Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sunny Days

 Man-o-Pete!  We've had some VERY Guamish weather recently.  It was soooo humid that the bathroom mirror was fogged up  - and I don't even use the shower in this bathroom!  And this was first thing in the morning.  Gah!

In fact, it was so humid, that when I went out to photograph this lovely spicebush swallowtail that I found in the road, my camera lens was all fogged up!  Luckily I was able to dry it off enough to get some nice photos.
This is a butterfly that I didn't really get much chance to see back in New York, but here it is quite prevalent.  No doubt this is because spicebush, a major food source for its larvae, is a common native shrub in these here parts.

In my humble opinion, this is one of our most strikingly beautiful butterflies. 

Meanwhile, out in the lawn, which I have to mow daily because it is so large and I can only do small patches at a time, I found these strange plants with layered leaves.  Not knowing what they were, I left a couple uncut to see what would blossom.

Overnight they came into bloom, especially along the roadsides.  It is yellow goatsbeard, Tragopogon pratensis, which is a non-native plant that is considered somewhat invasive.   >sigh<  Still, it is a rather lovely flower.

Another invasive that has been blooming in great abundance these last couple of weeks is honeysuckle.  The flowers can be very beautiful, but the plant is terribly invasive and the scent, well, some folks might like it, but to me it is a cloyingly sweet perfume - bleh!  Too much.

I took some time Thursday afternoon to walk out to the prairie at work to see what was blooming, since I have a walk to lead this afternoon.  Forest flowers are pretty much past their blooming time, now that the leaves are out and the ground is shaded, but now is the time of the flowers that grow in open areas.  Soon the prairie spaces should be alive with color.  Right now, however, white and yellows seem to be the only colors on tap.

This could be wild parsnip or meadow parsnip.  
I need to go back out and double check.

A new life-list flower for me:  yellow stargrass (Hypoxis hirsuta).
This sweet little flower is growing right next to the cinquefoils, which
are the same bright yellow, but with five rounded petals.  
A sharp eye will see the difference.

Now, when I first saw this flower, I thought "blue-eyed grass," but
as I looked closer, I said "no...something's not right."  So, out came
my copy of Newcomb's and I keyed it out:  
stout blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium). 

 An important characteristic to ID this plant is the rather stout,
winged stem.  Another life list species for me!

Ah - wild columbine, one of the true beauties of the plant world.
(Aquilegia canadensis)

 I snuck out to the edge of the fen, which doesn't have an official path since we don't want a lot of folks going out here and trampling sensitive vegetation.  A fen is a type of wetland that is characterized by more alkaline chemistry than a bog (which is acidic).  Southern Michigan used to be covered with many of these fens.  A few still remain and are often very rich with wildflowers long-gone from the rest of the state.  This is why this fen is sort of kept secret.

Well, out there in the tall grasses were white balls of flowers.  I had to know what they were, so I crept along the edge until I found a dry(ish) path that brought me right up to one. looks familiar.

It turns out this is swamp valerian (Valeriana uliginosa).  I have grown
regular old ordinary valerian in my herb gardens over the years 
(it is a gentle sedative), but this native variety of the American 
wetlands was one more for my life list. 

I set out next across the prairie, to see what was starting to bloom.
These small white flowers were rather numerous.  Native or alien?
I keyed them out as hoary alyssum (Berteroa incana) - invasive alien. 
Apparently it is quite common now here in the Midwest.

Plenty of milkweed was coming up, though - hooray!  A native!  
And, just to let us know how appreciated it is, a monarch butterfly was soaring
above, looking for places to lay her eggs.  Carrie and Gary were out here
earlier in the week and watched a monarch as she placed egg
after egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf.  This is why it is
so very important to keep native vegetation around: our native insects
depend on it for food!

I found quite a number of these really dusty-looking webs woven
at the tips of old dried grasses. 

And inside each one was a small grey spider.  
I have to find my spider ID book before I can hazard a guess on species.

Daisy fleabane is in full bloom now.  How wonderful to discover that
this flower, also known as Sweet Scabious (Erigeron annuus), is a native plant.

I added one more flower to my life list this morning while walking the dog:
hairy beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus).  I've seen other beardtongues before,
but this purple one was new.  And, as I scrambled up the slope of the
roadside ditch to photograph it, I found it was surrounded by 
our good friend poison ivy.  I sure hope I have avoided serious
contact, remembering the ordeal I went through last year!
This week ended up quite pleasant, once the heat and humidity broke.  Today, however, it looks like the hazy weather is returning.  Still, there is a nice breeze blowing, so I am quite looking forward to this afternoon's walk.  Perhaps the native spiderworts are now open on the prairie!

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