responsible for the deaths of ...." however many people died. No, that would be like saying anyone who gets hacked is directly funding terrorism.

Anyway the election is over and Donald Trump is president which may or may not have been because Russia hacked the system, or maybe more likely Facebook algorithms keep people trapped inside of social network vacuums. Now that the election is over it's WAY more apparent to me. All the people who were writing those articles to push the buttons of people to get them to click their articles didn't know how to write actual news so they're still harping on the same old issues. I've made it a habit to remove these sources from my Facebook feed. It's really odd turning on CNN and hearing them report on Trump saying something that actually sounded like he'd make a great leader, instead of articles saying what he Tweeted at 4:00am.


Lastly, it was made clear to me that that gun ownership is a religion and I will treat it as such in the future.