Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday morning frog pictures

So a month ago, when I posted pictures of a frog I happened to see in the Ananas comosus 'Mongo,' I said I thought the frog in question was only passing through, since it wasn't there the following day. Since then, I've seen some identical-looking frogs hanging around the yard, on a few occasions, so maybe we do have a permanent resident.

Mostly I've seen them (or him, or her) when I had to move plants in and out a lot, due to cooler weather. Went to pick up one of the big Euphorbia trigonas and was met with this, right at eye level:

Good job on the camouflage, there, buddy. (The color match actually was pretty impressive in person.) I picked up the frog and put it in the marigolds, and continued moving plants inside, and then some minutes later ran into it again on a different plant: it seemed to be slowly making its way toward the house. And then the following night, it was on the cactus cart, right next to the house, and I caught it and relocated it.

A few nights later, I realized why it kept trying to get to the house: I saw it sitting on one of the basement windows, in the process of chewing up a moth it had just caught. The husband had seen it at the same window on other occasions, so apparently it migrates to the basement window every night to feed itself, sleeps in the plants when our lights go out, then gets up in the morning and does its frog business, whatever that is, until it's time to head back to the window. So I'm not seeing it in the same places, but it probably is the same frog.

It's also not necessarily just one frog. One day in the last month, I saw a frog among my houseplants, and then a short time later saw one sitting on a Canna, across the yard:

A determined frog could probably have crossed the yard and climbed the Canna between sightings, but I'm guessing they were different ones. So we possibly have a whole frog resort area going on. Certainly sounded like it, earlier this summer.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Unfinished business: Clivia miniata 'Aztec Gold'

I'd thought maybe, but it looks like I don't get a repeat of the Clivia flowers this year. Ah, well.

The seedlings are doing all kinds of different things. Some just sit there. Some get periodically covered with a white fungus. Some have leaves. I started the first batch in a glass jar: I put in soil and some water, microwaved it to heat and sterilize the soil (which apparently didn't work, since the fungus keeps appearing), then allowed it to cool down. I then removed the seed coats from the seeds, rinsed them in a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide, and dropped them in.

The top-down angle isn't ideal for seeing how much growth there's been, but it's a bit clearer than shooting through the side of the jar. . . .

The second batch, I just removed the seed coat and dropped them into small pots of wet soil. Only one of that group has done anything --

-- and I'm afraid that taking the photo may have set it back, since I brought it outside for the picture, along with a bunch of other plants in a box. On the way back into the house, one of them started to tip over, so I shifted the box, so then others started to tip, and in short order I had dumped them all out onto the ground. The Clivia seedling appeared unharmed, but it did get knocked completely out of its pot, so I'm worried anyway. (Clivia roots are pretty sturdy, though, right?)

But the point remains that there don't seem to be any appreciable differences between the two groups, in terms of survival or progress, so perhaps the microwaving and peroxide and all that was overkill. Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Black Bees

I mentioned in June that I've been watching very intently for honeybees this year. I'm not doing it for any particular reason; I've just been curious, what with all the talk of colony collapse disorder, about whether honeybees visit the yard, and if so how many, and so forth.

For a very long time, the closest I got was the bee-mimic fly (picture at the end of the above link). At some point in the last couple weeks, I finally saw my first honeybee. Which is much, much longer than I was expecting to have to wait.

It's entirely possible that the long wait to see one has a lot more to do with what we've chosen to plant here, and not much of anything to do with how they're doing overall. (However: I saw one yesterday on a marigold that didn't fly away when I approached it. I didn't sit there and poke at it or anything, but it didn't strike me as healthy.) In any case, because I've been watching so closely, I can report that the tiny bees and hoverflies from the June post have now given way to a different group of pollinators. The bee-mimic flies are still occasional visitors. The husband poured more concrete a week or two back and butterflies were really into that, and a few have stuck around for the marigolds. I see bumblebees here and there, though they're small: not the bumblebees I remember as a kid.

But then there are the black bees. So many black bees.

