Wednesday, September 30, 2009

False Foxglove, Host to Buckeye Butterflies

Buckeye butterflies Junonia coenia are willing to lay eggs on different host plants, unlike some that will use only one plant, like those that use only a certain species of passion vine. The common element is that the plants that they choose contain a certain glycoside that is a deterrent to predators.

Buckeye nectaring on Tithonia
According to Georgia Wildlife Federation, Buckeye hosts include: Ruellia, Penstemon, Snapdragon, Toadflax (Linaria canadensis), Chelone.

False Foxgloves (Gerardia) Agalinis sp. which bloom in September here are popular fall hosts.

Host plants vary in different areas of the country. Buckeye host plants used in southern Ohio include various figworts, plantains, vervains and acanthus. (Ohio DNR "Common Butterflies & Skippers of Ohio" p.44) -- I frequently see plantains listed as hosts.

An interesting thing about Agalinis is that it is a parasite on the roots of certain trees, including Sweetgum, Sycamore and Slash Pine. I had determined to scatter seeds of Agalinis after they ripen. Knowing that they require a host will determine where I scatter, to increase the chances of good growth. An annual, they are not thought to be a threat except possibly to second year growth in tree plantations.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Will Edamame Replace Boiled Peanuts?

Boiled Peanuts have been a staple snack food in south Georgia for centuries. Now fancy grocery stores nearby have Edamame as an exotic snack. What’s Edamame? Green boiled soybeans. Why have we not been boiling soybeans the same as peanuts? I don’t know. We didn’t boil peanuts nor soybeans in north Georgia; we roasted our peanuts -- we said ‘parched’ -- and left the soybeans to harvest and sell on the farm market for pressing for oil, usually.

Comparing soybeans to peanuts, there is about the same number of carbs; more protein in soy, more fat in peanuts. Recent studies indicate that soybeans might have some health benefits not yet verified.

I am not fond of boiled peanuts; I prefer parched. They are a fav of Lane and the grands. I haven’t eaten boiled soybeans, though I was tempted to go out and pick some to try. I think they may have passed the young green stage where they would be tastiest. Maybe next year.

I’d like to hear from those of you who eat Edamame.


Field of growing soybeans. Unlike peanuts, soybeans grow above ground like any other bean or pea.


Cherry had a post on Peanuts, Peanuts Everywhere last week, if you'd like to see freshly harvested peanuts. Harvesting peanuts hasn't started here yet, but soon.

A field of peanuts here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Of Flower Bricks and Garden Picks at Blotanical

I already knew Meems and Frances and Gail and Donna and Catherine and Cameron and Sue and so many other Blotanical members by way of one blog or another: one more meme, one more search for a certain garden plant or technique. I did wonder what made some of their blogs so popular and read their posts carefully, looking for clues.

I saw the Blotanical insignia on various blogs. On a whim, I signed up. Little did I know where I was headed. I forgot to return for a few days. When I did, I found a long page or two of messages from other members. Some had visited my blog and left comments, but I didn't connect the two events right away. A couple of members faved my blog and I wasn't sure what to do about that.

When I finally took time to look at the whole site, I found that we were in the midst of voting for Best Blogger in a long list of categories. Scrolling down, I discovered that I had been nominated for Best Georgia Blogger! I heard from Cherry of In the Garden and More , who really is Best Georgia Blogger because she really cares and takes time to encourage everybody with whom she has contact. She blogged not only that she had been nominated, but generously named and linked the rest of us.

I spent some time picking favs and choosing picks. I had to go back and read the FAQs several times to make sure I was doing it right. I learn something new each time I return. I finally watched the tutorial, which was a big help in understanding what the little symbols mean.

While I was reading some of the posts with interesting opening lines, I read one that mentioned Flower Bricks. Flower Bricks? Why, I have two of those, seldom used. That is how I discovered the beautiful blog of Julie of My English Country Garden. A whole new world has opened for me by way of Blotanical. Do join us!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Persimmons, Gopher Tortoises and other native Wildlife

Native persimmons grow here along a fence. Tart and astringent, they'll be sweet after frost. Critters will find them. Sometimes broken branches from the weight of a raccoon are all that are left when I visit again after frost.

Our native persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is found from Florida north to Connecticut, west to Iowa and south to Texas.

Not far from the persimmon trees, I found the burrow of a gopher tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus. Notice the reddish soil around the opening. Clay soil is about two feet down into the earth here. The size of the opening to the burrow is indicative of the size of the turtle. Gopher tortoises are listed as a threatened species in Georgia and Florida.

Frequently a gopher turtle will site his burrow near a colony of silkgrass, pityopsis graminifolia. I've seen them eating silkgrass. In spring, silkgrass is a clump of glaucous grass with silvery reverse. In fall, the tall stems hold aster-like yellow blossoms.

