Cathy and I have been trying to recover from the small amount of work we did in the garden in 2018. This year has been mostly recovery mode without a lot of additions but a lot of pulling and digging, trying to get at least some parts of the garden back to more garden plants than weeds. It’s an up hill battle. Along the back fence there was a huge stand of goldenrod, pokeweed, and bindweed. Cathy dug up a bunch of roots a few weeks back and we worked a bit more on it this weekend. As you can see, the central bed is full of black-eyed Susan’s and we have the volunteer American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) growing there (the purple berries on the left). We dug out a bunch of weeds there last week, as well. Tomorrow I plan to dig up some roots that remain from the maple trees that used to be there.
Monthly Archives: September 2019
I’ve mentioned the beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) we have in our back garden so I thought it deserved a photo. Its berries are just about at the height of their beauty right now, so it seemed like the best time. As you can see, the berries are both beautiful and plentiful. Because this shrub blooms (and therefore sets berries) on new growth, it can be cut back fairly hard each autumn or early spring and it will still produce a good display. The flowers are not particularly significant, being tiny and very pale pink. The berries, as the name implies, are the reason to grow this native. It attracts birds, who eat the berries, which is also nice.
This potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus) is one of my favorite wasps (doesn’t everyone have favorite wasps?). There’s fairly common around here. While they are particularly drawn to the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), they are also found regularly on the black-eyed Susans (Rudbekia) and painter’s palette (a.k.a. knotweed, Persicaria virginiana). I think it’s their clean lines that I like. They’re difficult to photograph well and I’m not really happy with this photo, although it’s the best I was able to get. They don’t really stop moving and unless the light is very strong, it’s hard to get both adequate depth of field and a short enough exposure to stop their motion.
We had a pretty nice sunset this evening and I took a few pictures (aren’t you surprised?). Most of the best color was behind the trees to the south of our yard, so it was hard to capture. To the east there was some good color and I was able to get some nice pictures in that direction. To the west, most of the clouds were various shades of grey. There were a few low clouds that would light up and then go back to grey. I hoped to time the photo so that I could get both the moon and the lit clouds but they basically alternated. When the moon wasn’t behind the cloud, the color was mostly gone. Then the color would return just as the clouds covered the moon. This one has a little color in the clouds, anyway.
It’s milkweed bug time in the garden. Cathy and I are both big fans of pretty much any species of Asclepias. This one is Asclepias curassavica, often known as scarlet milkweed. It’s growing in a container on our back patio and it really attracts the insects. I had a photo of a Monarch (Danaus plexippus) on it recently and today’s photo is of the aptly named large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). We also have a good colony of oleander aphids (Aphis nerii) and I may publish a photo of those, unless we get around to taking care of them before I do that. Like many insects that feed on milkweed, these bugs accumulate toxins from the plants which can “potentially sicken any predators foolish enough to ignore the bright colors which warn of their toxicity.” (bugguide.net)
There are a few paper wasps that are very difficult to distinguish and some that are impossible without examining them at the microscopic level. A number of them are quite variable, as well, adding to the difficulty. I think this is a northern paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus) but I’m nowhere near sure. It’s a beautiful creature, whatever it is. This was taken with my 100mm lens with the addition of a 25mm extension tube in bright evening sunlight. As you can see, I was able to get fairly close and I’m pleased by how sharp this turned out. You might also notice the aphids on the underside of the leaf the wasp is on. I took some photos of those, as well, but haven’t identified them yet (beyond the generic “aphid”).
Cathy and I drove up to George and Carmela’s today for a short visit. We had no trouble with traffic and we made pretty good time. We didn’t stay long but George had prepared a really nice lunch with homemade sourdough bread with robust olive oil spread on it and then covered with ripe, fresh tomatoes and sprinkled with feta cheese and Sicilian oregano. Obviously there are a lot of good flavors but fresh, very ripe tomatoes, served at room temperature, have to be right up there. These were wonderful and the corn on the cob as good, too. Of course, the visit was the main thing, and it was nice to have a few hours together before we turned around and drove home.
