18 April 2010

Mesic Upland Forest Ephemerals

It was such a nice weekend that, regardless of how much I had to get done, we had to get out and see some of the ephemerals before they're gone. Lindsay, Bootypants, and I headed to a mesic upland forest property owned by friends of ours just northeast of Potato Creek State Park in St. Joseph County, Indiana. It's a great time to be in the woods... I think of spring as a celebration of colors. Birds are molting into colorful breeding plumage, wildflowers are blooming to take advantage of the closing window of warm enough soil temperatures and sparse enough canopy cover before leaves are fully formed... as the comedian Robin Williams once said, "Spring is nature's way of saying 'Let's party!'".

Mesic Upland Forest

Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia)

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis)

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum)

Lapham's Phlox (Phlox divaricata ssp. laphamii)

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Prairie Trillium (Trillium recurvatum) - interesting pointed petals that are more open than normal

Prairie Trillium (Trillium recurvatum) - one of the strangest forms I've ever seen, with not quite yellow petals, but definitely lacking the pigment that you normally see

Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens)

Longspur Violet (Viola rostrata)

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

It's hard to find a happier dog than one amongst the spring wildflowers.

I've posted some additional photos from our day on Get Your Botany On!; you can access that post by clicking here.

11 April 2010

Better Late Than Never

As I prepare for our annual spring botany trip (this year to the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas), I realize that I never posted more photos from Trillium Tromp 2009. After giving an hour-long presentation on spring wildflowers for the South Bend-Elkhart Audubon Society this afternoon, I think I've said enough for one day, so I will let the photos below from our trip to Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia speak for themselves...

Treefrog (likely Green Treefrog [Hyla cinerea]) peaking out from Green Pitcherplant (Sarracenia oreophila), Coosa River Bog Preserve, Alabama

Eastern Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), DeSoto State Park, Alabama

Red form of Yellow Thistle (Cirsium horridulum), Coosa River Bog Preserve, Alabama

Moccasin Flower (Cypripedium acaule), DeSoto State Park, Alabama

Ruth's Littlebrownjug (Hexastylis arifolia var. ruthii), DeSoto State Park, Alabama

Closeup of flowers of Ruth's Littlebrownjug

Largeflower Heartleaf (Hexastylis shuttleworthii), DeSoto State Park, Alabama

Closeup of flowers of Largeflower Heartleaf

Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata), Old Stone Fort State Park, Tennessee

Granite Gooseberry (Ribes curvatum), DeSoto State Park, Alabama

Green Pitcherplant (Sarracenia oreophila), Coosa River Bog Preserve, Alabama

Bashful Wakerobin (Trillium catesbaei), DeSoto State Park, Alabama

Little Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum), Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia

Furrowed Wakerobin (Trillium sulcatum), Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia

Appalachian Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides), Old Stone Fort State Park, Tennessee

Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima), DeSoto State Park, Alabama

09 April 2010

Blue Morpho Madness

While in St. Louis, my friend Jenny, her daughter Allison, and I went to the Butterfly Garden. It was Blue Morpho March. As you can see, the Blue Morpho is amongst the world's largest butterflies with a wingspan of 5-7 inches. Blue Morpho's are tropical butterflies that are found in Central and South America. They feed on rotting fruit and occasionally tree sap. Below is a picture of the Blue Morpho that I took while at the garden.

I was amazed at just how many Blue Morpho's (and other butterflies) were flying around the Butterfly House. Check out the video below to truly get an idea of how packed this place was.

04 April 2010

Easter Family Photos

Just a few family photos from this weekend...

Chloe (who knew that sidewalk chalk could be such a mess?)


Greg and Kathleen.

Way to keep your eye on the ball!

Papa looking on...

Lily getting some help with the egg hunt from Mima and Abbie.

Well hidden.

Chloe looking for eggs.

Can you find the hidden egg in this photo?

A successful egg hunt.

03 April 2010

Huzzah Highlights

While in Missouri last week visiting Justin, Dana, and Eli Thomas, we took advantage of a beautiful early spring day and visited the Huzzah River at Fish Trap Preserve of the Ozark Regional Land Trust. In addition to simply wanting to get some fresh air, we also had the goal of searching for a newly described species of leatherwood, Ozark Leatherwood (Dirca decipiens), an early flowering shrub currently known only from Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri. Justin knew that there was leatherwood in the floodplain of the Huzzah River at this location, but he hadn't seen the population since the new species had been described. We easily located a large population of leatherwood (the largest population Justin or I had ever seen), but unfortunately it all turned out to be Eastern Leatherwood (Dirca palustris).

According to a paper by Aaron Floden, Mark Mayfield, and Carolyn Ferguson, there are several differences between the more common Eastern Leatherwood and the newly described (and as yet, rare) Ozark Leatherwood. The inflorescences of Eastern Leatherwood are on elongating peduncles, whereas those of Ozark Leatherwood are essentially sessile. The upper surfaces of the bracts of Eastern Leatherwood usually are covered by dark brown pubescence; those of Ozark Leatherwood are covered by white to light tan pubescence. The calyx in Eastern Leatherwood is unlobed (with erose, crenulate, or undulate margins), whereas the calyx in Ozark Leatherwood is four lobed (with entire to crenate margins). The leaves of Eastern Leatherwood are usually glabrous, whereas the leaves and twigs of Ozark Leatherwood are always pubescent. Finally, the fruit of Eastern Leatherwood are hairless at the tip, whereas those of Ozark Leatherwood have trichomes present at the tip. It has also been noted that Ozark Leatherwood is most often found on north-facing bluffs and slopes, often with oaks and junipers; Eastern Leatherwood is a species of low woods and floodplains.

Although we struck out on the new leatherwood, the day was still quite productive. We had little trouble finding another of our targets, Powder Gun Moss (Diphyscium foliosum). Also, several ephemerals, including Cut-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa), and False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum) were in bloom. We also had a decent day in terms of herps (at least for a bunch of botanists).

The photos directly above and below show a Little Brown Skink (Scincella lateralis). I first noticed this skink when I saw a tail slithering through the vegetation and thought I had seen a snake. This common species, which is one of the smallest reptiles in North America, spends most of its time in the leaf litter. It is interesting to note that Little Brown Skinks can apparently see with their eyes closed, as they have transparent disks in their lower eyelids.

Little Brown Skinks are known from much of the eastern United States (New Jersey to Kansas, south to Florida and Texas), as well as from northern Mexico.

We also turned over numerous logs and rocks and found several of the salamander species shown directly above and below, which I believe is a Southern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon serratus). Like many other salamanders, this species spends much of its time under debris in moist woods. It is primarily nocturnal.

According to the Animal Diversity Web (http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Plethodon_serratus.html), Southern Red-backed Salamanders are found in four disjunct populations: the Salem plateau of southeast Missouri, the Ouachita Mountains in southeast Oklahoma and west central Arkansas, the Piedmont Plateau and Blue Ridge Mountains of northwest Georgia, Alabama, Tennesee, and North Carolina, and in isolated locations in central Louisiana.

Thanks to Justin and Dana for introducing us to this preserve. You can't go wrong with a hike on a spring day, as there is always so much to see.

01 April 2010

Here We Go Again...

After Bootypants and I went for a walk this afternoon, I found this guy on my leg...

This is a male American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis). We saw a couple of ticks in Missouri last weekend, but this is the first tick I've seen in northern Indiana this year. I guess it's that time of year.