What I Learned Today – Beetle Bath

brown beetle in bird bath small

I’ve been finding these beetles making waves in my bird bath this past week.  Sometimes doing the back stroke, sometimes the dog paddle, occasionally a pair of them would be doing some sort of synchronized dance, preparing for the beetle Olympics, no doubt.

At first I was alarmed, thinking some horrible invasive species had arrived to chomp on my tender tomatoes or, even worse, my lilies.  A quick internet search revealed; however, that this is a brown chafer beetle, the adult stage of those white grubs I dig up in the grass every now and then.  I don’t much care if they chow down on the grass roots, but further on-line reading indicates they may also like to nibble of some of the things I DO care about, such as corms (hello Crocus) and perennial roots.  Hmmm.  On the other hand, they are also a food source for small mammals and, I would assume, birds.

Liquid

Ephemeral in The County

Trout Lily - Erythronium americanum - Trout Lily May 6 2018

Erythonium americanum – Trout Lily

On Saturday I noticed a few of these dainty yellow flowers opening by the driveway.  Come Sunday afternoon the leaf littered floor of the entire tree line was covered with Trout Lily.  Just like that.

Other native spring ephemerals just in bloom include a flower I used to call woodland Geranium.  I kinda knew it wasn’t, really, a Geranium, and what I learned from Micheal Raynor, one of the knowledgeable folks on the Facebook group Plant Identification, is its proper name:  Cardamine douglassii.  It’s also known as purple cress or limestone bittercress.  It’s a member of the mustard family (Brassicaeae) and is native to a wide swath of central and north east North America, growing in deciduous woodlands and in shady areas where limestone is close to the surface. It’s prefers a mist soil but has managed to gain a foothold in my dry woods.  It’s at risk from the wildly invasive Garlic Mustard in many wooded areas.

Cardamine douglassii May 6 2018

Cardamine douglassii

While the white Trillium are above ground they aren’t quite blooming.  Still putting on a show; however, is the lovely mottled leaves of this red wood Trillium.

red Trillium May 6 2018.jpg small

What I Learned Today – Berlandiera lyrata

Did you know there is a National Chocolate Soufflé Day?   The Colorado Native Plant Society did!  It was yesterday, in fact, and to celebrate they tweeted about Berlandiera lyrata, also known as the Chocolate Flower.  It looks like a lovely perennial, native to the west and southwest U.S. and hardy to zone 4.  Tolerates drought and likes rocky limestone soil — perfect!!!

The flowers appear to resemble a cross between Black Eye Susan and Blanketflower; the foliage also similar to Blanketflower.  The flowers open at night,  so I imagine it attracts moths and other nocturnal pollinators although its chocolatey perfume is strongest in the early morning before it gets too hot and the petals close up.

I’ll have to check out the garden centres for it in a few months (can’t find any seeds in my catalogs…) and see how it fares in our humid summer.

berlandiera-lyrata

This photo of Chocolate Flower was tweeted by the Colorado Native Plant Society; it was taken by Carla Tewes.

 

What I Learned Today – Blue Eggs

what-makes-blue-eggs-blue

image from FreshEggsDaily.com

 

I don’t keep chickens.  Yet.  My neighbours do, and my other neighbours used to, and I love eating the fresh eggs they’ve provided me over the years.  I love the rich yellow yolks and the flavour so different from supermarket eggs, and I really, really love the different colours in a basket of farm fresh eggs when the eggs come from different chicken breeds.

There’s a great website called Fresh Eggs Daily and in  this week’s article, Lisa Steele explains why some chickens produce white eggs, others brown, others blue, green, pink and so on.

Turns out all eggs start out white.  Pigment gets added by specific breeds of chicken as the egg goes down the chute (aka oviduct).  Brown eggs have the pigment added near the end of the journey so it stays on the surface of the egg (meaning the inside is white).  Blue eggs has pigment added early on, giving it time to penetrate the entire shell.  The genes of various types of chicken determines how much pigment is added, which accounts for various shades of brown or blue.  Other colours of eggs (green, pink) are produced by brown egg chickens and blue egg chickens that have been cross bred.

Not really about gardening, I know, unless you want to get me started about how free range chickens can really wreak havoc in a garden, as told by the neighbour who no longer keeps them!

What I learned today – Dipsacus & Cynoglossum

I follow quite a few gardening related blogs, websites and social media feeds and I’m constantly learning new techniques, questioning the validity of horticultural practice and discovering new plants and products.  I love it when something pops up unexpectedly, or an answer to a question I had never thought to ask suddenly appears.

On Sunday both happened within minutes. Instead of just looking through my normal Facebook feed, I clicked around and selected ‘Most Recent.’  Up popped an entirely different set of posts: pages that the Facebook algorithm would not normally make visible to me without specifically searching for it.  There was news from friends I thought had dropped off the face of the earth, only to realize they had simply dropped off the list of people Facebook thinks I should see.  Likewise pages from organizations and groups I actually DID want to hear from – including one of the pages that help people identify plants.

The first post was from someone in northern California who wanted the ID of a plant I see often around here. A type of thistle (I thought) that has beautiful mauve flowers followed by a striking seed head.  Turns out it’s not a thistle at all, but rather it’s called Dipsacus follonum, more commonly known as Teasel (or Teazle).  This is an invasive biennial native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa but naturalized throughout most of North America.  The first year’s growth produces a rosette of glossy deep green leaves that are covered in soft spines (it’s thought the plant may be carnivorous).  In the second year a spike is sent up that produces one to many thistle-like flowers.  Tiny seeds spread readily and although it’s generally considered a weed, I find it very easily controllable either by mowing or pulling.  It’s an important winter food source for the European Goldfinch and, to my eye, it’s quite beautiful. Here it is in my garden (after blooming) a few years ago.

Thistles January 1 2010

Seedheads of Dipsacus follonum, more commonly known as Teasel (or Teazle)

A bit further down on my ‘Most Recent’ feed, from the same group, was someone asking to ID a lovely blue flower I had in abundance two years ago.  The flower is similar to Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis) but grows on a one to two foot high stem and lacks the splash of yellow in the eye of the flower.  I had tried to ID this plant when it popped up with no luck, until this morning, when there it was:  Cynoglossum amabile, with a common name Chinese forget-me-not.  I think they appeared in my garden after I spread seeds that had been distributed by some forgotten charity.  Here they are – such a beautiful blue, eh?

wasp & forget me not

Cynoglossum amabile,  common name Chinese forget-me-not, growing from seed scattered in this very weathered fountain basin.  See the wasp nest?

So there you have it.  Two plants identified and one lesson re-learned:  remember to more regularly switch my Facebook feed to Most Recent!