Archive for November, 2014

The Grandmother Tree


One of my tree friends, the Grandmother Tree, one of my tree friends, was still standing January 2011 and went down during a strong storm later that the year.

She grew on my rural property, near the creek and in view from “my rock” seat at the top of a short bluff. During many, many camping trips, I saw her in all seasons, different kinds of weather, different times of the day and under full moons.

Davis (my youngest son, now 34 years old) and I did a night hike one winter evening when he was in 4th grade. We laid with our heads near her trunk. The limbs made her look like a giant spider standing over us.

 One time  a raccoon tail hung out the hole on the side near the top. I would sit and lean against her and watch/listen to the water running in the creek just feet away.

It’s been nice to sit here and “walk” back through memories of the Grandmother Tree.

Late Season Misc.

Buffy and I went for a short hike at Stone Face, a site in the Shawnee National Forest. We headed into the woods because fallen leaves filled the creek instead of water.


A cranefly orchid leaf (Tipularia discolor) caught my attention first.


More leaves grew in a cluster about ten feet away.


The dark purple underside easily identifies their leaf.

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The leaves overwinter and die back before the flowers bloom in the fall.


A silver maple used to grow down the hill to the north of the grassy sandstone barrens on rural property I own. Conditions were right for a healthy population of cranefly orchids … like 135 leaves scattered around under it. Sizes varied. A heritage biologist told me to not let anything happen to that tree! Years later the tree died, the canopy opened up, and most of the orchids went dormant and/or died.



Grape ferns (Botrychium dissectum) commonly grew in the woods and will remain green through the winter.


Surprise, surprise — a nodding lady’s tresses orchid (Spiranthes cernua). Its double spiral of white flowers bloomed in October.


Putty root orchid leaves overwinter too, with their flowers blooming May into mid June.


Their flowers blend in with their surroundings, and

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the seed stalks remain through the winter.

Mine and Buffy’s hike lasted about an hour. We hadn’t been out for a while and had a good time. She’s about to turn 10 years old, and ran around like a young whipper snapper.


My oldest son had a knack for finding orchids when he was in grade school. I called him my “orchidontist.” He still wears that title and calls me to report in.

Spark of Color

I don’t know about you, but I could use a spark of color in the middle of this Arctic weather.

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So, this picture with a painted lady butterfly on a summer farewell aster

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certainly offers sparks of color.

A Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly


The last cloudless sulphur butterfly (Phoebis sennae eubule) I saw was on September 29.


It preferred the red salvia flowers.

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They migrate north through the summer to breed and return to the south in the fall. This translates into their numbers varying yearly.

Kenilworth Ivy

A patch of Kenilworth ivy (Cymbalaria aequitriloba) grows by the door on the north side of our house. It’s a family heirloom handed down from my great grandmother, who lived in New York. The vine is native to Spain and southern parts of Europe.

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We’ve had the freezing temperatures from the large Arctic front that moved through southern Illinois.

Obviously, the cold hasn’t affected the ivy.

Asiatic Day Flower

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The last Asiatic day-flower (Commelina communis)  bloomed in my yard almost a month ago. It added a spark of blue then, and adds a spark of blue to today’s winter-like cloudy, windy day.

Crab Spider


Crab spiders come in different sizes, with females being the largest.

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The angle of the sunlight made this one easy to spot.

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Shadows later made it much less conspicuous.

Pupa Remains

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I posted a blog late summer about the caterpillar of a white-marked tussock moth.

Later, I had a “duh” moment when I remembered taking the picture below.

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This is a pupal case of the White-marked tussock moth (Orgyia leucsotigma). My Caterpillars of Eastern North America book shows a picture of an empty cocoon, the same as the one above. My picture lacks the egg mass. Apparently the flightless female lays up to 300 eggs in a froth-covered mass over the cocoon. They overwinter in the egg stage.

Two Immature Insects

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The larval stage of a ladybug definitely doesn’t resemble an adult ladybug.

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The pupal stage more resembles an adult.

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A stinkbug nymph is definitely more ornate

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than the adult green stinkbug.

A Tiny Moth

(So glad to be back — had computer problems — ugh!)

This little moth could easily stay hidden among the plants. It took a while to identify it — spotted-beet webworm moth (Hymenia perspectalis) — with a wingspan of 2 cm.

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It was one of the few moths visiting the heath asters in my butterfly garden. Only three monarch butterflies, an occasional orange sulphur were the other visitors (besides an occasional bee).