Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Tree Frog


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wild Comfrey

Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum)

A relatively large native perennial with a small, pale blue flower usually found in open woods. The USDA distribution map indicates wild comfrey is found throughout Canada and central/eastern United States. However, in many of the northeastern states C. virginiauum varies from Endangered to Presumed Extirpated. The heaviest concentration are found mainly in the Mid-South. We have plenty here in the Ozarks.

"The genus name Cynoglossum is from the Greek "cynos", of a dog, and "glossa", tongue and refers to the rough, tongue-shaped leaf. The European Hound's-tongue, a close relative, was believed in ancient times to heal the bite of dogs and to keep dogs from barking. Our native wild comfrey has been used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes." (New York Natural Heritage Program)

There is disagreement about whether this plant actually has medicinal properties or with it was simply incorrectly associated with Old World comfrey. According to the author of 2bn The Wild: "Nineteenth century herbalist suggested that Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum) could be a substitute for Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) which is the Old World Comfrey long used for treating wounds and internally for digestive disorders, respiratory infections and as a mild sedative. Pyrrolixidine one of the active substances may cause liver damage it taken in large doses over time. Today some herbalist seem to completely confuse the Wild Comfrey of the U. S. with the Comfrey of Europe and Asia. I can find no scientific data to suggest that they may have the same properties. The more closely related Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) was also an Old World plant that was used similarly but there is no evidence of its effectiveness."

"Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) is a European species introduced here and now weedy in this country. It is larger and more leafy with reddish purple flowers."


Monday, April 28, 2008

Oxford, Mississippi

Double Decker Art Festival in Oxford, Mississippi

Over the weekend, Jo and I participated in a Saturday only art fair on the square in Oxford, MS. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get many photos, except for a couple of quick crowd shots. It was still dark when we arrived in downtown Oxford to begin setting up and it was dark again by the time we got everything packed up and loaded. In between, we were too busy to allow any time for roaming the festival and/or taking photos -- and that's very good.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tiger Swallowtail and Iris

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Iris (of unknown parentage)

We're sorry, but Marvin is not currently at his computer. If you'd care to leave a message on the comments page, he will read it upon his return home. Thank you.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle

Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

Obviously, male tiger beetles use their powerful jaws for clasping things other than just prey.

From BugGuide Species Page:

Identification: Brilliant green coloration with six white spots. No other Nearctic Tiger Beetle looks much like this one. Occasional variation seen. Overall color may be bluish on some individuals, and spots may be missing on some individuals.
Range: In the United States, found over much of the eastern and Great Plains states. Absent from the Gulf Coast area. Range continues into southeastern Canada.
Habitat: Dirt paths in grassy areas, but seldom far from the woods. Also found hunting along sidewalks and roads.
Food: A variety of insects.
Remarks: Over much of America, this is probably the species of Tiger Beetle most often noticed by the general public.

Related Post: Splendid Tiger Beetle

We're sorry, but Marvin is not currently at his computer. If you'd care to leave a message on the comments page, he will read it upon his return home. Thank you.

(Now...... Let's see if I can get Blogger's new scheduling feature to work for me.)


Friday, April 25, 2008

Wood Betony

Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis)

A native perennial that ranges from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in central and eastern North American. Most of the online wildflower guides we read said Wood Betony has yellow or brownish red flowers. We say that the blooms on the P. canadensis in our woods are white or purple. We're sure it's the same plant, though. The flower shapes and fern-like leaves are unmistakable. (The Wildflowers of Arkansas field guide does say Wood Betony's flowers are greenish-yellow or reddish-purple. We'll go along with that. Evidently, flower color varies somewhat by location and/or soil conditions.)

From Illinois Wildflowers: The "flowers bloom from the bottom up during late spring; this blooming period lasts about 3 weeks. There is a mild floral fragrance that is not always detectable to the human nose, although bees and other insects can detect it. The flowers are replaced by large fruits that are angular and hairy. The root system consists of a taproot, and lateral roots that are parasitic on the roots of grasses and possibly other plants. Wood Betony, however, is capable of normal growth and development even when suitable host plants are unavailable. This plant often forms colonies by reseeding itself."

