Friday, August 13, 2010

If there's an up side to the hottest June and July on record, insane humidity, and disruptive thundersotrms,.....

it's being able to watch the tropicals grow before our eyes. It takes a machete to get out the basement door!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sibine stimulea, Saddleback caterpillar.....Amanda again finds one the hard way. The consolation is that it is heavily parsitized by brachnoid wasps

If it feels like stinging nettles only it hurts more and it doesn't go away in a minute or two, you've likely encountered a Saddleback Caterpillar, Sibine stimulea. Grotesquely beautiful they are nevertheless, a nasty piece of work; their urticating hairs  (hollow with a poison sac at their base) can cause painful stinging irritation tht can go on for some time.

Amanda found one last year the hard way, that one unparasitized. It shows they typical patterned coloration that is covered by the wasp cocoons in the specimen above. It is suggested that the wasps use the stinging abilities of the Saddleback to protect the developing larvae. Makes sense to me!

Many of the curiosities that I see, and sometimes photograph, are courtesy of the sharp eyes of other staff at the Arboretum. I very much appreciate it and feel bad when their discoveries are the result of a painful interaction with something!

New plantings around the Grove of State Trees restrooms......great project, mediocre photography!

At the Arboretum, our interns spend a part of their time working on selected projects; near the end of their terms they do Powerpoint presentations for USNA staff et alia.  We listened to the bulk of their presentations yesterday at lunch. Good projects and good presentations.

For the first time that I remember there was a group project; four interns worked together to redo the plantings around the restrooms in the Grove of State Trees. They were wildly successful.  It was a fairly energetic project that included large scale removals, design, acquiring plants, site preparation, planting, and even the installation of a drip irrigation system.  Everyone familiar with the old planting cheered the removal of  the overgrown Leyland Cypresses and the English Ivy. The group chose to use North American Natives. That's a broad category, but it reflects the composition of the Grove itself, and allowed for the inclusion of many of the plants Joan, Amy, and I collected in Alabama. This means there's important and interesting germplasm in an attractive ornamental planting. That always makes Richard Olsen (our tree breeder) happy.

Pindo Palms are the best gas station palms (I'm pretty sure this is a Pindo!)

Cistus Nursery lists, or did list, a selection of Butia capitata, they grew from seeds collected from a row a plants growing at a Shell Station in South Carolina. I've seen those plants in fruit and they're wonderful. Well here's another gas station Pindo. I expect they like the heat and the inevitably dry soil. I remember reading that they are marginally hardy to Washington DC, which is likely not true but it would be fun to try one in a hot protected microclimate. Maybe with protection for the first year and luck it could last a few years. Or more? Probably not, but it is one of the palms that they box stores are selling as "cold hardy", so the experiment wouldn't have to be expensive....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Urbanus proteus, the Long-tailed Skipper on Duranta flower

Somehow I missed the iridescent blue color on the wingss of this interesting subtropical butterfly. Nevertheless, I'm pretty certain of this identification. It's raining off and on today but since it's the last day of this visit, I'm prowling the garden weeding and photographing.
Texas Sage, Leucophyllum frutescens, is just today, producing a smattering of flowers....I'm sure as a result of the deep watering and light fertilization it received last Saturday! I would be nice to be able to stay 2-3 weeks as many other plants are budding up in response to my ministrations. Bougainvillea, Salvia leucantha, Salvia microphylla cvs, Salvia greggii cvs, various Crinums, Psychotria nervosa, Myrcianthesfragrans, Salvia cocccinea....
Aclepias currassavica