In a few weeks this plant will be very aggravating. Those tiny green balls are solidly attached to the stems right now but soon they’ll dry out and grab onto your clothes and your dog if you brush past the plant. They’re the fruits of Virginia stickseed (Hackelia virginiana).
Virginia stickseed is so inconspicuous in bloom that we barely notice it at this stage.
The flowers are tiny …
When fertilized they become small burs made of four nutlets facing each other. The outer surface is like velcro.
To give you an idea of their size, I pulled some fruits off the stem. It was hard to detach them because they haven’t dried out yet in early August.
Just wait until they turn brown!
p.s. There’s another less common native plant called small flowered agrimony with a similar fruit. Read more about it in this vintage blog: Slightly Aggravating.
(flowering plant photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original. All other photos by Kate St. John)
Perhaps you already know this but it was news to me: Cinnamon repels ants.
Cinnamon comes from the dried inner bark of a tropical evergreen, the cinnamon tree (Cinnamomumsp.). Ants would eat these trees alive if they could but the cinnamon genus evolved a very effective defense: two chemicals, Cinnamaldehyde and Cinnamyl alcohol, that are toxic to ants. Ants stay away from cinnamon.
In this 9-minute video, the guy from You Can Science It shows that even swarming, warring ants will drop what they’re doing when confronted with cinnamon. He theorizes that it changes their messaging from “Kill the other colony” to “Oh no! It’s cinnamon!” (video begins where he starts discussing cinnamon. Click here for the full video.)
Yes, cinnamon repels ants but it has to be fresh and you have to use a lot of it.
In the wild and in our yards Thuja trees are a favorite food of white-tailed deer. They browse it from the ground up to the height of their outstretched necks.
When the number of deer is in balance with the landscape, arborvitae have a normal tapered shape. You’d never notice that the deer are eating them.
When there are more deer than the landscape can handle, their browsing is intense. The trees are cropped close to the trunk — even down to the bark — because the plants can’t replace their branches fast enough.
I photographed that row of damaged trees just six blocks from my house. Yes, my city neighborhood has too many deer now. We could protect our trees with netting as described in this video. Or we could give up and never plant arborvitae again.
p.s. There are too many deer everywhere in the eastern U.S., even in the forest. Read more here.
Last week I saw two caterpillars and a butterfly that teased me: Who am I?
1. While taking closeups of Japanese snowball fruit (Viburnum plicatum) I saw the tiny green insect above looking at me from the corner of a leaf.
iNaturalist suggests he’s a moth in the genus Isa, a slug moth. However none of the photos show a caterpillar with a tiny black eye. He seems to be saying, “Who am I?” UPDATE, 24 July 2019: Monica Miller says he’s a planthopper, one of many confusing species.
2. On Lower Riverview Trail I paused where lots of tiny caterpillars were dropping to the ground on thin silk filaments. Were they a type of tussock moth? “Who am I?” UPDATE, 24 July 2019: Monica Miller confirmed my guess that these are hickory tussock moth caterpillars.
And in Schenley Park on the Greenfield Bridge I found an emperor. A hackberry emperor? A tawny emperor (Asterocampa clyton clyton). Thanks to Bob Machesney for the ID!
Last month we found chocolate lilies and other delightful wildflowers while on PIB‘s Alaska birding tour. Here are the best of them, mostly found at Turnagain Pass Rest Area on 18 June 2019. Please leave a comment to help me identify the ones I’ve labeled “mystery” flowers and correct any I’ve misidentified. Thanks!
I found a ghost flower blooming in Schenley Park last Monday.
Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) looks ghostly because it has no chlorophyll. Instead it’s symbiotic or parasitic on fungi that have a symbiotic/parasitic relationship with tree roots. This makes Indian pipe a parasite on a parasite … sort of.
Though it’s a perennial member of the Heath family, Indian pipe only grows when conditions are perfect and these are so impossible to replicate that the plant isn’t cultivated.