Another common name for Wood Betony is Lousewort. The Native Plant Information Netwook says: "The genus name, from the Latin pediculus (a louse), and the common name Lousewort, refer to the misconception once held by farmers that cattle and sheep become infested with lice when grazing on the plants."


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Banded Hickory Borer

Just Hanging Around With A Friend

Banded Hickory Borer (Knulliana cincta cincta)

Longhorned Beetle (Cerambycidae)

Range: Northeastern US, and southward and westward to Texas and Oklahoma.

Food: Larvae feed on dead and seasoned branches and limbs of hardwood species, including oak and hickory.

Life Cycle: Eggs are laid in crevices in the bark, or directly into the wood. Larvae feed the first season beneath the bark, then head deeper into the wood.

Thanks to Phillip Harpootlian at BugGuide for the ID.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Black Corsair Assassin Bug

Black Corsair (Melanolestes picipes) -- Male

An assassin bug (Family: Reduviidae) that preys upon other insects and is found throughout much of North America, particularly the northeast, central, southern United States. Males are fully winged and can often be seen out and about during the spring, presumably searching for females. (This one was attracted through my open basement door and into my shop.) During mating, the spongy pads on the males' forelegs are used to help mount females. The pads are also said to aid in capturing prey.

Females corsairs have stunted, non-functional wings. They hunt under rocks, logs, and fallen leaves for ground-dwelling prey like caterpillars, crickets, and earthworms. Adults overwinter under logs, in piles of weeds, etc. (See Swamp Thing for a photo of a female Black Corsair.)

In general, assassin bugs have elongated heads and short, stout, curved proboscises. (Plant-feeding bugs tend to have longer, thinner and straighter proboscises which they hold against the underside of their bodies when not in use.) Assassin bugs feed by thrusting their proboscises forward and into the body of their prey. After injecting saliva to paralyze the prey, assassin bugs suck out the body fluids.

Jo can attest to the fact that an assassin bugs can and will thrust its proboscis into human flesh. A few yeas back an assassin bug accidentally ended up in our house and Jo attempted to return it outdoors. The bug failed to appreciate the her kindness and administered a bite. Jo said it hurt -- a lot.


Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sweat Bee

Sweat Bee (Tribe Augochlorini)

Sweat Bee is the common name given to a large family (Halictidae) of small bees. Generalizations about life cycles and degrees of social development among sweat bees is difficult because they vary widely between species. Most species nest in the ground, but some nest in wood. Nests usually consist of a single main tunnel having one or more clumped cells arising from lateral branches. In some species, the bees constantly guard the nest entrances.

Many species are solitary -- that is, the female builds and occupies its nest alone. In some sweat bee species, females nest communally, sharing a common nest entrance but constructing cells individually. Many specie show varying levels of sociality. In these species, there may be several egg-laying "queens" with the other nest mates functioning as workers. Sometimes generations of these bees overlap and live together and there may be a division of labor among nest mates.

Tribe Augochlorini contains three genera of metallic sweat bees that according to BugGuide are "very difficult to tell apart from only a photograph." The are impossible for me to tell apart -- period.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Reddy To Grow

Just a sucker shoot coming up around a stump, but I liked its color and texture.


Rue Anemone

Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides)

The are several similar little flowers in the field guides. Jo and I spent a long time online trying to pin down an ID. After several false starts, I think we finally got it correct.

5 to 11 septals and many stamens and pistils ... Check
Septals are pinkish to white ... Check
Upper leaves are in whorls ... Check
Each leave has three rounded lobes ... Check

That the upper leaves come off the stem in whorls and are lobed, but not deeply lobed, eliminated all the other possibilities, but we had not captured this feature in our original photos. We had to hike back into the woods and take more photographs. (Such a sacrifice!) Having more than five septals is also important. The guides say a False Rue Anemone always only has five. If anyone thinks we still don't have the ID right, please say so in the comments. We will gladly stand corrected.

Habitat - Dry open or rocky woods, upland slopes, ridges.

