Caterpillars

Some recent sightings…

hornworm
Tobacco hornworm, the caterpillar of the Carolina sphinx moth (Manduca sexta)

Eldest offspring’s jalapeño plant was growing well and producing plenty of peppers until this big fellow showed up.  Hornworms feed on a wide variety of solanaceous plants, so I’m keeping a close eye on my Brugmansia and tomato plants.  On occasion, while prowling the garden at night with a headlamp, I have found adult moths visiting nocturnally fragrant Lilium formosanum and Crinum ‘Mrs. James Hendry’ flowers.

leaf roller
Greater canna leaf roller, the caterpillar of the Brazilian skipper butterfly (Calpodes ethlius)

About a week ago, I noticed that something was cutting flaps in the leaves of my canna plants and stitching them shut with silk.  Peeling the flaps open revealed the caterpillars of the Brazilian skipper.  In late summer, my cannas are often infested with lesser canna leaf rollers (caterpillars of a nondescript moth, Geshna cannalis), but this is the first time I have seen greater leaf rollers.  Brazilian skippers are tropical butterflies that sometimes stray to the NC piedmont,usually in late summer.

webworm1
Fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) eating sweetgum leaves

webworm2

Unlike the greater canna leaf rollers, fall webworms are a familar late summer sight in my garden.  They feed on a wide variety of hardwoods.  This year, they’re on sweetgum and possumhaw.  In previous years, I have found them on sourwood, black cherry, and American persimmon.

Advertisements

Mole cricket

mole_cricket

While driving down our lane, I noticed a large, dark insect scuttling across the dusty gravel.  It proved to be a mole cricket.  As a child, I used to catch mole crickets in our garden in southwestern Iran, but I haven’t seen one in decades.  This was like meeting an old friend.

There are several mole cricket species in the southeastern U.S., including some introduced species that are agricultural pests.  I think this may be the native Neocurtilla hexadactyla (northern mole cricket), but I let it go instead of collecting it for definitive identification.

Six on Saturday #31, June 16, 2018

This week has been a mixed bag in the garden–some things were good, some not so good.  Let’s start with the not-so-good.

1. Fallen sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum)

fallen_sourwood

A storm on Tuesday brought down a fairly large sourwood tree.  It skimmed a bluebird feeder but landed across our row of thornless blackberries.  The blackberries were supported by two strands of wire strung between to 4×4″ posts.  The wire held.  One of the posts snapped.  This afternoon, I’ll haul out the chain saw and cut up the trunk for firewood, but it’s going to be a pain in the neck digging out the snapped post to replace it.

Update:  the tree fell, because the center of its trunk was rotten and inhabited by an enormous nest of enormous carpenter ants who were not thrilled to have a chainsaw bisecting their home.  Run away!  Run Away!

2.  Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) on pink banana (Musa velutina)

Japanese_beetles

The Japanese beetles have started their annual rampage through the soft-leaved plants in the garden.  Spraying with insecticides is contraindicated when the beetles are eating flowers that attract other insects or are on plants that we want to eat, so we wander around the garden knocking them off into a bucket of soapy water.  I’m not sure if it does much to control their population, but it satisfies the need for revenge.

3.  Tigridia pavonia

Tigridia_pavonia-red

Finally, I have a Tigridia pavonia that blooms red.  Tigridia corms are readily available in the spring, but only in packs of mixed colors.  For the last couple of years, my plants have all bloomed in shades of yellow, but this year, I got a batch that contained at least one red-flowering plant.  I had expected to treat Tigridias as annuals, but it turns out that they are fully hardy in my garden, despite cold, wet winter and heavy clay soil.

4. Fasciated Lilium formosanum

Lilium_formosanum-crest

Fasciation, or cresting, is a rare developmental abnormality resulting from overgrowth of meristem tissue.  In this Lilium formosanum, the normally cylindrical stem has turned into a flattened plate with many more (though smaller) leaves than usual.

Lilium_formosanum-crest2

Most sources say that fasciation in lilies is usually a one-time event, with the bulb producing normal growth the next year.  This bulb was also fasciated last year, although the effect was less extreme.  It will be interesting to see if this is a permanent, stable condition.

Also, note the stems of the ubiquitous, weedy creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula).

5. Lilium ‘African Queen’

Lilium_African-Queen1

First bloom for a bulb that I planted last autumn.  Flowers are nice, but the stem is floppy.  Hopefully the plant is still getting established and will improve in future years.

6.  African baobab (Adansonia digitata) seedlings

Baobab_seedlings

I ran across some baobab seeds that I had forgotten about on a high shelf for the past fifteen years.  I guess they’re still viable.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with tropical trees that have the potential to grow to the diameter of a small house and live for thousands of years, but the internet suggests they are reasonable candidates for tropical bonsai.

That’s all for this Saturday.  For more Six on Saturday contributions from garden bloggers around the world, head on over to the Propagator.

Six on Saturday #13: Montrose Garden

Montrose Garden is a beautiful private garden, the life’s work of Nancy Goodwin, in Hillsborough North Carolina (see also this old New York Times story).  Once or twice a year, Nancy opens the garden and has a plant sale.  The open house was today, so the kids and I were there just after the gate opened at 10:00.

