Motherly love

lynx spider 2a
Green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans).  I think.

This spider was keeping a very close eye (or six) on me as I moved around the lantana bush in which she had woven her nest.  I believe she is a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans), although she has more extensive red markings on her cephalothorax than most individuals of that species illustrated on the web (Ha!  web).

Female green lynx spiders bravely defend their egg sacs and are capable of spraying venom at targets up to 20 cm away (Fink, L.S., 1984, Journal of Arachnology 12:373.  PDF).

In the upper left corner of the photo below, you can see the reddish abdomens of recently hatched spiderlings, so the mother’s work is almost done.

lynx spider 1

lynx spider 3

Six on Saturday #15

Another Saturday, another six things from the garden.  Autumn has not been particularly impressive thus far.  I think the very dry weather in August and September has caused some trees to drop their leaves prematurely , while others are still green.  Only one plant out in the garden has started blooming this week, so I’ll begin with it:

1. Salvia regla (Mountain Sage)


Salvia regla is primarily a Mexican species, although its range extends just north of the Rio Grande into west Texas.  In my garden it is marginally hardy, dying to the ground each winter and sprouting new growth fairly late in the spring.  Perhaps that’s why it starts flowering exceptionally late in the year.  The orange-red flowers are quite large (for a sage), but they come too late to attract hummingbirds which have already flown south for the winter.

2-6.  Autumn trees

The remaining photos this week are trees in their autumn finery.  I chose to photograph only trees that are growing naturally on our property.  Perhaps the foliage of  trees and shrubs that I have planted can be a subject for another day.

hickory and vulture
Carya sp. (hickory).

I think these are Carya glabra, pignut hickory, but I’m not very good at identifying hickories other than the shagbarks.  Can you spot the turkey vulture soaring high above?

Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)
Oxydendrum arboreum (sourwood)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
red maple
Acer rubrum (red maple)

That’s all for this Saturday.  As always, head over to the Propagator’s blog to see his Six and check the comments there for links to other participants.

Summer vacation 2: downeast Maine and Kingsbrae Garden


(I meant to write this shortly after the post about our trip to the Pacific northwest, because I thought it would be interesting to compare the flora, both wild and cultivated, of the two northern locales.  But something else always seemed to require my attention, and now two months have gone by.  Luckily, photos of flowers never wilt.)

Part the First: Introduction

near Cutler

Towards the end of summer it is our habit to rent a little cottage on the coast of Maine and spend a quiet week hiking, fishing, and sampling the lobster rolls from as many different seafood takeouts as possible (the best this year:  Bayview Takeout on Beals Island).  The primary appeal of the area (apart from summer temperatures a good twenty degrees F cooler than North Carolina) is the coastline.  As a youngster, I imprinted on rocky shores in Cornwall and Norway, so the sand beaches and dunes of North Carolina, pretty as they are, can’t compete.  The granite slopes tumbling down to cold, deep water are evocative of happy childhood memories, and there can hardly be a better way to spend a summer afternoon than exploring a rocky tide pool.

Great Wass Island Preserve

We go far enough “down east” to leave the heaving mass of vacationers behind, and it’s not unusual to have a couple of miles of shoreline or a mountain trail all to ourselves.  Just an hour’s drive to the west, there are traffic jams in Acadia National Park, but we often see more wildlife than people.

I’m not very good at distinguishing grey seals from harbor seals.  I think this is a grey.

Afternoon visitor to the cottage garden
eagle 2
Not sure if the Noble Symbol of our Nation is reacting to current politics or has a fish bone stuck in his throat
Low tide

I just can’t get enough of this scenery.

Tunk mountain
The view from the top of Tunk Mountain is worth the climb.
water striders
Water striders on Jones Pond, Gouldsboro


Part the Second:  Wildflowers

Of course, whenever we go for a drive or a hike, I keep my eyes open for interesting plants.  This year, I noticed some similarities between the coast of Washington and that of Maine, despite more than 3000 miles,several mountain ranges, and four degrees of latitude separating the two locations.

In both places, one of the most common wildflowers is Chamaenerion angustifolium (fireweed):

Chamaenerion angustifolium (fireweed)

Spiraea species are also common along the roadside.  In Washington we saw pink flowered Spiraea douglasii and S. densiflora, while in Maine we see the white S. alba. Both fireweed and white meadowsweet are native to the mountains of North Carolina, but I have never seen them growing in the piedmont.  Too hot in summer, I would imagine.

