Saturday, August 16, 2008

[Unusually] Pretty picture: Danaus plexippus caterpillar

(And by Danaus plexippus, I mean monarch.)

This is either a really close-up view of its head, or a close up view of its ass. It's surprisingly hard to tell, and I actually watched it crawl in both directions while I was trying to get the picture, so I don't even have that to go on. If forced to bet, I'd bet head.

I'm iffy about the butterflies (I like tiger swallowtails, Papilio glaucus, better.), but monarch caterpillars rule.

Friday, August 15, 2008

PATSP Learning Moment #1

Found this one out today:

Sometimes letting the cactus fall off the bench is better than catching it.

Questions for the Hive Mind: Park NOIDs

Some NOIDs from the trip a couple days ago to Kent State Park, including a reposting of a couple from the Yellow post on Tuesday. Slightly more detail may be available if opened in another window:

#1: Possible Oenothera?

#2: The one that's been driving me crazy in the last few weeks. (Identified in comments by
J as Chamaecrista fasciculata, partridge pea. It was probably deliberately planted by the state.)

#3: Blue thing. (Identified in comments by J as Campanula americana.)

#3: Another shot of the blue thing.

#4: Strange orangish flower. (Identified in comments by J as Impatiens capensis)

#5: Vine with red-purple flowers. This one's scary: I saw it strangling a thistle, for chrissakes. It also seems really familiar to me, but I can't place it. (Identified in comments by J as Apios americana, American groundnut.)

#6: Not a good picture, I'm aware. I'm not really expecting an ID. Just point me in a direction.

Anybody have any guesses?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Unpretty picture: carrion beetle larvae

Fair warning: the image in this post might be disturbing to some people. I mean, I don't really get why it would be, but if you know you're touchy about dead animals, even when they don't look like animals anymore, then you should maybe just skip this. I'll understand.

Or, well, no, I won't understand. Doesn't bother me a bit, after all. What I mean to say is that I'll respect your choice not to look. You know your stomach and nervous system better than I do. No big deal.

Carrion beetles are actually pretty cool, in their proper context, but being mostly a city boy, I don't think I've ever actually seen them at work until Monday at Kent State Park. Not that I would expect to have seen them before then. I mean, I don't keep dead animals around the house. (Well, that one time. Long story. Best not to ask.)

Necrophila americana larvae. If you listen close, you can hear them singing "Working in a Coalmine."

Technically, I suppose, I still haven't seen them: these are the larvae, not the beetles. The beetles are a lot cuter. (No, seriously. As beetles go, I mean. You'd rather have them than have Japanese beetles, I promise you.) But still: surprisingly clean for something that makes a living eating dead animals, am I right?

No idea what animal is being dealt with here: it was pretty far gone when we came across it. Not so much an ex-animal than a really big and unkempt toupee. Not big enough to be a deer, I think, and I can't think of anything else that color that might be dead in the park.

One realization: in the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode "Listening to Fear" (season five, episode nine), the guy who came up with the costume design for the Queller demon was totally ripping off Necrophila americana. I'd link to a picture, but I couldn't find one. You'll just have to believe me. Or track down the episode and watch it. Believing me is less trouble.

If you haven't had enough, there's a really large, close-up picture of a larva here.

Random plant event: Rhapis excelsa flowering

This had me worried, a little bit, because for some reason I was under the impression that Rhapis die after flowering. This is a problem because, obviously, the plant hasn't sold yet, and it's big enough and expensive enough that that's a lot of money for the business to have to eat. But it's okay. Momentary confusion with bamboo. I got better. The plant will be fine.

Thus far, not much to look at, really, and the flowers are actually surprisingly similar to Chamaedorea flowers (which one can see here and here and here). I guess it hadn't occurred to me that there might be a kinship.

It's possible that the flowers will get more colorful or something later on, in which case I'll do a follow-up post of some kind, but this is what there's been so far.

The Rhapis excelsa profile post can be found here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pretty picture: Kung Fu

Not plant-related. I just liked how it turned out.

Random plant event: Sansevieria trifasciata flowers

Well color me surprised on two separate counts. One, I didn't think Sansevieria trifasciata bloomed in the summer (both times I've seen it previously have been during the winter), and two, I had just assumed that since it's the same species of plant, the blooms would be the same regardless of the cultivar. But no.