Origin - Native to U.S.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wild Plum (Maybe)

(Photo taken 4/1/08)

Wild Plum (Prunus spp)

According to the field guild Trees, Shrubs and Vines of Arkansas:

There are five species of wild plums native to Arkansas. "The species are often difficult to identify because of hybridization between native species and also because of the several planted forms and varieties that have escaped cultivation throughout the state."

Enough said. Just enjoy the beautiful blooms.

(Photo taken 3/24/08)

I'm virtually certain the top photo is, indeed, a wild plum. We have several on our place and they all look the same to me. I'm not so sure about the blossoms in the bottom photo. I'm pretty sure the tree is also a plum, but the flowers are different from all the others we've found. It also blooms very early, about 10 days before the other plums. In fact, it's one of the earliest trees to bloom on our place. I've made a mental note to return to this tree later in the year and check out the fruit. The question is: Will I remember?


Crane Fly

Crane Fly (Tipula trivittata)

From: Carnegie Museum of Natural History -- The Crane Flies of Pennsylvania

Crane flies (Diptera: Tipulidae) are the largest group of true flies. More than 1,500 species have been described in North America. Crane flies form a highly diverse group of insects, both in number of species and in larval habitats, which extend from aquatic to terrestrial. The body plan or morphology of crane flies is rather simple. An elongate body, one pair of narrow wings, and long, slender legs characterize them. The body size ranges from 5 to 50 mm and can be described as mosquito-like. They are often mistaken for mosquitoes, but they belong to a group of harmless flies and can be distinguished from all other true flies by the transverse V-shaped groove on the dorsal part of the thorax.

Crane flies serve several important roles in the ecosystem. Most importantly, adult and larval crane flies are food for many animals such as birds, fish, frogs, lizards, spiders and other insects. In addition, the larvae are detritus feeders that break down organic matter in various habitats such as streams and forest floors thereby enriching the soil, renewing and modifying the microhabitat for other invertebrate species. Some crane flies require special habitat conditions, and their presence or absence can be used as an indicator of environmental quality. Fishermen use larvae of some large crane flies as bait. Several species of crane flies are important agricultural pests; their larvae feed on seedlings of field crops and if abundant can be destructive to lawns, rangelands, rice fields, and golf courses.

Thanks to Chen Young at BugGuide for the ID.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Downy Yellow Violet

(Photo taken 3/27/08)

Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pensylvanica)

From Missouri Wildflowers:

Flowering: March - May.

Habitat: On rich wooded slopes, thickets.

Origin: Native to U.S.

Other info: You can't miss this plant in the wild. Like most of the Violets, it blooms early and shows up well against the dark forest floor. The corolla is yellow which makes for easy identification in the wild.

Range: Throughout most of central and eastern U. S. (Please see USDA distribution map for details.)


Violet Wood Sorrel

Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea)

Violet Wood Sorrel is a native perennial that prefers full to partial sun. It can be found on moist and dry prairies, rocky open woodlands, thickets, and waste areas throughout most of the United States. (See USDA distribution map for details.)

The blooming period occurs during late spring and lasts about a month. Rarely, Violet Wood Sorrel may bloom again in the fall. There is no floral scent. Eventually, slender pointed seed capsules develop that split into 5 sections, sometimes ejecting the light brown seeds several inches. The root system consists of small bulblets with fibrous roots, which can slowly multiply.
Therefore, O. violacea is often found in clusters.

"Sorrel" refers to plants that have a sour juice. Many people like to eat the leaves or mix them into salads because of their sour taste. However, the leaves of all members of the Oxalidaceae family should be eaten in moderation if at all. The sour taste comes from the oxalic acid they contain and oxalic acid can cause kidney damage if eaten in large quantities.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Flashbacks

Events from this week in year's past.
(Not too many years past, just as long as we've owned a digital camera.)


Snakes were breeding. (I guess they're breeding.)

Jo found a viscous, man-eating cottontail in our weed-filled strawberry bed. (Jo's photo)

We discovered a fairly large snapping turtle migrating across our upper pasture. (Jo's photo)

Spiderworts bloomed. (I haven't seen any spiderworts in bloom yet this year.) (Jo's photo)


A luna moth hung out on the clothesline. (I haven't seen one of these yet in 2008.)

