Leaf Burst

Spring is over. The pecan leaves have unfurled and the whole world beneath them is thick with shade. The dogs pulling people and women pushing strollers have begun to cross over to walk on our side of the street. There is no side-walk on this side but most people around here will trade safety for even a moment of escape from the sun.

firefly malanga

Firefly hiding under a malanga leaf

Yesterday I saw a fully grown firefly resting on a leaf and last night witnessed the first flashes. These boys like to fly perpendicular aiming their love beams toward the ground. They float around in slow passes and as Edward Abbey says they do seem like small town boys drifting aimlessly up and down Main Street, looking for trouble.

The confederate jasmine is in full bloom. The vines are mature now — like waterfalls on the walls. The fragrance splashes everywhere and even sneaks in through the windows at night.

milberries

mulberries

The mulberries keep getting heavier and juicier — dark beacons for birds and wandering children. They somehow lured even my husband out of the house. I saw purple stains on his fingers and a big smile on his face.

I’ve ‘let’ that mulberry get overgrown. The weight of the fruit causes the branches to droop into a kind of leafy tunnel and irresistible passageway. Do you have any spirit left in you or will you be a greyface and walk past instead of through? The situation has left me feeling a bit like a witch with a healthier version of a gingerbread house. But. The mulberries have never tasted better; this year they have truly come of age. Try them …

A few years ago the birds planted a vineyard along a fence. This year it looks like the vines will finally flower. Fingers crossed. Maybe we will see the first grapes this year.

grape caterpillar

Alypia octomaculata caterpillar

Of course I am never the first to discover things. A couple of caterpillars also noticed the vine is maturing. I think this little guy is an eight spotted forester moth caterpillar. If the birds are ok with him nibbling a bit of their vine I am too.

Speaking of nibbling. I just said goodbye to my dad who came for a visit. We did a ton of the touristy stuff but the best times were evenings spent on the patio sharing good healthy food and lingering afterwards with conversation. We didn’t say anything wise or even really memorable. It was just time together as family. That’s my idea of the good life — feeling safe under leaves enjoying the magic and bounty of this world: stars, flowers, food and good people.

And though I am late I wish for everyone a Happy Earth Day — one that lasts all year long.

April Flowers So Far

This post is a just a catalogue of flowers I’ve seen in the last two weeks growing in wild places. It seems to me like an awful lot of the plants are in a big hurry to bloom this year. So mostly this is just a note to my future self. Is the order out of whack or does it just seem so? Blogging seems like a handy way of comparing notes over time.

Whoever named this the Large Buttercup wasn’t kidding. Ranunculus macranthus. The stem was easily over a foot tall.

Ranunculus macranthus

Ranunculus macranthus

Spiderworts are also in bloom.

Tradescantia

The tall deep purple variety are common but I also saw some that looked like this:

pink spiderwort

Tradescantia something or other

The more I see coots the more amusing they seem to be. This pair were swimming near what I think might have been a cluster of greenthread.

couple of coots

couple of coots

I hesitate to even try with this next one. Blue-eyed grass and … a blue-eyed grass in white form?

blue-eyed grass andGooey agarita flowers

agarita flowers

I think this next flower is a Lonicera albiflora

honeysuckle

honeysuckle

Prickly Poppy

prickly poppy

Phlox drummondii ready to unfurl

Phlox drummondii about to open

 

New To Me

Growing right next to the phlox was something I’ve never seen before …

unknown pink and white

These were growing all over a hillside by Dry Creek Drive.

unknown purple april 2015

Missouri Primrose?

mystery primrose

Another bright yellow flower seen growing on a lot of people’s lawns.

yellow flower in turf

This yellow daisy-like flower was growing everywhere near Dry Creek Drive. Yellow daisy-like flowers are like the sparrows of the plant world for me. Four nerve daisy?

yellow daisy-like flowers

So much more.

The wild grapes are in flower. As are the wild onions, bluebonnets, evening primrose, autumn sage, scarlet buckeye, purple prairie verbena, crossvine, coral honeysuckle …

So much to see in such a short period of time.

evening primrose april 2015

Texas Persimmon

Progress report on my thumbkins.

texas persimmon flower april 2015 1

Soft yellow bell shaped flower

Last fall I planted Texas Persimmon seeds collected from a wild tree. They sprouted and got to be about as tall as my thumb. They now inhabit a corner of my garden. They are so small they are nearly invisible to the naked eye and therefore vulnerable to being squashed to death by the letter carrier’s heavy boot. I did place plant stakes here and there but I kind of wonder if the postal guy sometimes sees said markers as targets! 10 points for a tree … 5 for a perennial …

I can picture what they will look like in ten years. But that vision exists only in my mind. So I broke my stop-going-to-the-nursery-so-often rule and bought a small persimmon tree last fall. So many excuses … so little willpower.

When the weather got slightly cold all the leaves fell. I was expecting this so I didn’t totally panic. I merely worried.

Today the branches are covered in soft new leaves … and flowers! Today would be a good day to die because my heart is overflowing with happiness.

texas persimmon flower april 2015 2

flowers as seen from below

I took a walk to check out the parents of my thumbkins and was happy to see they were all healthy.

When I am on a wildlife hunt I often start by visiting a native plant. I almost always find something. (Though I do need to MacGyver an anti-glare device for taking insect photos!)

Smaragdina militaris

Smaragdina militaris

Smaragdina militaris and Zero Waste

I couldn’t find much info about the adults but I learned that the larvae eat detritus — a polite way of saying they eat their mother’s excrement. As each egg is laid the female beetle covers it with her excrement which will harden into a kind of case or container that will protect the larvae as it develops. The larvae will continue to build up the case by adding its own waste. It sounds gross but it is also a creative way to solve a bunch of problems.

Here’s another angle:

Smaragdina militaris side viewAnd closeup ….

red and black insectSo cute. I like the feathery antennae that I suppose can only be seen if you click on the photo. At first I thought this little guy might be some kind of a carrion beetle but corpse beetles have brightly coloured antennae and well … ought to be seen burrowing through something dead. Thanks to the people at BugGuide for providing the correct identification.

Leaf Mites

I also saw a lot of these bumps:

mite galls on persimmonThe bumps/galls are the tree’s response to an invasion of mites of microscopic proportions. Little cause for gardener alarm.

Here’s a closer view. What a monster!

image courtesy of the James Hutton Institute http://www.scri.ac.uk/image/eriophyidmite

image courtesy of the James Hutton Institute http://www.scri.ac.uk/image/eriophyidmite

Mercy and the Mockingbird

The soft shade cast by the new leaves was a relief to my eyes that are becoming permanently squinty. This has been a spectacular year for meadow flowers but already the sunlight feels a bit mean spirited. Maybe I really am more of a forest creature.

honey bee visiting gentle shade

honey bee and gentle shade

This particular wild persimmon seems to be ‘owned’ by a mockingbird. I always see him nearby. Lately he has been performing nearly nonstop. He must be very old. His song repertoire is like the Library of Congress. My husband and I walk through this area frequently and when we are together I ask him to whistle the Mockingjay tune from the Hunger Games film series. Just cuz.