Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Flowers = Spring Pollinators

It was difficult yesterday not to notice the front yard crabapple tree (probably a Prairie Fire) which was ablaze in red and pink. Also noticing and attracted to it were hundreds of bees, ranging from very small bees to a large bumblebee or two. The bee pictured above is probably a mining bee (family Andreninae), but I have no experience identifying them. Notice the amount of yellow pollen grains as well as the hairs on the bee's thorax, abdomen, and legs which make her entire body a pollen collecting tool. This bee will visit many flowers of many plants and "share" some of the pollen thereby pollinating them, a wonderful example of mutual benefit in nature. The mining bees burrow in the ground, laying their eggs in small chambers along with a ball of pollen and nectar for the hatched larval bees to feed on. This image is worth clicking on to open the full resolution version in a separate window.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trout Lily

So many of the spring ephemerals are blooming now.  Today I found several Trout Lilies in bloom.  Most sources claim that the yellow flowering variety is more common, however, the ones at Habitat Home are white.  The flower is extremely sensitive to the sunlight and will turn on its stalk to follow the sunlight.  At night it nearly closes.  Another interesting feature is the mottled leaves which some say look like a trout, hence the name Trout Lily.  But others call this the Dog-tooth "Violet"because the petals look like dog's teeth.  I think violet is very misleading and so it is Trout Lily to me or Erythronium albidum  to really identify it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


The river path is awash in bluebells Mertensia virginica
Bluebells go thought several color changes as they grow.  The first to emerge are the deep blue purple buds.  The buds then open into blue bells but not before they shift though various shades of pink to turn this beautiful bright shade of blue.  Occasionally one can find a bluebell with white flowers.  Notice in the photo above that our beavers are still around..

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Prairie Burn #17

And what a burn it was. Even thought the wind was stronger than we ever burned with before, we decided to go ahead and try. There were only four of us but we were all experienced prairie burners, had our flappers, and thought we should at least try a small section first.

And so we burned the western-most area with ease, using the wedding circle as our fire break. The wind was not that strong, the grasses were dry and burned nicely, although there did seem to be more smoke than usual.

Since the wind was strong the backfire was managed with care as we started to burn the rest of the prairie. The backfire slowly burned against the wind. Once a significant area was burned the fire was set with the wind and within a matter of minutes the fire swept across the tall grasses, met up with the backfire and extinguished itself. The roar and smoke and leaping flames were gone. All that remained was black ground and the bones of a deer long since dead.

This was the best burn yet!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Garden Blitz

A takeaway from our time spent attending the recent Garden Blitz at the Missouri Botanical Garden was that if you want to have bluebirds, you have to have caterpillars, although perhaps not quite like this one (above) at the entrance to the Butterfly House. Bluebirds can take over 300 caterpillars a day while feeding their young! The day was well spent learning more about native plants, birds, pollinators and sustainable gardening. The keynote address by Doug Tallamy alone was worth the drive. He had beautiful photos of many many caterpillars and insects that need native plants and which are then eaten by our native birds. Do read his book "Bringing Nature Home" if you have not done so.

Another takeaway: reduce the amount of yard you mow and plant more oaks. Oaks are the #1 plant species when it comes to supporting Lepidoptera. They support 534 species.

The talk given by Mike Arduser, a research assistant specializing in solitary bees at the University of Missouri, was very good. There are over 3,500 bee species in North America most of which are native and seasonal, unlike the honey bee Apis mellifers, which is what most people think of when one mentions bees. Mike also explained how to build nesting boxes for some of the native bees and had nesting boxes for us to physically take away!

Below is one of MANY photos taken that day of the beautifully displayed orchids at the Missouri Botanical Garden Orchid Show occurring simultaneously at the garden.
On the way home, a dinner stop at Firefly in Effingham was a great way to end the Blitz.