Black Eyes or Brown Eyes?

Yesterday’s post by fellow blogger VIRGINIA WILDFLOWERS (https://virginiawildflowers.org/2019/08/15/brown-eyed-susans/) got me thinking about the black-eyed Susans my mother once grew on our place in Pensacola, in the Florida Panhandle. Most Southern home gardeners did include them in their summer cut-flower beds.

Image result for black eyed susan seeds

But what’s the difference between “black” and “brown” eyes? Actually, nothing that I can see. These simply are two of the varieties of common names for Rudbeckia hirta. Other names include Brown Betty (no, not the Colonial baked pudding!), gloriosa daisy, golden Jerusalam, English bull’s eye, poor-land daisy (probably because they can grow wild along road sides), yellow daisy, and yellow ox-eye daisy.

Rudbeckia hirta is a North American flower plant in the sunflower family. It’s native to Eastern and Central North America, but has been naturalized in the western part of the continent. That includes all ten Canadian provinces, as well.

This is a Brown Betty . . .

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. . . and this is a golden Jerusalem with a purple crown.

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The English bull’s eye just looks like another common brown-eyed Susan . . .

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. . . and the poor-land daisy . . .

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. . . but the Rebecca daisy looks like spilt cappuccino at the center of its petaled skirt.

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The little wild ox-eye daisy I wrote about in a previous post add a fairy garden charm to unmown lawns and meadows, all on their own.  These are yellow ox-eye daisies.

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And this is a field of noxious weeds in Washington state. I find it rather charming.

Don’t you?

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Ten years ago, the state of Maryland designated the black-eye Susan as its state flower, used in gardens as well as in public ceremonies to celebrate, memorialize the state and its people. “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” is the term for the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore; that’s because a traditional blanket of Viking Poms resembling black-eyed  Susans is placed around the winning horse’s neck.

In 1912, the black-eye Susan inspired the school colors of black and gold for the University of Southern Mississippi. A  member of the first graduating class, Florence Burrow Pope, suggested the colors after a trip home through pine forests with masses of black-eyed Susans. Quite an honor for the “lowly” little Black-eyed Susan.

 

 

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Dragonfly Summers

In form and name, the blue dasher dragonfly illustrates the beauty and flying prowess of these insects.

A large iridescent peacock-colored dragonfly darted around me the other morning as I watered my ferns and geraniums on the courtyard patio. Perhaps he was looking for water?

Dragonflies used to be a common sight as they zipped through my summer gardens. Time was when August brought them out to taste one thing or another among herbs and zinnias. Now they’ve become as scarce as honey bees and Monarchs. Why? Loss of wetland habitat due to deforestation, river damming, silting streambeds, not to mention pollutants from modern manufacturing and, yes, professional garden spraying services.

Evolving some 300 millions years ago, the earliest dragonfly species hatched underwater. They still do. When the larvae hatch into nymphs or naiads, they live underwater for up to two years and molt up to 17 times as they mature. Usually nymphs are a well-camouflaged blend of a dull brown with green and grey. When they’re reading to emerge as adults, they crawl out onto a rock or plant stem to molt one final time. As they dry out  over several hours, their structural coloration produces iridescent or metallic blues and greens, sometimes with a yellow pigment, or a combination of yellow, red, brown, and black pigments, transforming into the magical garden fairies we know as dragonflies

Dragonflies can lay eggs in water that is even saltier than the ocean.

According to Mother Nature Network (MNN.com > Home > Organic Farming & Gardening), dragonflies bear two pairs of gossamer wings. Muscles in the thorax work each wing individually to change the angle. The dragonfly can fly at lightening speed in any direction, as the hummingbird and the hummingbird moth do, even hovering mid-air, to zoom in on unsuspecting prey such as gnats and mosquitoes and biting flies.

A dragonfly can move its four wings independently from each other.

As a child growing up in the American Deep South, I learned from my grandmother  to say “Mosquito Hawk” rather than “dragonfly” because of its fast-flying ambush acrobatics while on the hunt for mosquitoes. It appeared to zoom-zoom in zig-zag fashion over our gardens. 

To attract visiting dragonflies into your garden, provide sources of still water, such as a deep water dish or birdbath, with a rock or small garden sculpture for a landing spot. Or you can create a backyard pond habitat planted with grasses and sedges, or lily pads.

“Almost any kind of water source or a diversity of plants both in the water and landscape will do” in the home garden, says John Abbott, chief curator and director of Museum Research and Collections at the University of Alabama. He offers a check list:

  1. Water source
  2. Water feature(s) must deep, not shallow
  3. Mosquito dunk containing Bt israeliensis, big floating tablets that dissolve and target mosquitoes but not beneficial insects
  4. Places to perch
  5. Diverse plant life

For detailed information, check out BACKYARD PONDS:Guidelines for Creating & Managing Habitat for Dragonflies and Damselflies at http://www.migratorydragonflypartnership.org/uploads/_ROOT/

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For another look at a clear-wing dragonfly and late summer Swallowtails and a Common Buckeye, check out My Cottage Garden (

 

 

 

 

 

“Hum” by Cintia Santana

Hum

Slip of
bird
with fan
of furious
wings in
blossom’s
throat I hear
your wing
-beat sing.
To nectar
you need
no key,
mid-rib
of leaf or
sip from
little red
vials
constantly
defiled;
starvation
staved
for one
more day.
Butterfly
weed, too,
bids your
wing
-whistle
come:
sing me,
guard me,
lap me
with your
split
tongue.