A male carpenter bee prepared to do a little nectar robbing on a narcissus while a wasp made its way into the bloom. (Narcissus are just now budding this year.)

Green Stink Bug

Green Stink Bug (Acrosternum hilare)

Identification: Stink bugs are true bugs (Order: Hemiptera). All insects in Hemiptera share a few characteristics, including piercing and sucking mouthparts, and wings which are membranous and clear at the tips, but hardened at the base. Stink bugs are distinguished from other members of Hemiptera by their broad, shield-shaped bodies, 5-segmented antennae, and large "scutellums". (The scutellum is a triangular-shaped part of the thorax. Although it is present on all insects, it extends halfway down the backs of stink bugs and is very noticeable.)

Several species of stink bugs are green or include green in their color pattern. The three black bands on the outermost antennae segments help identify this specimen as A. hilare. (There are also differences in the shape of the stink gland pore located on the underside of the bug. These are explanined on BugGuide.)

Food: Like most stink bugs, A. hilare is herbivorous. It uses its piercing mouth parts to feed on plant juices. (A few species of stink bugs are predatory.) Stink bugs can cause serious damage to food crops when they feed on developing fruits. Feeding damage is caused when they insert their piercing/sucking mouthparts into the plant, inject digestive enzymes, extract plant juices and allow entry of pathogenic microorganisms. The fruits then wither or become deformed. (This disfigurement or malformation is sometimes called catfacing.)

The Stink: Stink bugs get their name because they are able to secrete a bad-smelling, bad-tasting fluid from pores on the sides of their bodies (many other members of the Hemiptera can do this as well). This is a defensive mechanism used to keep predators like birds, mice and lizards from eating the bug. It usually takes severe harassment to provoke stinkbugs into releasing their chemical defenses because producing these chemicals requires a significant energy investment from the bug. (I have accidentally crushed stink bugs when they attempted to crawl under my shirt collar and can attest to the fact that the smell released is strong, unpleasant and isn't easily washed off.)

The exact chemicals released by stink bugs vary by species, but they are all aldehydes. Aldehydes do not inherently smell bad, but stink bugs concentrate these chemicals so much that they become wholly unpleasant, even irritating. The smell can even kill the stinkbug itself. If the bugs are collected in stoppered vials, or kept in cages without adequate ventilation, the chemicals can get into their respiratory system and asphyxiate them.

While these aldehydes are distasteful and even toxic to birds and other predators, according to one particularly dedicated scientist, Dr. Bryan Krall of Parkland College, stinkbugs taste to humans like red-hots or cinnamon gum. (No matter how much I'm goaded by Tom W., I refuse to eat a stink bug.)

Range and Habitat: A. hilare can be found just about anywhere outdoors throughout North America. (BugGuide says: "Fields, meadows, yards & gardens on herbaceous plants and low shrubs.")

(Photo taken last July)

Life Cycle: Like all Hemiptera, stink bugs go through a simple metamorphosis with egg, nymph, and adult stages. During warm months, female stink bugs lay barrel-shaped eggs which are stuck in clusters to leaves and stems. Emerging nymphs are gregarious and remain on or near the egg mass. As they develop, they begin to feed and disperse. The wingless nymphs molt several times before becoming full-sized, winged adults. Large nymphs or adults are usually the overwintering stage.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Northern Spice Bush

Northern Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin)
(Photo from 3/27/08)

Plant family: Laurel (Lauraceae)

Habitat: Rich deciduous woodlands, wooded bluffs, bottomland forests along rivers, wooded slopes (usually toward the bottom), and gravelly seeps in shaded areas.

Range: Most of eastern North America.

Comments (from Missouri Plants): This shrubby species is easy to identify in the field because of its habitat and its pleasant fragrance. When crushed, the leaves give off a lemon scent that is reminiscent of "Pledge" furniture polish. The small flowers of the plant are some of the first to be seen in the spring. They are short lived and the plant is typically seen with just leaves or in fruit. This is a dioeceous species, meaning plants will have either male or female flowers. Staminate plants typically have many more flowers than pistillate plants.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fire Pink

Fire Pink (Silene virginica)
(photo by Jo)

Habitat: Rocky woods, ledges, wooded slopes.