"...Everything affecting the gopher tortoise's habitat affects the tortoise and ... eventually affects all other organisms in its ecosystem. Efforts to save the gopher tortoise are really a manifestation of our desire to preserve intact, significant pieces of the biosphere.

...We must preserve...the gopher tortoise and other species in similar predicaments, for if we do not, we lose a part of our humanity, a part of our habitat, and ultimately our world."

---Dr. George W. Folkerts, Department of Zoology, Auburn University, Alabama

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Zinnias and Cassia; Pentas and Pineapple Sage

Different areas of the garden have differing colors for fall: Cassia alata is blooming golden yellow along with mixed zinnias which were planted late. This small area has blue porterweed that came into bloom late, the Cassia (candlesticks) and my fav, the late zinnias. Not seen are some gomphrena and salvia coccinea that were seeded in when the zinnias went in, additional reds.

This last area has been a butterfly magnet with not much blooming except for 3 different shades of pentas, from rose to palest pink, and wax begonias for a little edging. Now the pinks are joined by the light crimson blooms of Saliva elegans (Pineapple sage). Leaves of the pentas and the pineapple sage are very similar in shape, so it just looked all summer as if the pentas foliage was more lush. Now red spikes of blooms are threading through the pentas. Spiky lemon grass to the back lends contrast.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Go Texan Wildflower Mix

Janie has shared with us, packets of Texas Wildflower Mix seeds which contain the following:

Texas Bluebonnet,

Black-eyed Susan
Lemon Mint
Plains Coreopsis
Indian Blanket - Gaillardia
Clasping Coneflower - Rudbeckia amplexicaulis
Mexican Hat - Ratibida
Purple Coneflower

Bluebonnets prefer the alkaline soil of Texas, I haven't tried to stretch that here. Most other Texas natives and favorites work well in my climate.

Black-eyed Susan, Indian Blanket, Mexican Hat and Purple Coneflower all performed very well for me in past years. These wildflowers bloom here in May and June. BES and Purple Coneflower will play out in the heat and humidity of late June. I pull and discard BES; Purple Coneflower does best when cut back all the way to the basal leaves. There may be minor rebloom in fall. Mexican Hats (Ratibida) and Gaillardia (Indian blanket) will continue all summer.

Mexican Hats and Salvia farinacea -- I want lots of these next summer. I have a small number of the seeds of the yellow Ratibida and lots of the maroon. All are lovely.

I just learned I'm nominated for Best Georgia Blogger in Blotanical's 2009 Awards. I'm astonished! I just signed up last month because it seemed that everybody else in the garden blogging world belonged and maybe I should, too. I haven't even responded to all the gracious welcomes I received! I'm working on voting, so many of the categories I don't know the contestants and have to go visit all their blogs. I guess that is the point, get to know your fellow bloggers. So far I've voted for 30 of 75 categories, with only 4 days to go, I think.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Colonies of Wildflowers

Here's Beautyberry, on a little hillside in the far pasture under shade of oaks. I'm seeing lots of beautyberry in other blogs, in gardens. The only beautyberries in my garden are bird-planted. It is a native plant, but becomes a thug when encouraged here, as evidenced by this huge colony.

Beautyberry berries in all their glory. In early summer, when the pale pink blooms are out, they attract butterflies.

Andropogon virginicus --  Broomsedge bluestem, and Solidago.

A colony of young Sumac underneath a Live Oak tree. Later the leaves will be on of the few bright red fall colors we see here. Deer are fond of Sumac berries. I haven't seen any berries anywhere, but we've seen plenty of deer to browse tender shoots before berries form.

Agalinus has formed a colony along the fence near the dirt road, and smaller colonies are forming throughout the pasture. Agalinus is a host for Buckeye butterflies, and I saw Buckeyes visiting but they failed to hold still for photos.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Purple Haze as Fall Arrives

I love the purple haze of autumn flowers. There are reds and golds to come, but the purples arrive first, and the yellows.

Purple Datura and Salvia leucantha.

I'm amused by the golf-ball sized seed pods of Datura.

The next island over has yellow lantana in front, this one has lavender. Salvia coccinea has started to bloom in that bed and alternanthera is taking on fall colors.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where the Wild Flowers Bloom, part 2

Butterflies find these large areas of lantana attractive. Growing with the lantana are New York Ironweed, Solidago and Beautyberry. Earlier in the season, there were passionflowers blooming, handy for the Gulf Frits for depositing eggs.

Beautyberry grows in the midst of the lantana. Both are from the same family of verbenacea.

Viewed up close, clusters of shiny black seeds are visible, which is why I don't transplant these lantanas to the tamer house garden. They grow very well along the south edge of the little woods, with a  mowed path through tall grass where we can get up close to view.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where the Wild Flowers Bloom

Have you seen enough of butterflies? I still have some buckeyes to show, almost caught one on Gerardia this morning when the dog and I went out to photograph wildflowers. Almost. It was hot and humid and I was continually shielding the camera from dog slobber and coaxing the dog back onto the RTV.