 

~ from POETRY SUNDAY by at https://womensvoicesforchange.org/author/rfoust

August 4, 2019

Bird or Bug? Both . . .

 

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor

Earlier this summer, I spotted one of these charming creatures flitting back and forth among the lavender in my rose garden. I assumed it was a tiny hummingbird, come to surprise me with joy during Morning Prayer . . .

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

. . . or else a fat honey bee engorged with nectar.

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Actually, it was neither. It was a moth! The common Hummingbird Moth (Macroglossum stellalarum) found in North America and Europe.

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In flight, as it flits rom one blossom to another, this moth does look like a tiny hummingbird flapping its wings and probing with its “needle” tongue. It can fly backward and forward, even sideways, as well as hover in mid-air, mimicking hummingbirds. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Size. Hummingbird moths average from 2 to 2.5 inches, whereas the bird ranges from 3 to 4 inches.

Body Shape. Hummingbird moths’ bodies are thick, barrel shaped, covered with grey hair resembling feathers with white and rust or brown markings. Hummingbirds’ bodies are tapered, delicately shaped, smooth and sleek.

Eyes. Large, rather menacing eyes of the hummingbird moth appear to warn predators that this is no mere bug for dinner.

Antennae. Hummingbird moths sport two long antennae facing forward. The hummingbird head is smooth, although some species bear a central feather plum on its crown or forehead.

Mouth. Instead of a bird beak, the hummingbird moths have a long, tongue-like proboscis double the moth’s length at its longest.

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It rolls from its coiled tube to reach the nectar of flowers. Hummingbirds’ needle or sword beaks can reach up to four inches.

Wing Span of the hummingbird moth ranges from 2 to 6 inches.

Wing Colors. Bold patterns and colors deck out the hummingbird moth, and some bear transparent wing sections like story-book woodland fairies.

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Hummingbirds are Plain Janes but can sport colorful bodies.

Legs. The hummingbird moth dangles all six of its legs as its flies and feeds.

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Hummingbirds, on the other hand, tuck their two legs close to their bodies for better flight aerodynamics.

The female hummingbird moth, after mating, lays her eggs on the leaves of honeysuckle, viburnum, hawthorn, or cherry trees. Resulting caterpillars can be green or quite colorful like a tapestry. The caterpillar sprouts a rather threatening horn on its tail end, giving rise to the colloquial name “hornworm.”

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If you find caterpillars hidden in your garden, make sure they are one of those and not a tomato worm like this one before you destroy it!

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FURTHER READING: “Butterflies and Moths of North America” [https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Window Screen Surprise

Invitation to the Garden

Image result for Wild cherry sphinx moth Sphinx drupifera rum

No, that’s not a common fly. That is a moth, a large moth known as “Wild Cherry Sphinx Moth” (Sphinx drupiferarum). I discovered it resting on the  kitchen window screen, inside my house, day before yesterday. Rather an interesting creature, it was, probably escaping from the 90-degree heat outside.

With a plump body two and a quarter inches long, almost the size of a hummingbird, he had folded his wings into a triangle with a distinct apex, affording me a clear view of his distinctive markings, quite unlike the common moths around here.

Image result for wild cherry sphinx moth

The coloring of this particular sphinx moth species is dark charcoal grey-brown on the forewing with light grey costal margin. The distal wing is striped light grey and ochre with dark brown fringe. Smaller ovoid hindwing is striped blackish-brown and whitish-grey with tan outer margin and brown fringes. The thorax is similar, and the abdomen…

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Window Screen Surprise

Image result for Wild cherry sphinx moth Sphinx drupifera rum

No, that’s not a common fly. That is a moth, a large moth known as “Wild Cherry Sphinx Moth” (Sphinx drupiferarum). I discovered it resting on the  kitchen window screen, inside my house, day before yesterday. Rather an interesting creature, it was, probably escaping from the 90-degree heat outside.

With a plump body two and a quarter inches long, almost the size of a hummingbird, he had folded his wings into a triangle with a distinct apex, affording me a clear view of his distinctive markings, quite unlike the common moths around here.

Image result for wild cherry sphinx moth

The coloring of this particular sphinx moth species is dark charcoal grey-brown on the forewing with light grey costal margin. The distal wing is striped light grey and ochre with dark brown fringe. Smaller ovoid hindwing is striped blackish-brown and whitish-grey with tan outer margin and brown fringes. The thorax is similar, and the abdomen is brown-grey with black and grey stripes. No “eye” markings appear on this moth.

Image result for wild cherry sphinx moth

Regular habitat for “wild cherry” sphinx moths, so named because they feed mostly on cherries, is North America from coast to coast, beginning at the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway to southern British Columbia. They are not found in the Deep South or the extreme Southwest. In the Pacific Northwest, they appear predominantly east of the Cascade Mountains, where I live. It just so happens that a mile or so west of us is Johnson’s Orchards which includes, among other fruit, cherries! Rainier cherries, in fact.

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NEXT TIME: There really is such a bug/bird known as the hummingbird hawk-moth. Check in again next week for the story.