Origin: Native to U.S.

Range: Eastern North America, except for the extreme northeast.

Comment: The "pink" in this wildflower's name has nothing to do with color. Instead, it refers to the notches at the end of the petals. The petals appear to have been pinked.


Wordless Wednesday


Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Caterpillar hosts: Shrubs of the genus Asimina (pawpaw) in the Annonaceae family. Young plants are preferred.

Adult food: Moisture from sand and nectar from flowers including blueberry, blackberry, lilac, redbud, verbena, dogbane, and common milkweed.

Habitat: Breeds in moist low woodlands near swamps and rivers. Adults fly to nectar plants in open fields and brushy areas.

Range: Most abundant in the central/eastern part of the U. S.

Source: Butterflies and Moths of NA


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Birdfoot Violet

Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata)

Habitat: Dry woods and open areas.
Range: Most of eastern U. S.
Comments: This violet does not reproduce vegetatively like most other violets. Reproduction is by seed only.


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) -- Male

This species is sexually dimorphic, meaning the males and females do not look alike. In Arkansas we have dark-form females, though there are also yellow females. (See Butterflies and Moths of North America for more photos.)

Habitat: Deciduous broadleaf woods, forest edges, river valleys, parks, and suburbs.

Range: Eastern North America from Ontario south to Gulf coast, west to Colorado plains and central Texas.


Flood Damage

Jo and I originally intended to head home from South Texas last Wednesday, but after having a look at the severe weather and heavy rain forecast for East Texas and most of Arkansas, we decided to postpone our departure until Thursday. That proved to be a wise choice. Central Arkansas was hit by a series of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Up here in the Ozarks, extremely heavy rain just about shut Searcy County down for a day. Several buildings in Marshall (the county seat) flooded. These included the high school and grocery store. Both of these structures are on relatively level ground and neither is in a particularly low area. The flooding occurred because such a large amount of rain fell so quickly onto already saturated ground it simply couldn't drain away fast enough.

Ironically, Marshall also lost its supply of drinking water when the inlet pipes to the water treatment plant were washed away. Down the road a ways, the waste water treatment plant in Leslie suffered the same fate to its outlet piping.

Out closer to home, one end of this concrete bridge over Bear Creek was undermined and collapsed. The bridge is on a county road just off the state highway.

So much debris in the flooding creek piled up against the bridge that it became a dam, forcing the flood waters to go around the bridge and washing away the approaches. On the near end where the bridge section collapsed, the water eroded away about fifty feet of creek bank.

This shot shows the upstream side of the bridge -- not that you can actually see the bridge through all the debris.

It's now a mighty long jump from bank to bridge.

While not as dramatic looking, this mud slide in the same general area had the state highway completely blocked for most of a day. Had we been trying to get home, we could not have gotten past this obstruction. I would have been very hesitant to try using back roads to detour around it.

(This mudslide has been a recurring problem ever since the landowner bulldozed the trees off a steep hillside above the highway. I wonder how many thousands of dollars Arkansas taxpayers have paid to have the highway department keep cleaning up the mess created by one man who wanted a couple of more acres of pasture for his cows?)

We faired much better up on the ridge above Bear Creek Valley. There was no damage to our house or Jo's studio. Water seeped into my basement shop, but it always does whenever we get a heavy rain on saturated ground. The road into our place has some very rough sections again, but the recently cleaned out water cutouts worked well enough to keep any really deep ruts from being cut into the roadway.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Texas Trip -- Randomly

A few random photos to wrap up our recent trip to the Texas coast.

Roadside bluebonnets, the Texas state flower. (Photo by Jo)

Mom's Amaryllis

I really don't see why Mom didn't plant a redder hibiscus.

We visited a little too late to see the peach blossoms.

Indian Blanket

The bees were abuzzin.

Primrose (Photo by Jo)


Thank You, FDR

The sidewalk in front of my folks' house has been around for a while.