Buffy, exploring among Agalinis tenuifolia -- Gerardia, false foxglove.
Agalinis is a host plant for buckeye butterfly caterpillars.

Solidago - goldenrod

Narrowleaf Silkgrass - Pityopsis graminifolia. All through the summer, pityopsis is just a clump of glaucous leaves, silvery on the reverse side. I've seen a big Gopher turtle sometimes eat that grass, with his den nearby the food source.  In the fall, the blooms appear, unlike the usual blooms on a grass.

Elephant's Foot -- Elephantapus -- you can't see the basal leaves in the grass, but there is a rosette of large oval leaves from which long stems of pinkish flowers grow in a kind of tricorn shaped base. When I first discovered these wildflowers here, back before I had a digital camera, I wrote to the U of FL hort department because I couldn't find it in any of my books nor online. They knew from my description what I had found, and once I had a name, I could verify by photos online.

This is my favorite time of year for wildflowers.


Ugly, nasty thing. Roots all around in flower beds and tunnels everywhere, even under the house. There was a maze of tunnels underneath the old barn when it was torn down. They're not difficult to catch. They're not very bright and have poor eyesight. Just set an unbaited trap along a fence or building and wait. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pipevine Swallowtails and a Skipper

I mentioned Pipevine Swallowtails in the previous post about Spicebush Swallowtails. Pipevine Swallowtails are the hardest to photograph I've experienced, except for Sulphurs, who close their wings while they nectar and fly very fast so they're impossible to catch in flight, unlike some of the dark swallowtails who laze along, almost posing.

I've spent hours trying to capture Pipevine Swallowtails and they fail to ever pose or hold still. Their favorite maneuver is to nectar on porterweed, moving around the tiny clustered blooms while I wait patiently for the right moment. They fly away just when I think they are moving into position. Of 100 pics, probably a quarter of them are of empty flowers, no insects.

I'm going to post these three tiny pics just to show the brilliant color of a Pipevine butterfly.

This little Skipper stayed still on Pentas with Lemongrass in the background, for two poses. I haven't identified him past being a Skipper.

Gulf Frits are busy everywhere today, they become more plentiful toward fall.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Still Have a Lawn

There has been a centipede grass lawn here for nearly 50 years. Yearly I plant more island beds and borders in the style of those present. We will continue to tend the shrinking centipede lawns and paths as we have done for decades; never fertilizing, never spraying for insects or weeds, reshaping as necesary. Centipede grass goes dormant during droughts and after frost. Some years I overseed in fall with annual ryegrass for winter green color. The ryegrass is not fertilized, so it needs no mowing before hot sun takes it out in March as the centipede sprouts again.

Oval Lawn in the Upper Garden

Close up of a new island bed below, where a live oak stump covered in Confederate jasmine(above background) was removed this year.

Broader view of the stump bed island going in.

Spring view of the tree line separating the Upper Garden and Front Garden with new island bed in foreground.

This post was inspired by the Lawn Reform blog contest on Blue Planet Garden.

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies

Butterflies sometimes mimic one another: Spicebush have evolved, as do Black Swallowtails, some female Tiger Swallowtails and the Red Spotted Admiral, to mimic Pipevine Swallowtails which store noxious chemicals from Pipevines making them distasteful to birds.

This Spicebush Swallowtail is resting on a canna leaf while a cool breeze blows.

A pair of Spicebush nectaring on Porterweed. The undersides have a second line of markings not seen on top, similar to Black Swallowtails.

Hocking Hills Gardener asked to see Spicebush Swallowtails up close and I'm happy to have these this week. Out of 100 photos, I'm lucky to have a handful that are good enough to observe the butterflies.

I wish I could answer Janie's question about how I attract many different. I just plant the nectar flowers they enjoyed most the previous year and hope they return. Zebra Longwings (State Butterfly of Florida) have not visited here in years, yet the Maypops hosts flourish all around. I'm afraid the Longwings were too tropical and failed to survive one of our colder winters. Gulf Frits still visit. I'm seeing fewer Black Swallowtails this year, probably because the parsley seed I planted failed to come up. Failing to find host plants, they may have moved on. Spicebush here use Sassafras as hosts.

Spicebush Swallowtails and Skippers tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Butterflies: There May be Giants

What an exciting butterfly day I had! A Giant Swallowtail, Papillio Cresphontes in the front gardens; then another!

They were joined by several other butterflies, including a Tiger Swallowtail, shown here, and Gulf Frits, Spicebush Swallowtail and Sulphurs.

The Giant

The Tiger

Their nectar of choice was definitely Tithonia, ignoring lantana, marigolds and some other delicacies like salvias.

I was thrilled to see this big fellow. Last year I thought a Giant Swallowtail showed up. It turned out to be a Palimedes, not nearly so big and lacking the yellow tips on the 'tails.' I thought it interesting that the Tiger and the Giants were playing together so well.