Friday, June 26, 2015

A Surprise Bug

A few weeks ago a deer broke off a branch from one of the smooth sumac that I have been trying to establish on my property.  Rather than tossing it out I put it in some water to see if it would root.  After two weeks, I inspected it closely for any growth and found none.  This is no surprise, stem cuttings are not recommended for propagating smooth sumac.  What I did find was what looked like a new bud, but it was facing the wrong way.  On closer examination I saw that it was a small insect.

If this bug were turned around on the branch, I may not have distinguished it from the sumac's leaf bud.

The general shape of this insect brought leafhoppers to mind.  Looking at similar insects on the web brought me to conclude that this was the nymph of a two-striped planthopper, Acanalonia bivittata.  

The white plume coming from the rear of this insect is a waxy compound that helps prevent desiccation
 and may protect it from predators.
While I really love my plants, there are some pretty amazing looking insects out there.  All them with a role to play in a healthy ecosystem.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wildflowers on the Potomac

Way back in late April I set aside some time to see some of the nearby native species on a guided walk with the Maryland Native Plant Society (MNPS).  We visited the limestone cliffs along the Potomac river near Sharpsburg, MD.  In this area are a number of plants rare to Maryland, such as northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and bulbet fern (Cystopteris bulbifera).  Our leader that day was Christol Fleming (co-author of Finding Wildflowers in the Washington-Baltimore area), who really knew the area inside and out.

Following are some of the many photos I took that day (roughly in the order seen moving downstream from Snyder's landing):

Coarse foliage of Virginia waterleaf is spotted with white.
Its blooming period is a little later in May.

It's difficult to tell Dutchman's breeches and Squirrel corn (Dicentra cucullaria and  D. canadense)
apart when not in bloom.  Here, side-by-side, you can see that Squirrel corm has a blue-green cast.

These blue cohosh were not in bloom yet, but the layered foliage of this mass
created the effect of a green mist coming down the hillside. 

Up on a limestone cliff  we saw this lyre-leaf arabis (Arabis lyrata) and
 wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) on a rock outcrop.
These two species are well adapted to growing in thin soiled habitats.

Shooting star is a species found in rich calcareous soils
prevalent in this area along the Potomac.
Many Virginia bluebells were in bloom at this time throughout the region.  
Mixed in here are some of the rarer white ones.

In some places the floor of shady woods were covered with the white flowers of meadow rue.
It was formally of the genus Anemonella.

There were two kinds of trillium in bloom at this time. The red trillium (T. erectum),
shown here, and toadshade (T. sessile).

When I think of violets, shades of blue and purple come to mind.
This downy yellow violet, though common, really caught my eye.

There were many more species growing there than I've shown here, some like the hepatica had already bloomed out, and others like the dwarf larkspur and mayapples had not yet popped.

I would like to pay a visit to this area in early summer to see the massive banks of the native smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) in bloom; however Cristol warns in her book that this area has been overrun with garlic mustard and Japanese honeysuckle at that time of year.