Archive for August, 2013

A Fancy Crab Spider

A crab spider’s small size makes them easy to overlook,

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especially with their ability to change color to match the flowers they’re on.

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This one seems to have a creative streak, when it comes to designing its attire.

They are called crab spiders because of their legs being similar to those of crabs. The male is smaller than the female.

A Grasshopper and a ?

I usually make the rounds of my weedpatch one or two times a day, according to the weather.

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This grasshopper wasn’t as hidden as it thought it was. Its color surprised me when I saw it on the computer. I think it almost looks transparent.

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This little critter didn’t like my attention and wasn’t overly cooperative. I have no idea what kind of insect it is.

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I was so taken with its color combinations and trying to snap pictures.

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Elephant’s foot (Elephantopus carolinianus)

According to my Missouri Wildflowrs book, Elephantopus, Greek, “elephant foot” is a translation of an aboriginal name which does not explain anything. They are found primarily in the tropics and warm regions of the world.

 The florets measured 1/2 inch when fully open. The green “leaves” are actually bracts. The true leaves are lower on the 3-foot-tall, branched plant.

Heirlooms Blooming


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Eucharis lily (Eucharis grandiflora)

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 is a family heirloom from as far back as my grandmother.

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Grandfather’s rose has bloomed twice this summer and these are the last of the second bloom.

Grandfather’s rose was given to my grandmother when my mother was born in 1929. 

A Short Hike

Mine and Buffy’s hike started out as usual on the trail edging this lake.

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Tiger swallowtail butterflies flew from this swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) before I could get their picture.

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Aphids covered the upper stems of the few milkweeds.

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Square-stemmed monkey-flower (Mimulus ringens) grew in a dense patch.

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Patches of woodland sunflowers (Helianthus divaricatus) were common in the woods.

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Button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) usually attracts  numerous butterflies.

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Ironweed (Vernonia baldwini) is also a butterfly magnet. Only this spicebush swallowtail cooperated for a picture.

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Thunder rumbled behind us. I took a quick picture of this fog fruit (Lippia lanceolata), and we hurried back to the truck.


!!! News Flash !!!

My oldest son, Keith, called me last night with the best of news —

 Keith found these 8 shark teeth in the Niobrara chalk of western Kansas. (The picture shows different angles of each tooth.)

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 Michael Siberson, a palentologist from Sweden, identified the eight teeth as a new species and named it Cretalamna ewelli after Keith.

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The Niobrara chalk formed from an inland sea that divided North America during the age of dinosaurs. This picture shows Keith in the chalk when my husband and I were there in the fall of 2003. Keith was stationed at Fort Riley for 2 years. He fossil hunted extensively those 2 years and another year after he got out of the Army. (Obviously, he’s fossil hunted since he was young.)

Among his finds were 3 turtles, which are rare. One was the size of a box turtle. He found the oldest true-flight bird of North America — 120 million years old. It was the size of a snipe and still had teeth. Birds evolved from lizards — why the teeth. Earlier birds were gliders and had to run to take flight.

He also found an inch-long armored skull that no one has any idea what it could be.  Michael Siberson also has teeth from another shark Keith found that still hasn’t been identified or named.

Keith has donated fossils to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Riley, Kansas; to the American Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Denver Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonsian in Washington D.C.

Mike Everhart, Keith’s mentor, has published a book, Oceans of Kansas, A Natural History of the Western Interior Sea. He also has an extensive website —

Mike has a lengthy page of Keith’s fossils on his website at   You’ll quickly see that not all shark teeth look like the “typical” shark tooth. Also take note of the second tooth from the bottom on the right — it’s a pedalotus I found. Mike said it was the biggest he’d seen.

  Having a shark named after Keith has reignited his passion for fossil hunting — he’s leaving in a month or so for fossil hunting in Kansas.

P.S. I just found the mystery skull Keith found. Here’s the link.



I stopped to check my houseplants one evening on my way back to the house.

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An obviously very ragged luna moth landed not 2 feet from me.

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It’s coloring wasn’t the pastel green, and it stood out more than usual. It’s in the center of the picture.

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The moth spent the night and the next day on the ground near the base of the sweet gum tree.

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Males have bushier antennae than those of the female above.

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This picture was taken the second night. Ants were eating its body the next morning.


I hunted and hunted in my k-zillion folders for one of the few luna moth pictures.  No luck.

Then synchronicity stepped in: a newly-emerged moth was hanging from a leaf near where I photographed the one above.

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Luna moths (Actias luna) are a member of the family of sphinx moths. 

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More luna moth facts: wingspan up to 4 1/2 inches; adult lifespan 1 week; adults don’t feed; female lays 100-300 eggs in small groups on undersides of leaves; eggs hatch in 10 days; and eggs are laid on   trees, including sweet gum (which was used in our yard) walnut, persimmon and hickory. Since luna moths have 3 broods in Missouri, I assume they do here in Illinois too.




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Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) is a member of the mint family.  Mints have square stems.

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The upper lip covers the stamens, and the lower lip is three-lobed. It’s a perennial that grows throughout North America.

Milkweed Inhabitants — 2

Two of my followers had 3 pictures of this blog that weren’t in the blog when they pulled it up. Here are the second, thiird and fourth pictures that were missing.

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The young praying mantis was only an inch long.

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Prairie Dock

Prairie dock posed all kinds of photographic challenges.

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Two grow in my gardens. The oldest plant grows in my weed patch, and the youngest, a volunteer, grows nearby  among a patch of sedums. The blooming stalks on both of them stand 10-11 feet tall.

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The flowers usually face the south for some reason. This complicates picture-taking with the denseness of the weed patch.

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Prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) is a native plant growing on glades and in prairies.

I knew prairie dock had a taproot from trying to move a young plant. Then when researching for the blog, I found out the plants are slow to develop and are nearly indestructible when mature. It is a long-lived plant with a taproot growing down 12 feet or more. They may send offsets a short distance from the mother plant.

Now, I think I might have management issues to control the plant. Think need to remove the 2 young plants, because they grow where I don’t want them to. I’m sure glad I blogged prairie dock and found this out before things became any more of a problem

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Milkweed Residents


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A milkweed grows beside an old garage in our backyard. It hasn’t bloomed, so I don’t know what kind it is.

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This spider surprised me when I checked to see the milkweed’s other inhabitant. It’s the same species as the spiders that come out at night on the north side of our house.

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Finally …. finally the resident young praying mantis cooperated for a focused picture. It only measured an inch long at the most and didn’t like my attention. 

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The cropped picture shows the interesting mantis features — triangular head, prayer position of front legs and distinctive mantis shape. It will remain on the milkweed until its wings develop.


 The recent heat had the upper leaves drooping every evening. I checked on the praying mantis on the way in the house last night.

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What a surprise … it had just molted.

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It went around behind the leaf to hide from me.

The milkweed continued dry out, so I cut the upper part off and placed in large clump of plants that looked “buggy” enough for the young praying mantis.