Black mushroom and milkweed seeds

I went for a walk in the woods looking for colourful fungi, but there are none left that I can find.

I did find this black one, though.

Black mushroom
Black mushroom

Then I took some pictures of milkweed seeds.  Any monarch butterflies coming this far north next year should find plenty of plants to lay eggs on.

Milkweed seeds
Milkweed seeds
Milkweed seeds 2
Milkweed seeds 2
Milkweed seeds 3
Milkweed seeds 3

 

Garden flowers and Pearl Crescent butterfly

A few of the flowers hidden among the weeds in my garden, a Pearl Crescent butterfly and a bird-table spat.

After my recent post on my totally overgrown weed patch, I thought I should say that, hidden among the 75cm (30″) weed jungle, I do have a few flowers.
This one was a miniature rose which was a gift as a potted plant a few years ago and has done much better than the bigger roses which are easily found by pests. Hiding in the weeds has advantages as this one now has ten flowers.

Miniature rose
Miniature rose

This Gaillardia is almost as bright and easily raised from seed and it self-seeds so one package lasts for years, even though the individual plants only last a few years.

Gaillardia
Gaillardia

Someone gave me a small piece of stonecrop, a succulent, many years ago. It has now spread all over, wherever it is too dry and sandy for much else as it is easily overshadowed in which case it dies.  But it is very prolific in flowers in late June/early July:

Stonecrop
Stonecrop

This verbascum is a relative of the wild mullein and flowers a little earlier.  I think the individual flowers could be inspiration for a crazy-looking hat.

Verbascum
Verbascum

The milkweed is wild but I let it grow in most of the places it comes up, so the Monarch butterflies have somewhere to lay their eggs.  I think I saw some this week but they didn’t land for long enough for me to tell them from the Viceroys.  But the flowers are an interesting shape and texture if you look closely.  I’ll look out for some domesticated milkweeds that come in more vibrant colours.

Milkweed flower
Milkweed flower

Speaking of butterflies, here is a smaller one with the same colour scheme, different pattern, the Pearl Crescent.  Its caterpillars like daisies but I’m sure they’ll stick to the wild ones and not munch on my Gaillardia and Painted Daisies.

Pearl Crescent Butterfly
Pearl Crescent Butterfly

Finally, here are some birds displaying poor table manners.

Table manners
Table manners

The red-winged blackbird always gets its way, even though other birds are bigger.  The middle bird is the female – they are nesting in the bulrushes next door.  The mourning dove usually raises one wing to tell other birds to leave while it is feeding – it is second in the pecking order at our feeder, but the tactic doesn’t impress the blackbirds so it had to leave until they were done.

 

 

 

 

Milkweed freedom day

Although the winds blew many of the leaves off the trees over the last week, the milkweed has been hanging on to its seeds:

Milkweed Seeds
Milkweed Seeds

But today there was a light breeze and they made their bid for freedom:

Milkweed Seeds 2
Free the seeds!

Off to make more Monarch caterpillar food.

On the subject of feed seeds, I don’t know what animal made this cache of pine cones.  Squirrel?  It obviously didn’t know that “cache” means “hidden”.

Pine cone cache
Pine cone cache

Not all the leaves are gone, though. The beech keep their dead leaves all year, and the oaks hang on to theirs for a while longer:

Oak leaves - Poplar background
Oak leaves – Poplar background

 

The beautiful, the ugly and the “what the heck is that”

The last post was some beautiful flower pictures.  So today is about arthropods (insects and spiders).  I saw these a few years ago on my Chinese Lanterns but I didn’t have the extension rings to get close enough to make them visible.  These, even I have to admit are ugly.  They get that way by manufacturing an umbrella out of their dead skin and feces.  The point of being so disgusting is that birds don’t want to eat them.  They wave the “umbrella” about when you approach them. Which is how they manage to eat the leaves down to skeletons.  I don’t mind so much as they only get that bad when the lanterns are emerging and starting to turn orange, so it actually makes them more visible.

These are actually the larvae of the tortoise beetle.

Tortoise beetle larva
Tortoise beetle larva with literally shitty umbrella

This is the tail view so you can see how it holds it; the head is no more attractive.

On the other hand, the adult is much prettier, though not as much as its relative, the Golden Tortoise Beetle.  But it is curious how its shell is transparent and makes the 6-legged beetle look like it has four legs.

Tortoise beetle imago
Tortoise beetle adult (Plagiometriona clavata)

I have been keeping my eye on the Monarch caterpillars.  I left all the milkweed to grow.  Unfortunately, this pair seem to have disappeared; there don’t seem to be any left in my garden.  I don’t know what can be eating them, they are supposed to be distasteful to birds and other animals because they keep the milkweed poison to poison their predators.

Monarch Caterpillars
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars

But since I heard how difficult it is to eat milkweed, I’ve been surprise while looking for Monarch caterpillars just how may things do eat milkweed.  Here’s another caterpillar, very strange looking.

Milkweed Tussock Moth
Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Now I know I already put one of these in an earlier post, but early in the year they are minute.  Now here is a flower spider which has had good hunting and is getting all too easy to spot on this Black-Eyed Susan.

Flower Spider
Flower Spider on Black-eyed Susan

That’s all I have time for today, though I still have a few more bugs which I photographed in the last couple of days, but for those who are less keen on them, I will go back to flowers for the next post.

What I find fascinating is the incredible range of insects and other arthropods around.  If you’re a creationist, you have to ask yourself “what was god thinking when he created the tortoise beetle larva?” – all I can come up with is “a weird sense of humour”, but I’m no theologian.

I’d be interested to see comments: beautiful, ugly or just plain weird?

Be careful when smelling the roses

You wouldn’t want to get one of these flower spiders up your nose!  Common milkweed actually does smell nice but I didn’t see this pinhead-sized monster until I focused a macro lens on the individual floret:

Flower spider on milkweed
Flower spider on milkweed

Flower spiders lie in wait for pollinators to arrive, they are very well camouflaged and adapt to the particular flower they are on.  Here is a much bigger one hiding underneath a Black-eyed Susan – it rushes up to the top when it senses dinner:

Flower spider on Black-eyed Susan
Flower spider on Black-eyed Susan

Here is the same one, on top.

Flower spider on Black-eyed Susan
Flower spider on top of Black-eyed Susan

Back to milkweed: I let them grow even though they are supposed to be a weed, because I like to support the monarch butterflies and they are the only host for their caterpillars.  I hope to have some pictures of them soon.  But from close up, they are very interesting, as well as smelling nice.  Here is another view of the individual florets.

Milkweed
Milkweed florets