Cathy spotted this growing in our back yard and said I should come take some pictures. It was late in the day and the light was fading so they didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked. These are the sporangia of a slime mold (or mould in England). I believe it is Stemonitis splendens, the so-called chocolate tube slime. These don’t do any harm to garden plants, despite their somewhat alarming appearance. They actually live on the surface of leaves and are not actually parasitic. They feed on decaying organic matter and actually move in a way that seems more animal than vegetable. They form finger-like projections which then pull the body of the slime mold along. Creepy (literally!). From the Mississippi State University Extension Service:
When the slime mold is ready to reproduce, at some point during spring or summer generally following a period of rainy weather, it “crawls” up on grass blades, lower stems and foliage of landscape plants, the surface of landscape mulch, or even garden hoses. From these locations, the slime mold releases millions of dusty-gray spores.
I mentioned the aphids on the Asclepias curassavica (scarlet milkweed) when I posted the photo of the large milkweed bug a few days ago. Here’s a picture of the aphids. It was fairly dark when I took this (7:45 in the evening) and I used a flash to light them, which allowed me to get reasonable depth of field. I used a flashlight give me enough light to focus, with the camera on a tripod (which I definitely should use more often). As I was taking the pictures, I realized the aphids were not alone. There is a larva of a lady beetle of some sort (probably an Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis), feeding on the aphids. Unfortunately, there are too many aphids for this lone predator, and I’m going to need to take care of them myself.
I was out photographing flowers this evening. The light was fading and I didn’t think I could realistically get any photos of bees, wasps, or other flying insects. I was down on the ground to get some pictures of obedient plant, Physostegia virginiana, and I happened to notice this little fellow. I went in and got my flash, so I could get pictures that were worth something and I’m pretty happy with the results. This little bug (a true bug in the Heteroptera suborder) is only two or three millimeters long and if I hadn’t been down on the ground and very close, I never would have seen it. It is a twice-stabbed stink bug, Cosmopepla lintneriana. This one happens to be a nymph (an immature) and when adult will be mostly black with two red patches (the two “stab” marks of its common name).
Who doesn’t love the humble bumble bee? They are everywhere and like many of us, they are not particularly flashy or flamboyant. Nevertheless, they busily go about their business. I like them quite a bit and enjoy watching them move from flower to flower. In this case, a common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) is on wingstem, also known as yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia). There were also honey bees (Apis mellifera) and ailanthus webworm moths (Atteva aurea) on the same group of flowers. It had become quite hot again, with temperatures in the low 90s, and I’m starting to look forward to autumn.
When I left work today, I drove through a little rain. By the time I was nearly home and I stopped at the grocery story, the sky was partly cloudy. When I came back out from the store the sky was turning very dark and shortly after I got home and had unloaded the groceries, it started coming down quite hard. It only rained for about fifteen minutes and then the sun was back out again. I went out front and found a spot where I could see the rainbow. It was a bit early in the evening for a really good bow, but there was some down low in the sky. They are often tricky to photograph and this one was not as strong as many I’ve seen but it was pretty and I especially like the fact that this photo shows the rainbow against blue sky, which is pretty unusual.
We’ve had mixed success with houseplants over the years. When we’re not too busy, we can do reasonably well and houseplants thrive. When we’re busier, anything not particularly resilient is in pretty significant peril. Lately we’ve done reasonably and we have two African violet plants, cultivars of Saintpaulia ionantha, that arew doing well and blooming. We also have a iddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) that Dorothy started by rooting a leaf. It’s now about 6 feet tall and seems quite happy.
I came across this carpenter ant (Camponotus castaneus) in the yard today. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get an identification on this ant. BugGuide.net says, about carpenter ants (Genus Camponotus), “This is one of the most species-rich ant genera, with perhaps 1000 species World-wide.” Nevertheless, it was identified. These are pests, of course, if they get into structures or valuable trees but they are fairly ubiquitous on almost the entire globe (only excluding the polar regions). They’re pretty things, like most insects, however.
Our church’s annual fall picnic was today and we couldn’t have asked for much nicer weather. I suppose a few degrees cooler wouldn’t have hurt, but it was very, very nice. We ate a great picnic lunch with burgers, hot dogs, and smoked pork shoulder (thanks, Ben!) as well as a wider variety of side dishes than I’ve seen in a long time. After the meal, we had our “regular” church service. Well, it was a bit different because we were outdoors. But otherwise, it was pretty much what we’re used to. It was great to see an old friend (she’s not all that old, but we’ve known her for a while) and I think a good time was had by all, or certainly most.
