Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rethought Green Lawn...What's Flowering Instead?

Several years ago we stopped mowing our lawn and incrementally started adding "wildflowers". For sure, this is not a pure/pristine restoration effort, i.e. this will never mirror a historic plant community. The objective is: a) propagate larval host plants for butterflies b) cultivate plant species known as key nectar sources for pollinators c) demonstrate/be-a-catalyst for rethinking the "green lawn".

Have had success in meeting objectives though the yard is still evolving/changing. Have been adding different native species (seeds) every year. Of course, this takes time and patience. This method is pure expectation and fun. I wonder what will take root and multiply. Will Monarchs appear at some point in time on the Showy Milkweed? Build It and They Will Come exampled butterfly usage a few years ago. Nothing like looking out the window and seeing some beautiful flowers (see below) at a minimum. Consider using a part of your lawn for ecology and beauty. Thank you :-)

Black-eyed Susan

Coneflower

Wild Flax

Paintbrush

Monday, June 15, 2015

Discovery of Clustered Broomrape...Unusual Plant

Observed (1st sighting for me) today an unusual plant on a sagebrush flat near Stevensville, MT. Orobanche fasciculata is a parasitic plant; it has no chlorophyll or photosynthetic ability. The roots of this plant envelop adjacent plant roots. By doing so it obtains all the water and nutrients needed to grow. Beyond this fact, little is known of the life histories of Broomrape. There are three other species of Orobanche in Montana that differ by color and structure. Most are parasitic mainly on Sagebrush (Artemsia) with Asteraceae, Rannunculaceae, Saxifragaceae and Crassulaceae also advantaged (Lesica 2012). It is a colorful plant about 3 inches in height. Noticeable due to clumped stems and "large" brownish flowers with yellow throats.
Clustered Broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Respiration of a Four-spotted Skimmer

I was lucky to capture video of a "large" dragonfly on a close-by perch recently. While watching the short video, I noticed the the abdomen expanding/contracting greatly and quickly. Hadn't noticed that extreme of action in the past. So, I did some research on insect respiration and found this excellent website for explanation: HOW DO INSECTS BREATHE? AN OUTLINE OF THE TRACHEAL SYSTEM. Here's the visual:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Botanical Terms...A Visual for Suborbicular

Three species of Prairie Star or Fringecup are present in Montana and other parts of the American West. Line drawings and written botanical descriptions (keys) are confusing, unclear and somewhat contradictory on how to separate and identify Lithophragma glabrum and Lithophragma parviflorum. This situation will continue to crop up for all kinds of fauna as our knowledge expands (variation and hybrids). No doubt, photos and line drawings cannot be done for every plant part. So, language must be used to precisely describe plant parts. And plant descriptions are really ripe for some good nature smirking/what-the-heck head scratching.

Here's the leaf blade description from Lesica (2012) for A) Lithophragma glabrum and B) Lithophragma parviflorum:
A) "glabrous below, sparsely hairy above, 5-20 mm wide, reniform, deeply 3-lobed and lobed again."
B) "white-hairy and glandular, 1-3 cm wide, suborbicular, twice deeply 3-lobed ."

Reniform means "kidney shaped" and suborbicular describes imperfectly circular. The leaf shapes don't sort the plants out by my eye using the photos below. On the other hand, leaf hairiness is distinct and quickly separates out the two species. The first key (Lesica 2012) in sorting these species is the number of lobes per flower petal; glabrum has five and parviflorum has three.

Reference: Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Peter Lesica, 2012, Brit Press, Fort Worth, TX

Here's what they look like:
Lithophragma glabrum flower
Lithophragma glabrum stem leaf

Lithophragma glabrum basal leaf
Lithophragma parviflorum flower
Lithophragma parviflorum stem leaf

Lithophragma parviflorum basal leaf


Monday, April 27, 2015

Wildflowers Now Blooming...Current "Power Tool"

Actively searching out wildflowers this spring. Having much fun with my Canon 70D camera. So I've embedded what I "captured/created" for your viewing pleasure. According to Daniel DiPiazza, Fortune writer, "Creativity is your power tool regardless of your industry". He quotes Picasso, Stephen King and Einstein as to the process used in creativity and problem solving. They recommended "working backwards", setting daily quotas and "combinatory play". May the images below assist in your finding good ideas :-)
Heartleaf Arnica
Red Kittentails

Little Larkspur

Nuttall's Pussytoes

Wyeth's Lupine


Saturday, April 25, 2015

1st Dragonfly...err Damselfly for the Year

Much to my surprise a small damselfly flushed out of the Pollinator Garden at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge today. Was able to relocate and get a photo. Tweeted the accomplishment:
This post isn't supposed to be about me boasting of an early date or discovery, instead it is a template for your success. Know, that if you apply yourself...well you get better in ways you cannot guess. Being aware of wildlife/nature is a well of possibility for "combinatorial creativity". I am no Maria Popova, but I embrace her writing and hope to develop this blog in such a way :-)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Thomas Nuttall...Naturalist Extraordinaire

Thomas Nuttall was born in Yorkshire (England) in 1786. Considered one of the greatest botanists following his death in 1859. As a teenager, his father signed him up for a seven year printer apprenticeship. His real love...well he got hooked on botanizing local moors. So he came to the United States in 1808 to do just that. He connected with Benjamin Barton (author of Elements of Botany, 1803) in Philadelphia. Barton just happened to be looking for an apprentice and Nuttall, now 22, jumped at the opportunity. That was the beginning of incredible accomplishment.

Nuttall became the most traveled naturalist of his generation, six expeditions as far as Hawaii. Most collection (for plants and animals) trips were done alone and on foot much like John James Audubon. He was humble; he admitted to getting lost and rescued by other travelers in his journals. Some folks of that time described him as a "whimsical kind of madman". Could be, Nuttall was singularly focused on collecting plants and animals and information about them. His hard work paid off when he got lecturer position at Harvard University in 1823. He authored, published an affordable bird guide A Manual to the Ornithology of the United States and Canada in 1833. He also coauthored Flora of North America with John Torrey and Asa Gray.

He is memorialized with three bird species named after him (can you name them?). Numerous plants are also bear his name. I found two yesterday along the Clark Fork River in Missoula, MT: Nuttall's Rockcress (Arabis nuttallii) and Nuttall's Violet (Viola nuttallii). Could not find Nuttall's Pussytoes in bloom for three of a kind :-) What's in your neighborhood that may have been discovered 150 years ago?

Reference: Audubon to Xantus The Lives of Those Commemorated in North American Bird Names, Barbara and Richard Mearns, 1992, Academic Press Limited, San Diego, CA
Nuttall's Rockcress

Nuttall's Violet