When Rob Protz mentioned last week that a pin oak near his home is producing more acorns than he’d ever seen before I started paying attention in my neighborhood. Yes, there are lots of acorns in Oakland. It looks like a masting year for red oaks in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Acorns in the red oak group take two years to mature so those falling now were formed in the spring and summer of 2019, influenced by spring precipitation, summer temperatures, the last killing frost, and each other.
North Oakland has a lot of oaks (duh! it’s the neighborhood name) so of course we have acorns on the streets. They make a hollow “ponk” sound when they fall on parked cars.
Check out the acorn crop in your own neighborhood. Is it a masting year where you live?
Yesterday at Frick Park I found woolly aphids that wouldn’t move. This was a disappointment because I expected them to boogie woogie (like this!). They had all the right characteristics. They were:
White and fluffy,
Clinging to narrow branches, in this case shrub-like tree trunks,
There was a black substance on the trunk below their colony, sooty mold that grows on their accumulated honeydew.
Bees and yellowjackets were feeding on the honeydew seep.
Here are two more photos showing them individually and collectively.
I tried to get them to dance but they refused. I believe they were on alders so that would make them woolly alder aphids.
If you’d like to see them for yourself, look below eye level on slender trunks of shrubs next to Nine Mile Run about 20 steps to the left of the park bench that views the creek. Approximately here: 40.427685, -79.901373.
In September porcelain berry’s (Ampelopsis glandulosa) beautiful porcelain-like fruits show why the plant was imported as an ornamental.
Unfortunately this Asian vine is terribly invasive, engulfing small trees and draping itself over large ones.
Some people call it “wild grape” but you’ll never see grapes on it. Just porcelain berries.
This month you’ll find common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) blooming in meadows, along roads and bike trails. The name implies that it opens only in the evening but I photographed these at midday. The flowers are 1-2 inches wide. The plants are hard to miss at six feet tall.
Meanwhile, bug love continues. This pair of goldenrod soldier beetles (also called Pennsylvania leatherwing (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus)) are perched on a flower in the Aster family while working to continue their species.
Spend time outdoors this week while the weather is good. Autumn is beautiful and all too short.
p.s. Thank you to Monica Miller and John English for correcting my bug identification mistake!
p.p.s. Did you notice that Pennsylvania is misspelled in the bug’s scientific name (only 1 ‘n’). This is not the only species with this misspelling. Can you name another?
Meanwhile at Frick Park the goats and their guard donkey are back in the large enclosure at Clayton East, munching away at invasive plants. The black goat at the fence is eating mile-a-minute weed on the fencing. Yay!
This week brought lavender flowers, green fruit and an overabundance of frogs.
I found American bellflower (Campanula americana) blooming along the Duck Hollow trail with some plants reaching six feet tall. My close-up, above, shows how the pistils avoid being fertilized by their own pollen.
Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) always has a bad hair day. At Schenley Park a long-legged insect stopped by for a sip (top right of flower).
In July the unripe fruits of white fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) are green. This fall they’ll turn dark blue.
At Panther Hollow Lake, which is actually the size of a pond, pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) is blooming …
… and there’s a serious overabundance of bullfrogs. Here are just a few examples.
Herons don’t nest at Schenley Park but may visit for some easy prey. Where’s a great blue heron when you need one?
This week I found two bottlebrushes in Schenley Park.
Eastern bottlebrush grass (Elymus hystrix) is a native perennial bunchgrass that grows in partial shade, often at the edge of forests. This one was exactly where we should expect it, glowing in the sun by the Bridle Trail.
Meanwhile the bottlebrush buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora) by Panther Hollow Lake showed off in a last hurrah. They were spectacular from a distance on 9 July but up close the lowest flowers on each spike were faded and brown. Their show is about to end.
There was plenty to see this week in Schenley Park even though the weather was hot.
My best visit was on Thursday morning when my friend Andrea convinced me to come out at 7:30a. I’ve been missing a lot by sitting at my computer until 9am. Best Bird: Louisiana waterthrush! Waterthrushes don’t breed in the park but they stop by in transit before and after breeding.
Best flowers this week include the bright yellow flower (above) near the Westinghouse fountain, a cultivated variety of St. Johnswort (Hypericum).
Teasel (Dipsacus), an invasive alien, has not bloomed yet but the flower buds are visible between the spikes.
Spotted joe pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), above, has buds in the leaf axils but when it blooms the showy flowers at the top attract all our attention. This year I’ll have to watch for the side flowers as well.
Enchanters nightshade (Circaea canadensis), below, blooms from the bottom up and has plenty of buds yet to open. The lower buds in the photo are on a different branch.
Bugs are quite evident now but they are difficult to photograph because they move(!). Below, this silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) appeared to be rubbing its abdomen on the bird dropping. Was it ovipositing?
Aphids are not plentiful this year — yet — but it’s only a matter of time. There’s only one winged adult in this photo but the juveniles will grow up, sprout wings, and fly to other Helianthus plants to reproduce. It won’t be long before I think there are too many.
And finally, some bugs are never seen but we know they were there … as this leaf attests.