The flowers on this plant, Iris domestica, the blackberry lily, don’t really give much clue to their common name. When they go to fruit, however, it’s a little clearer where that comes from. They do have a certain blackberry-like look to them. The flowers are a bright orange and are really lovely. The leaves are very iris-like and are beautiful, sculptural fans of varying shades of green. In fact, I’d be tempted to grow these even if they leaves were all they provided. But the flowers are welcome and I like the fruit, as well. We scatter these fairly liberally around the garden and they are now coming up in various places. They aren’t so aggressive that we worry about them taking over, either, which is nice.
This is the “many-named ladybird”. It has been called ‘multicolored’ (or ‘multicoloured’ in Britain), ‘multivariate’, ‘southern’, ‘Japanese’, ‘Asian’, ‘Halloween’, ‘harlequin’ and ‘pumpkin’ ladybird/ladybug/ladybeetle. I’m going with the simple ‘Asian’ and sticking to beetle, because it’s in the order Coleoptera. It’s a largish lady beetle and this particular species is immensely variable. The “standard” is red to red-orange with 18 spots, but as you can see, this one only has 12 (six on each side). The background ranges from a slightly orangy yellow to red and there are even versions with red spots on a black background.
I went on a short outing this afternoon to the Agricultural Farm Park today and spent a little time wandering around the Master Gardener’s display garden. Mostly I photographed insects (and a few flowers). It was a pretty productive outing as far as insect photos go.
- Danaus plexippus (Monarch) Caterpillar
- Murgantia histrionica (Harlequin Bug)
- Papilio polyxenes asterius (Black Swallowtail)
- Euptoieta claudia (Variegated Fritillary)
- Allograpta obliqua (Common Oblique Syrphid)
- Diabrotica undecimpunctata (Spotted Cucumber Beetle)
I’m particularly happy with the oblique syrphid fly, as that’s the first one I’ve photographed. The black swallowtail is one we don’t see nearly as often as the eastern tiger swallowtail. I’ve seen harlequin bugs on occasion but not all that often. The same is true of the cucumber beetle.
It’s been a busy season for us in terms of cars. We’ve been dealing with our aging fleet for some time. In July, Dorothy left with her cousin in what was meant to be the final journey for our 2000 Chrysler Town and Country. The plan was for them to drive via Chicago to Albuquerque and the car would then be sold for scrap. They made it to Chicago and that’s where it died (the brakes failed completely). They made the rest of the trip in a rental car. We replaced that with a 2007 Town and Country, bought from the parents of a coworker. We also need to unload the Mercury Villager that belongs to Cathy’s mom. It’s ready to go. Well, my brother George came to our rescue by offering us his 2006 Honda Accord. It’s in really good shape and it’s our first sedan of any description for quite some time. I got it registered today, so I figured I’d take a few pictures.
I happened to look out my window this afternoon and saw this stink bug on the outside of the glass. Actually, it’s not unusual to see them inside the building. My guess is that this is a brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) but I’m not entirely sure and I’m not going to bother looking harder at it. The banded antennae are distinctive, along with the mottled color, but again, that’s just a guess and it’s good enough for me. I also took some pictures this evening of a hardy begonia that’s growing outside our front door. Those are probably prettier than this, being pink and yellow instead of tan (and buggy). But they weren’t as good as I’d like and I can always try to get better pictures, when the light is a bit stronger.
I took pictures of insects on aster flowers this evening. There was a bumble bee covered with little white dots that I’m pretty sure were eggs of some kind and didn’t bode well for the little critter. There was also a beautiful, metallic green, sweat bee (family Halictidae) and I got a picture of it as it lifted off the flower, which would have been amazing if it had been in better focus. The light was relatively low and I was using a flash with a white reflector for these pictures, which helped considerably. I also had a 25mm extension tube behind my 100mm macro lens, which helped me get that much closer.