This is the kind of flower I'm used to, the kind I've seen before:

It's got a scent to it, though not so much during the hours I'm at work: when my own plant bloomed, I remember I generally didn't notice the odor until about 6 PM, when it suddenly got really strong. Also the odor was considerably weirder, with a sort of autumn / funereal slant to it, particularly when the flowers were new. The work plant pictured here had more of a generic flower scent to it, though some of that may be because the flowers are mostly spent already.

The 'Moonglow,' by contrast, has not had much of a detectable scent at all, but that's not the strangest thing about it. If somebody had just shown me both sets of flowers side by side, without telling me what they were from, I wouldn't necessarily have even assumed that they were related, much less the same species. I want to know why 'Moonglow's flowers are so much smaller. And whether this is necessarily related to 'Moonglow' itself being a smaller plant. I want to know what's happening here, at, like, the genetic level.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Opposition

It's my understanding that Iowa City doesn't have a really huge problem with Japanese beetles, at least not yet, not as much as we're going to. There's only so much one can do about it. I've been, on occasion, going through the roses, grapes, and hibiscus at work, picking beetles off and then stepping on them, but of course it doesn't really make that much of a difference and it's too much work to be particularly emotionally satisfying, as far as that goes. I don't know if we're doing anything more than that to deal with them, though. I don't think I've ever seen, or heard of, anybody spraying anything other than herbicide (we do have weeds, in spots) on the nursery lot. Though perhaps we ought to.

The rabbits are more of a problem: they're capable of eating a lot more, they've been with us for a lot longer, and there's less we can do about them. I saw a whole family of them a couple days ago: two adults and one baby. They don't seem to be increasing in numbers, exactly, but they're not particularly under control, either. Maybe it doesn't matter: I don't think there's anything we could do to keep them out, and for obvious reasons we can't really have bear traps nestled among the pots of hydrangeas or whatever. As far as it goes, I don't know for certain that they're doing any real damage to the plants. I just assume they're up to no good.

And what do they need such good eyesight for? Hmm?

But anyway. Back to the pests. We don't usually have a lot of spiders, but the ones we get are often pretty good size.

This one ate one of the nursery lot guys in June.

No, not really. I took this picture in Tipton, Iowa. I was curious about the story behind it ('cause you know there's got to be a story of some kind behind it), but a little too shy to ask. Tipton's good for weird lawn ornamentation: while we were there, I also saw a pastel pink and blue winged horse, like a big "My Little Pony" but winged, concrete, and sitting in somebody's front lawn. It was a so-wrong-it-must-be-right kind of moment. If and when we go back up there, I'm going to find that horse and take pictures, because y'all need to see it. I feel really dumb for not getting pictures when I saw it in the first place.

Notable omission: I meant to get a picture of bagworms for you, but couldn't come up with one fast enough. There are issues with them, too, in certain isolated spots, mostly on the lot landscaping (as opposed to the items for sale), as far as I know. The nursery lot guys are on top of it. On the plus side, no whitefly (yet), and no aphids (anymore), so hooray for us.

Pretty pictures: Yellow

Coldplay (the poor man's Radiohead!)1 singing "Yellow" for your [optional] audio enjoyment

Heliopsis 'Ballerina.' It's hard for me to think of anything interesting to say about Heliopsis: it's behaved itself very nicely, but doesn't exactly stand out in the crowd, considering that the crowd is Rudbeckia and Gaillardia and Echinacea and so forth.

These next four pictures are all from Kent State Park, the confusingly-named state park west of Iowa City.

This one's my favorite Heliopsis picture from the park.

I tried looking up what species these might be, but -- there are about a million species in the genus, and I'm not 100% positive I got the genus right. I had no chance.

More Kent State Park photos will be showing up in the next couple weeks.

Solidago spp.2 This plant is on my way to work; I happened to catch it when the blooms were about as fresh as they're ever going to get. I should ask somebody why we don't sell this.