Spiraea alba (white meadowsweet)

I saw some very interesting plants during a hike in Great Wass Island Preserve, where part of the loop trail runs just above the high tide line.  There’s really no trail at all for several miles, just occasional blazes painted on the rocks.  The cracks in the rock accumulate enough soil for plants to survive in what must be one of the harshest environments imaginable: baking in summer, frigid in winter, and dry when it isn’t being lashed by salt spray.

Great Wass Island
Great Wass Island Preserve

This is the home of a very pretty Campanula species that almost seems too delicate to grow in such a tough habitat.

campanula 2
Campanula sp. (bellflower)


Nearby, I also found and odd little plant with a cloud of tiny purple flowers above prostrate leaves:

sea lavendar
Limonium carolinianum (sea lavender)

I also found a succulent that I tentatively identified as a sedum.  When I looked it up later, I discovered that I wasn’t far off.

Rhodiola rosea, formerly Sedum rosea (roseroot)
roseroot 2
Beside this R rosea are the sword-like leaves of immature Iris setosa (beachhead iris).

The interior of the island is a shield of bare granite that the trail crosses to return to the parking lot.  Where a thin layer of acidic soil has accumulated on the rock, lichens and moss form a carpet among various ericaceous shrublets and stunted Pinus banksiana (jack pines).  In early August, the soil and moss was bone dry, and the leaves of wild blueberries and other ericaceae were already taking on their autumn colors.


Where the topography of the rock results in poorly drained pockets of peat, sphagnum moss and carnivorous plants grow.  I saw numerous Drosera rotundifolia (roundleaf sundew) and a few Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea (northern purple pitcher plant)


This plant was growing in shade, so it has much less red pigmentation than plants growing in a more sunny location.  The presence of red veins in the pitchers shows that it is not the all-green Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea forma heterophylla

For comparison, here is a red plant that I found a couple of years ago in Quoddy Head State Park, a little further northeast towards the Canadian border:

Sarracenia 2

And here are the shorter, wider pitchers of the southern subspecies, Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa, growing in North Carolina :

Sarracenia 3


Part the Third:  Kingsbrae Garden

No matter where we travel, we like to visit local botanical gardens, so one morning we drove about a hundred miles and crossed into Canada to visit Kingsbrae Garden in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.  On the drive up Route 9 to the border crossing at Calais, we stopped at what may be the most beautiful highway rest area I have ever seen.

rest area with lobelia

It also had the smelliest outhouse, but I didn’t take a photograph of that.

Along the stream, bright red Lobelia cardinalis were in full bloom.

rest area with lobelia 2

Interestingly, the same species was blooming at the same time in my garden 600 miles to the south.

Kingsbrae Garden was well worth the trip.  It isn’t all that large, but it is beautifully landscaped and contains a wide variety of native and exotic plants.

The first area a visitor encounters is a formal knot garden.


Kingsbrae succulent
Sempervivum in bloom

Below that is an informal perennial garden:


There’s a pond:


And interesting shrubs:

Kingsbrae hydrangea
Hydrangea paniculata
Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush), native to New Brunswick and North Carolina
Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac), also native to New Brunswick and the mountains of NC

The sculpture garden incorporates works by Canadian artists:

Something Stirs by Joel Palmer
Salmon Vortex by Alanna Baird
Cascade by Donna Mayne

And there are Alpacas.  At lunch time, they come out to the main lawn to mingle with the visitors.


If you find yourself in New Brunswick (or in Maine and have your passport), Kingsbrae is well worth a visit.

Eyes in the night

A few minutes ago, I went outside to take some trash to the garbage bin.  I was wearing a headlamp, so the leaf litter under the trees appeared to be liberally sprinkled with tiny jewels.  I often notice these beautiful little sparkles of light when I am out after dark.  They are the eyes of insects and spiders reflecting the light of my headlamp, and they’re not visible if I use a handheld flashlight.  I suppose that the light from the flashlight isn’t reflected back at the correct angle.

A few of the sparkles are moths, but the vast majority are wolf spiders, with an occasional fishing spider in the mix.  During the day, they hide away in the leaf litter or down in burrows, but at night they sit motionless on the surface, waiting for prey to wander past.

There are many of them. Very many.  Some of them are big.  And hairy.

Dolomedes tenebrosus (dark fishing spider), a fairly common species in the garden.