We went to lunch for Margaret’s birthday today, meeting two of her friends for Iranian kebabs at a place in Germantown called Johnny’s Kabobs (an valid alternative spelling, apparently). Their menu is a bit more extensive than Moby Dick, a local chain, but similar otherwise. It wasn’t particularly busy but that meant that I didn’t have to bother other customers by using my flash, so I was able to take a few pictures. This one is, I think the best, although one of the heads in this photo came from a different exposure. Getting four people to smile all at once is harder than it ought to be.
With more than 1,800 species, the genus Begonia is one of the largest genera of flowering plants. That doesn’t take into account a multitude of hybrids and cultivars. I have no idea what this variety is, but it’s a pretty, winter-flowering begonia and that’s all that really matters. There are hardy begonias but this isn’t one of them. So, it’s on a table in our dining room and provides some color, along side two deep purple African violets and sheltered by a large (and growing) fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) and a fairly old pathos plant (Epipremnum aureum).
The black-eyed Susans in the yard are mostly finished now. The petals are drying up and falling off. Soon there will be nothing left but the stalks and seed heads. We generally leave those for the birds to eat during the winter. They seem to be pretty popular with the gold finches, in particular. This isn’t as good a picture as I hoped it would be. It was fairly late in the day and I didn’t bother to get my tripod, so I wasn’t able to get the depth of field that I should have. Still, I like the colors quite well. This is what autumn is about.
“Resistance is Futile. You will be assimilated.” So spoke the Borg when meeting other species. Scott Adams used a variation—“It’s useless to be a resistor”, if memory serves— in one of his Dilbert strips. There are t-shirts with the phrase “Resistance is Futile (if < 1 ohm)” (with some variation in the actual number of ohms required for resistance to be futile). Those, I believe, are aimed at the intersection between Star Trek fans and electrical engineers (or whatever the category would be that will get the electronics reference). Anyway, this is a multi-meter showing a hair over 50 ohms of resistance.
We’ve admired anemones in other peoples’ gardens for years and on occasion we’ve tried to grow them in ours but so far, nothing has taken. Cathy bought this one the other day from Stadler Nursery in Laytonsville and we’re going to give it another try. They really are lovely flowers and pretty plants in general. Hopefully we find the right spot for it where it can thrive and where we can enjoy it on a regular basis for years to come.
It’s that time of year again. The roots of the trees that used to be in our back yard are home to a few varieties of fungus. This time of year, they send up their fruiting bodies and spread their spores to the wind. The most plentiful are these soft brown mushrooms. They come up and are there for a day or two and then turn to mush. Insects of one kind or another lay their eggs in them and the larvae eat the rotting mushrooms. They’re actually pretty gross when in that state, but right now they are sort of pretty.
A mushroom walks into a bar. The bartender says, “We don’t serve mushrooms here.” The mushroom replies, “But I’m a fungi!”
Margaret had an unexpected call from and visit by some friends today. Unexpected, but very welcome. Henry and Dieu live in Florida, which is the main reason the visit was so unexpected. They happened to be in town visiting family and came to say hello to Margaret while they were here. They came with Henry’s sister, brother-in-law, and uncle and it was lovely to see them. It was nice to get caught up on their lives and that of their son, Phillip, who is a couple months younger than Dorothy. They posed for a few quick pictures with Margaret before they left.
I took some photos of the obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) blooms in the back garden this evening. They are quite pretty when back lit by the sun, as they are here. I was hoping to find some insects to photograph but for whatever reason, there weren’t many this time. There were occasional bees and skippers but I wasn’t able to get close enough to them to photograph. I did manage to get some photos of a sweat bee on the Asclepias but they were not very sharp, so I’ll pass on sharing them.
I have had this Clivia for quite a few years now, since a coworker left it to me when she stopped working here. I had it at home for a while but two years ago I brought it to my office and it’s been doing pretty well. It gets literally no direct sun light with my north-facing window but it seems to be doing well with that. They don’t tolerate frost and are grown as houseplants here but they must be wonderful in a garden in their native South Africa and Swaziland. The blooms, as you can see, are quite bright and vary a bit from the orange seen here to yellow and nearly red. Thank you, Emily, for this long-lasting gift.