I have pleasant childhood memories involving goldenrod: there was a ditch a block or two from our house that had goldenrod from the bottom of the ditch all the way up a smallish hill (maybe eight feet in all?), and I remember being impressed with it one afternoon when the sun was setting, how bright the color was. Also how much of it there was, and how many unusual bugs there were roaming around in it.

Rudbeckia hirta. Again.

The flower shop got in some Rudbeckia cultivars in pretty gigantic pots (12"? 14"?), which are stunning, though I doubt they're so stunning that we're going to get the price we're asking for them. I'm frequently surprised by such things, though.

Had I not been told, I wouldn't have guessed this to be a Rudbeckia. Neat, though.

Yet another roadside weed I've never seen before. It's weird to try to photograph, because the leaves mostly block the flowers -- it's obvious that there are flowers there, lots of them, but tough to get a clear picture through the leaves.

A somewhat better photo taken Monday at Kent State Park. The plants at the park were a little leggier; it was easier to get unobstructed pictures. I'm dying to find out what they are: it's another plant that I've only just begun to notice, after however many years of living here.

Begonia 'Mocca Yellow?' We never had very solid identification on these to begin with; the boss always just called them non-stop begonias, and that was good enough. They were never my favorite plant, or even in the top fifty: the flowers are very nice, as you can see, but there was mildew, and they were top-heavy, and several of them were overwatered and rotted out, and we still have a lot of them left over, which means they mostly didn't sell, either. (Customers seemed to like the orange and red ones better than the yellow and white.) So they didn't make the most favorable first impression on me, but I can see why they'd appeal.

I took St. John's Wort (Hypericum sp.) for a few years, a while back. I was never convinced either way about whether it was helping with the depression, and I'm still not sure but I lean toward no. Either way, I'm very proud of this picture. Open in a new window. It's cool.

NOID from Kent State Park. It seems familiar, but I can't place it for sure. Oenothera, maybe?


1 Something funny is that if you google "the poor man's radiohead," you get three pages of hits, about 80% of which refer to Coldplay. Fair? Probably not. I don't really see it, myself: aside from sharing an unnatural love of falsetto and lead singers with weird-but-nevertheless-frequently-attractive faces, how are they similar? I agree that Coldplay is (much) inferior, though I do kind of like "Viva la Vida."
Video's annoying, though. Hold still, Chris Martin! Just because you got a better haircut and clothing and no longer look like a twelve-year-old doesn't mean you get to lunge in my face and twitch around like a spaz. Have some dignity, man.
2 I kinda narrowed it down to Solidago nemoralis, canadiensis, missouriensis, speciosa, rigida or ulmifolia, but there are hundreds of Solidagos and they all look kinda similar, so I'm not sure it's even necessarily one of those. I'm going mostly on the idea that those are the ones that are supposed to be native to Iowa.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Iowa City Graffiti

Personally, I prefer to maintain a pleasant but neutral facial expression, among the morally ambivalent. It's just practical. Plus, benign neutrality never goes out of style.

Pretty picture: Callirhoe involucrata

Another work plant. These only started blooming a couple weeks ago. I'm often surprised when a new plant at work starts flowering; I apparently always subconsciously assume that I've seen all the flowers already, and then something else starts to bloom and I realize no, wait, there's another one.

You'd think, now that it's been a year (today's the one-year anniversary for this job, actually), that I should have seen everything already, but in fact I was so overwhelmed when I started the job, just with trying to keep track of all the tropical plants, that I didn't even try very hard to figure out which perennials were which. So I should be able to keep discovering new stuff for years.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I don't even know what kind of tree this is, unfortunately. I mean, I could: I know people. I just haven't bothered.

So the story here is that the husband and I were out driving around in March or so, and saw this tree on the side of the road. It's "wearing" a Christmas decoration of some kind of tinsel garland, but of course my brain initially read the image as a sparkly boa. I got the Christmas thing a split second later, but trees wearing Christmas ornaments is just a less interesting thought than trees in feather boas. And so voila: gay conifers.

I took a picture back then, but didn't like the way it turned out. Wouldn't have thought about it again until the next time I was really pressed for a blog entry, except that we wound up accidentally on the same stretch of road recently, so I tried again with the picture. This picture is an improvement, but I was still sufficiently insecure about whether or not people would be able to see where the joke came from that I've bored you with all this explanation anyway.