I don't know what species they are; Google has led me to a number of websites, but there are many, many kinds of bees. A carpenter bee of some kind seems most probable -- many of them are the right color and approximately the right size -- but I have very little confidence in that guess. I've never seen the black bees before this year, either, as far as I can remember, which is weird. (Also weird: the green metallic bees I saw four years ago are entirely absent this year.)

I'm very fond of them, whatever they are. In the mornings when I take Sheba out, the black bees are reliably all over the marigolds and Portulacas, even on the cloudy mornings when most of the Portulacas don't open.

I haven't bothered to take many pictures of them on the marigolds, because they're all business with the marigolds: land, nectar and/or pollen, fly away to next flower. With the Portulacas, they actually crawl down into the flowers a ways, and get all tangled in the stamens and such.

I doubt that bees experience "fun" in the way people (or even dogs) do, but they really do look like they're having fun: I can't help wanting to anthropomorphize.

They manage to collect an impressive amount of pollen. I know bees have "pollen baskets" on their legs for this exact purpose, but I can't figure out how they work to hold the pollen in. I mean, pollen is small, and the bees fly around a lot: how do they hold on to it? How do they get it back off again later?

I don't know if they sting; the husband said that he was out with Sheba a few days ago, and that he thought she'd caught one in her mouth, but she didn't seem to be in pain or anything, so if she did catch one, it apparently didn't sting her. They've never bothered me either, but then, I don't give them any reason to.

This is all just encouraging me to get even more intense with the Portulacas next year, of course. I kind of understand why they're not more widely planted -- most of the flowers that are open in the morning have closed up by the early afternoon, and the leaves and closed buds aren't particularly attractive.

But the flowers are so nice when they are open, and they're so easy to grow, that it kind of makes up for the afternoons. And anyway, pollinators dig 'em. My hands are tied. We're just going to have to plant some every year. Have to.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Question for the Hive Mind: Roadside Weeds / Wildflowers

The second and third of these are technically not roadside plants, but the first one is:

I don't recall ever seeing it before, but they're everywhere all of a sudden.

UPDATE: it's a Vernonia (ironweed), possibly V. baldwinii. Thanks to Claude and joeym.

The other two plants were in a heavily wooded park in Iowa City about a week ago. The first, I'm fairly sure, is some kind of Arisaema. I don't know if it's possible to narrow it down to a species from these pictures or not.

UPDATE: Everybody seems pretty convinced that this is Arisaema triphyllum (jack in the pulpit). Thanks to Ed Kramer, joeym, and anonymous.

The other plant from the park has flowers reminiscent of both chicory (Cichorium intybus) and meadow campion (Silene latifolia), but it's not either of those. Something related?

UPDATE: Looks like this is a Lactuca sp., possibly Lactuca floridana. Thanks to The Phytophactor and Review for their help.

Any guesses on any of these?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pretty picture: Dendrobium Frosty Dawn 'Yen'

I've spent the last five days moving plants in at night and out in the morning -- we had a run of temperatures below 60F/16C. A lot of the plants that are outside will handle that fine (Agave, Strelitzia, Breynia, Amorphophallus), but a few won't so well (Coffea, Aloe, Synadenium, Araucaria), so they have to go back and forth. There are also some (Ananas, Furcraea, Euphorbia, Pachypodium) that might be fine, but I'm scared to leave them out for fear that they'll be damaged.

Moving plants is annoying, and exhausting, and then finding scale again this week is just the honeydew on the cake. I haven't even really gotten a chance to check the other plants for scale yet; I did look at the plants in the same room, and they seemed okay, but I added imidacloprid granules to some of them anyway because you can never be sure you checked everything.

I did also get to see scale through the microscope. It was harder than I expected to find them, and I didn't try to get any pictures because it was night and therefore way too dark. The nymphs are . . . not uncute, actually. Sort of plump like a tardigrade, but with bigger eyes.

That's a terrible description, but it's the best I can come up with. The adults, of course, are horrifying, just as you would expect.

Anyway. I'm thinking the next post'll be Tuesday, probably. In the meantime, here's a Dendrobium that I like. Every so often, the orchid show surprises me with something like this.

Dendrobium Frosty Dawn 'Yen' = Dendrobium Dawn Maree x Dendrobium Lime Frost