Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
I was trying to get some good wide shots of the beds the century plants currently dominate, when I spotted a dragonfly I didn't recognize. Off I went to get a photo (of course!) and while I was wheeling around it trying to get a good shot of any identifying marks, my attention was captured by a narrow winged strongly striped black and yellow blur in the background.
Heliconius-charithonia). I was elated! A sighting for August in the nick of time! In the spirit of the Bucket List, I decided it was time to fill in some gaps in my information on this wonderfully striped visitor.
According to the information on the BOMA page linked above, Zebra Longwings grow to a length of between 2 3/4 and 4 inches, wing tip to wing tip. Their preferred host plant is any one of the several varieties of passion vines. I found it fascinating that such a strongly patterned winged creature flies around leaving eggs and setting their cats loose on vines bearing one of the most striking flowers around.
Zebra Longwings are reported to have a set foraging route. They are considered "trap-line" feeders. That means since I saw one out on our lantana this afternoon, if I am observant I ought to be able to catch it visiting again tomorrow. And the next day. I like that idea - that the zebra and I have a standing appointment, if I wish to keep it.
Thanks to Anna for hosting this wonderful incentive to get out and take a closer look at who is flying in and dropping by. Be sure to visit her own August post and pick up the links to a whole host of great bloggers posting about their own butterfly experiences this month.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
I have two smaller Datura plants out closer to the street, but they aren't the beneficiaries of extra hand watering and have only been in place for a season or two.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
This last anole almost completely escaped my attention. Well camouflaged and all snugged up tight against the pole to the left of the butterfly, he seems to be waiting for a little privacy to make his move.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Events finally conspired however, and this year we have flowers, a series of pink and yellow long lasting blooms, for the first time ever.
August heat or not, there are jobs that desperately need to be done, centrally involving cutting back completely overgrown opuntia, agave and countless volunteer hackberry seedlings intermingled in a wild run of sprinkler blocking branches. Today I decided to get started on beds on the downhill side.
As I was working my way from drive to corner I discovered both types of paper wasps nesting in the overgrowth, polistes exclamans and polistes carolina. (These wasp photos are from earlier this year. Today's work was not a photo op.) 9/7/15 Update: While the wasp in this photo is P. exclamans, I now believe the wasps I ran across out front to be P. bellicosus. See this post for more on the saga.
|P. exclamans (top left) has a signature orange tipped antennae.|
|Polistes carolina harvesting wood pulp aka our bench|
Temperatures will drop. Both nests will be abandoned. Most of the plants growing in the areas where the sprinklers have been blocked by wasp nest-bearing branches, are mature native specimens. For today, I'm making no decision other than to keep a watchful eye on things. And hope like crazy for rain.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
There have been a lot of dragonflies and butterflies this year, due at least in part to heavier than usual May and June rains. These evocatively named Widow Skimmers, this one a male, according to the blue body, have provided near constant supervision and companionship out in the garden beds.
Monday, August 3, 2015
Why? Why even bother? Why not just throw up my hands, assign my own names to everything and call it a day?
Part of the answer is that I am (extremely) stubborn. Once I begin a search for a name, if I'm not rapidly rewarded with what I feel are reasonably accurate results my efforts become a Quest. The more time I spend not finding what I am looking for, the more determined I become to find it. (see "Top Management Mistake:Throwing good money after bad")...
Most of the rest of that "what IS it!?" energy comes from the fact we are trying to take a no-kill approach here. If a plant appears that we didn't plant, we usually accept it as a gracious gift until it is proven otherwise. Several plants others consider weeds, we prefer to regard as native ground covers.
To properly identify a plant I typically rely upon the LBJ Wildflower Center's Native Plant Database, but I also keep an eye out on local garden blogs. Common things being common, most if not all the plants I run across are not strangers to others in my area. Just because I don't know what something is, rarely means somebody more experienced in my area does not. And potentially, somebody else in my area is also wanting to know.
Recently I experienced a small frisson of recognition while reading a post on Sheryl Smith-Rodger's wonderful "Window on a Texas Wildscape" blog. She was updating readers on the watchful-waiting attitude she'd taken towards a horseweed, or mane's tail weed, aka Conyza canadensis. Her plant was tall, and getting taller. She had decided to let it grow until it bloomed and then she planned to take it out of the ground to prevent its spread from seed.
|The Mystery Plant appears center stage, a bit spindly with the tiniest of blossoms up top.|
And you'll have to forgive me - I didn't get a photo of the seed ball because I reflexively trapped and disposed of it safely before I thought of recording its appearance. Imagine a miniscule dandelion seed head. That's pretty close. Rather than risk seed dispersing while I waited for a photo, I pulled the plant.
|Take a closer look at the blooms to the right and left of center in this frame. Those are opened blooms. Easy to miss.|
By similar token, when a new (to us) creature appears in our midst, we'd rather find out about it before deciding the appropriate measure to take (if any). Co-exist, relocate, or potentially exterminate, as stewards we try to establish the wisest course. Those decisions all require accurate information.
Supporting that same no-kill approach with insects and arachnids drives me to other blogs and sites established to help amateurs make good choices. Toxicity, aggression, tendency to overrun a biome, we strongly believe all these factors must be taken into consideration before doing anything other than admiring these drop-in time-share partners.
Just yesterday my daughter and I were wrapping up a lovely visit and a swim, when I noticed a nearly 3 inch long spider sitting in the skimmer basket opening. I wasn't really worried about it, but we do have other local family (including canines) who might take issue over sharing the water with such a large arachnid.
Does it swim? Does it bite? Is it aggressive? I watched for a while and it seemed to be hanging there, waiting for prey. I knew I needed more information to convince everyone involved it would be safe to let it stay there undisturbed.
I tried (and TRIED! I promise!) to make some definitive identification, but to no avail. Finally I sent the image in to What's That Bug and asked for their weigh-in. Soon I had my answer. It is their opinion the Mystery Spider of August 2015 is Dolomedes triton, also known as a six-spotted fishing spider.
I read these water bug hunters might dive to 7-8 inches and grab a plant to hide if frightened, but they don't live in the water and they don't really swim per se. No need to stress, no need to relocate, and most definitely no need to exterminate her. We can safely admire her and swim securely knowing she's keeping the water's surface patrolled for other bugs we might not be so happy with in close quarters.
So thank goodness for other bloggers and interweb identification helpers. They all make this attempt of ours to peacefully co-exist a lot easier to support with some peace of mind.
Do you ever struggle with identification? If you aren't surrounded by knowledgeable gardening neighbors, here are a few of the other sites I rely upon frequently.
The experts there recently helped me pinpoint what to this beauty is called: Melipotis indomita
Valerie's Austin Bug Collection
I don't have a recent story utilizing this website, but I turn here frequently as a first step. When searching out identities of the locals, it never hurts to limit the starting point to the usual suspects for your locale. Valerie has done most of that work for Austin and the surrounding area. (Thank you, Valerie!).
For those of us living in the Lone Star State, there are a whole host of other "fill-in-the-bug type here" of Your County or "Birds of Texas" type sites to consult. Your results will vary depending on where you live, and occasionally on how prevalent agriculture is in your neck of the woods.
Not surprisingly, there's a wealth of information to be had from the extension agencies serving farmers and ranchers. Granted, a lot of that information includes data on eradication and/or control, but armed with the facts, you can feel more secure in making your own choices about how to respond to the various surprise appearances life delivers into your yard or garden.
There you have it. Now you know. I am curious, stubborn, and I am trying (hard!) to co-exist peaceably with everything and everybody Momma Nature throws our way. What's important about all those names? Oh, only everything...