Our first stop was, of course, the sales area.  The children helped to pick out plants, and we came away with Calanthe discolor, Kniphophia ‘Lola’, Orostachys erubescens, Orostachys japonica, and a couple of white-flowered Cyclamen hederifolium. Then, we went to see the gardens.

Last year at the open house, the flowerbeds were filled with colchicum flowers.  We didn’t see many today, and I wonder if the lack of rain over the past six weeks has delayed their flowering.  The soil seemed very hard and dry in the flowerbeds, but there was still plenty of color from drought tolerant plants.

1. In the Metasequoia Garden

Metasequoia garden

During the 1980s, Nancy Goodwin ran a mail-order nursery out of Montrose.  The Montrose Nursery was known for its garden propagated hardy cyclamens at a time when many nurseries were still selling wild-collected tubers, and Nancy has planted huge drifts of Cyclamen hederifolium and other species on the wooded slopes leading down to the Eno River.  Sadly, the woods were closed today, but there were still plenty of cyclamens to be seen elsewhere in the garden.  Here, they are flowering with Sterbergia lutea (autumn daffodil) under two large Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwoods).

2. Looking towards the lath house

IMG_2368

On the right, Eldest Offspring is trying to photograph a monarch butterfly.

3.  Monarch butterfly on red Dahlia (photo by Eldest Offspring)

monarch

4.  Incarvillea arguta (Himalayan gloxinia)

Incarvillea

5.  Cuphea llavea (Bat-faced cuphea)

cuphea

I suspect this one is moved into the greenhouse in cold weather.  I don’t think it would survive our winter in the ground.

6. Magnolia macrophylla (big leaf magnolia)

Magnolia

With its perfectly domed shape, this is one of the best M. macrophylla I have ever seen

While I go outside and try to decide where this morning’s purchases should be planted (and whether I’ll need a pickaxe to get through the desiccated clay), why don’t you visit some other garden blogs participating in “Six on Saturday.”  Check out The Propagator for his six and for links to other blogs.

(Hoping for rain this week)

Six on Saturday #4

It has been hot and muggy this week, with highs in the mid 90s (~35 C).  Because of the high humidity, there was heavy dew at night, and the moisture brought out Percy Shelley, one of the garden’s resident box turtles, early on Wednesday morning.  A high point of my week was watching him stalk and eat an enormous leopard slug (although turtle vs. slug didn’t  make for a very exciting pursuit).  I also fed him a tomato before he disappeared back into the undergrowth–everyone needs protein and veggies for a balanced diet.

Anyway, another week has come and gone, so it is time for “Six on Saturday.”  Lots of insects this week.  Also, check out The Propagator for links to other garden bloggers who are participating.

1.  Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’

IMG_9344
Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’

The color of these flowers is incredibly intense and saturated, and I love the way that they stand up on tall spikes.  This canna came from the Yucca Do nursery in Texas, just before they went out of business, but the same clone is now being offered by Plant Delights.

2.  Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’ (white nettle-leaved mullein)

IMG_9187
Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’

You can see the yellow-flowered form of this species in Six on Saturday #2.

3.  Oncopeltus fasciatus (large milkweed bug)

IMG_6979
Oncopeltus fasciatus mating

When my son was just a little guy, he came running into the house one evening and breathlessly informed me that there were two-headed bugs on the butterfly weed.  His first lesson on the birds and the bees (and the bugs) followed.

These two are on a seed follicle of Asclepias tuberosa.  They feed on the immature seeds.  Nymphs of the same species can be seen here.

4. Labidomera clivicollis (milkweed leaf beetle)

IMG_6976
Labidomera clivicollis on Asclepias tuberosa

I’m fascinated by the way that both the milkweed bug and the milkweed leaf beetle have evolved virtually the same color scheme to warn predators that it’s not a good idea to eat insects which feed on toxic milkweed.  Most people are familiar with Batesian mimicry, in which a harmless species gains protection from predators by mimicking a venomous or toxic species (e.g. scarlet king snake mimicking the venomous coral snake).  The similarity of milkweed bugs and beetles is an example of Müllerian mimicry in which two toxic species that have common predators use the same warning signals.  A predator that encounters one species will learn to avoid the other as well.

5.  Passiflora incarnata (maypop) with Popillia japonica (Japanese beetle) and very tiny ants

IMG_9413
Passiflora incarnata

The native Passiflora incarnata is basically a weed in my garden, but such a beautiful one.  It spreads by underground stolons and has a tendency to completely cover small shrubs.  However, the vines are very easy to pull up, so I just yank them when they get out of control and leave a few to get big so that I can enjoy the flowers.  The fruit is theoretically edible, but it is insipid compared to the cultivated tropical passionfruit.

Unfortunately, Japanese beetles are eating most of the flowers right now.  It will be a couple more weeks before the adult beetles lay their eggs and die, and we are free of this pest until next June.

6.  Hemerocallis ‘August Flame’ with Battus philenor (pipevine swallowtail butterfly)

IMG_9379
Hemerocallis ‘August Flame’

The butterfly is sure there is still a bit of nectar left down there…somewhere…if it can just reach…