Sunday, March 30, 2014

milkweed tell-all, all told, part 5 of 5

post #183
      I have needed these five weeks to complete my milkweed exploration.  However, I suspect I will be finishing just in time to catch the early and late spring part of the milkweed story, since I didn't start this project until June 23rd last year.  Fear not, my plan is to give the blog a milkweed break until I discover all that I hope to see and learn this April, May and June.
        Actually, when I made the photos for Counting on the Woods, I had to find five nests. That was in 1997.  It is now 2014. I still look for nests.  What can I say.  Will I ever learn to quit doing it?

10/24/14, location #3

This looks to me like the inner workings of these pods are now finished being useful.

10/26/14, after an overnight frost

near the milkweed, a view that struck me as interesting...


windy day (11/6/14), beauty within


location #2, along our driveway

location #3 (see previous photo as well)

location #2, in January, resting, after a job well done

Sunday, March 23, 2014

milkweed tell-all, part 4 of 5, still surprises for me

post #182
     More milkweeds, as 2013 progressed.  I guess I should simply say The year progressed and I obsessed...  Actually, the plants just continue to be interesting. I did most of my checking this fall at Location #3, along route 504.  However this first photo was made this week just to show where the three milkweed stalks were, on the left, along the fence.  The pull-off area for my car is on the right:

October 2, 2013 -- The seed pods are beginning to open up.

a seed pod split open, showing the hanging bunch of seeds still inside

another surprise visitor!  A grasshopper, on the move. I feel lucky to have not missed this shot!  The seeds are starting to be blown about, each one with a kind of parachute.

The grasshopper here is not as sharp, but the seeds and their carry-me-in-the-wind fuzz show up well in the midday sun.

Surely these milkweed bugs are way too numerous and are doing harm.

overview, the next day, of the milkweed stalks in location #3

a week later

nearby hay field, October 19, 2013

The seeds seem stuck together by wet weather as they hang out of the split-open pod.

Some seeds manage to "dry out and fly right".  

      I attended an excellent presentation this week about setting up Monarch Way Stations.  These give the Monarchs a place to lay eggs as they travel north from Mexico.  These gardens should have a combination of nectar bearing plants (in large enough groups for the butterflies to see) and milkweeds since the Monarch will only lay eggs on the leaves of milkweed. We saw a photo by Betty Hall of a Monarch butterfly in the process of laying eggs!  Tiny white balls.  I will hope to see some this spring.

        I was able to ask our speaker, Linda Porter, about the role of milkweed bugs, and of spiders, and about the toxicity of the white fluid within the milkweed stems.  Mostly what is needed for these beautiful butterflies is places to lay their eggs, as they move north.  And, of course, what they and all other plants and animals also need is for us human beings to be using our brain power to come to terms with how the climate change we are causing impacts all life forms on this best-hope-for-us planet. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

milkweed tell-all, part 3 of 5, visitors

post #181
     It's Sunday again, so here is another selection from my milkweed collection and more memories of my amazement.

       I start with an iPhone overview of location #2, midday in early September, 2013:
      BEFORE YOU LOOK AT THE NEXT THREE PHOTOS, TRY TO SEE A VISITOR ON THE PLANT!  HOW GLAD I AM I TOOK TIME TO MAKE THIS PHOTO (even though the midday light is rarely the best) BECAUSE I WOULD NOT OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN LOOKING CLOSELY AT THE PLANT TO SEE WHAT WAITED FOR ME -- the unexpected!  And it is also true I might have not gotten into the habit of looking, looking, looking from then on, taking a chance each time for wonder.

     I was so taken by the frog that I went back that very evening to see if it was still there.  I was rewarded by seeing another visitor, plus the frog had moved -- to the leaf just below where it had been before:

I love the frog's shadow through the leaf.  I think he or she thinks I can't see any frogs, thanks to their turning to green.  In any case, there is no attempt to escape.
The seed pods are beginning their autumn voyage from green to gray.
       Can you now find the frog in this evening overview photo??  (Hint: look in the middle of the photo)

  Five days later, I start seeing more milkweed bugs.  I still am not sure if they help with things or if too many of them damage the plant.  Again, my lack of biology training slows me down a bit.  I suspect an overabundance of them means trouble for the plant, and, were there monarch butterfly eggs, definitely trouble for the monarchs.

I loved seeing this spider returned and still at work. I hope it is not one of the spiders that eat butterfly eggs....

      About ten days later, I discovered LOCATION #3 along the road on the way to town -- with an actual place across from these several plants where I could pull the car off the road.  I found wonders here, too, but I will wait until next week (part 4 of 5) to show more than this single photo from there.  Of course I had been driving by this place all summer without paying full attention.  I am so grateful I finally came to my to speak.

          So, for now, Hey, good lookin' -- to you all.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

milkweed tell-all, part 2 of 5

post #180
       I am loving reviewing my milkweed photos with these blog posts in mind.  Today I am  including a few non-milkweeds as well.  It feels like the best way to share what else was happening at the same time in a plant's short life.  I come at this project as an artist and not as a biologist, though obviously the two perspectives overlap.  
        NOTE: I am planning to publish this before 9:30 a.m. (daylight savings time!) which is earlier in the Sunday than usual.  I am needing to drive a couple of hours west, to Lexington, in order to volunteer noon to 3 at the annual Kentucky Crafted: the Market.  This is a great event with over 200 juried artists displaying their wares -- to wholesalers on the Friday and to the public over the weekend.  It is taking place at the Lexington Convention Center, often referred to as Rupp Arena which is part of the complex.  It is open until 5 today and I recommend it highly.  We are proud of our hardworking Kentucky Arts Council!

      Now, to continue on from the last post, here are images from late June through August, blossoms fading and falling, seed pods growing and hosting....
This is where I left off last week -- late June, flowers still doing fine.

      I think these garden photos are very telling.  (Thanks, Sandy and Junie, for letting me admire your hard work.)  The beans are ready, the corn is growing, and so are the zucchinis!  Talk about a big seed pod!!

          (Just have to include this sky photo from up on the ridge that day.  Amazing!)

    I was away quite a bit in July last summer, so I MISSED some of my milkweed's transition from big flower to big seed pods.  Luckily I have this upcoming summer to fill in this lapse.

Location #2 --  Hello young pods!!

     Back at location #1, the meadow has been mowed for hay, taking with it my milkweeds, but bringing on the deer....

...mostly because of these gems.  Everyone around here had one of the best apple seasons in forever.

These are Joe-Pye weeds, who, like milkweed, are happy to grow along our back roads.  They attract butterflies, just like the milkweed does, but they are a lot taller than a milkweed.  Monarch butterflies, however, are particularly bonded to just milkweeds.

first photo of a milkweed bug

Happiness was discovering this beautiful spider and her web bridging these two milkweed plants!!       

I didn't have my tripod with me so this image is done hand-held, as we say.
       This last photo (for today) shows a hint of things to come.  And I have been saving the milkweed bugs for their own show, soon.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.  For some reason, this past week I have had blog visitors from over twenty countries, so I am now curious about how many places in the world have milkweed plants.  In any case, welcome to all of you!