31 August, 2011

Yellow Parasol Mushroom, Lepiota lutea

In mid-July, a flush of these lovely yellow parasol mushrooms, Lepiota lutea, came up in a pot of fragrant Jasmine that I have on the patio.  These come up fairly frequently in a number of pots and don't seem to harm the plant they share the pot with.  
I like the combination of yellow and blue.
You can see the annulus (ring) left around the stalk.  The annulus is the remnant of the veil that covered the gills before the cap expanded.  The shape of mushroom in the foreground  definitely lives up to  its name.
I think this is a record for the number of mushrooms in one pot.
I googled Lepiota lutea and learned that is very common in flower pots and does not affect the green plant, which did relieve me since it is in many of my pots.  This particular pot has had several flushes of mushroom this summer.  You might see little yellow egg-shaped mounds for a day or so that then rapidly expand to the mushrooms in these photos.  By the next day, the mushrooms have withered and collapsed into what looks like a dried mushroom.  In another day or 2 even those will have disappeared.  I look forward to them as an unexpected flash of color.
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29 August, 2011

Reflections on Light and Shadow

The shots of the Question Mark butterfly with its reflection that I posted here a few days ago reminded me of some pictures I took in 2009 at Victoria Bryant State Park in Georgia.  I took these photos while standing on a dock in a lake, looking down into the water.  I was fascinated by the way the depth of the slightly turbid water was illuminated by shafts of sunlight shining down between the boards of the dock.
If you double click on this image to enlarge it, you will be able to see some small fish  in the upper right-hand corner.  Along the bottom of the picture are the boards of the dock  and then the reflection of the dock and me.  Along the top of the photo is the shadow of me and the rail of the dock.  But it is those parallel planes of sunlit water that I was trying to capture; the other things were by accident.
In this simpler image below I cropped out everything except the shafts of sunlight, my reflection and the reflection of a vulture soaring high above.
  I call this one "Self-Portrait with Vulture".

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28 August, 2011

Libellula pulchella - Twelve-spotted Skimmer

I took these photos on July 31.  This dragonfly was in the garden and let me get pretty close to it with my camera.
It is a Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Libellula pulchella. 
The 12 spots are the dark spots of which there are 3 per wing. Both males and females have the 12 spots.  
Only the adult males have the powder blue spots on their wings and the bluish coating on their abdomens.
It is holding onto a Liatris flower stalk  (blazing star).
I think it is just soaking up the sun, giving me a nice photo op!
All the descriptions of this dragon refer to the white patches on the wings.  They sure look blue to me, even in the photos  where they are referred to as white.
I have seen several females during the summer, but they were never still enough to  photograph.
Beautiful thing to behold, unless you are its dinner target.

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27 August, 2011

Reflections on a Question: Polygonia interrogationis, the Question Mark Butterfly

I was working on my computer at the kitchen table yesterday and a saw a small shadow appear on the outside of the window.  Just a few weeks ago I had seen a butterfly on that window, so I grabbed my camera and went to the sunroom which has a view of the kitchen window.  It was a butterfly sitting on the windowglass.  I was able to open the window in the sunroom to have an unobstructed view of the butterfly and took the following pictures of a beautiful Polygonia interrogationis, the Question Mark butterfly.  I rotated the images so the butterfly seems to be oriented horizontally, when it was actually going down the window, head first.  I took all of the photos showing the beautiful reflection off the windowglass.  The window blinds provide the diagonal stripes in the reflection, giving the photos a geometric rakishness.  ;-)
Here, you can see the white question mark from which the butterfly gets its name on the  underside of the hindwing.
The orange color of the hind wing indicates that this is a winter form of the question mark that will stay here all winter and then breed in the spring.  The summer form has much darker hindwings.
There is a trail of lick marks on the glass visible between the bottom edge of the rear wing and its reflection.
You can see the violet tail tips and outer margin of forewing.
The underside of the wings can be seen in the reflection.
Look at how the tip of the proboscis is flattened against the windowglass.
Upon reflection, the question is clear.
Wonder what the answer is...
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24 August, 2011

A Garden in Bloom

Our garden has been more beautiful this summer than any of the other 18 summers we have lived here.  I suppose that is not unexpected since we have been dabbling in the garden since day 1.  It hasn't all been forward movement; some things we have done have been more successful than others.  But then experimenting is half the fun.
This is the front of the house.  We have a stone path that leads from driveway across the front and around the side to the patio in back.
From the right perspective, the coneflowers make it look almost prairie-like.
But that illusion disappears when you stand up and look in the other direction.
The asiatic lilies were prolific.  This bed is behind the garage and my office window overlooks this scene.
We went crazy one year and planted a border of asiatic lilies around the entire front and side garden beds.  The orange lilies are in bloom in this photo.  A few weeks later, the pink star gazer lilies that were inter-mixed began to bloom.
I managed to overwinter the canna lilies and they made a beautiful comeback once they got back onto the patio.
This is the front of the house.  The front door is tucked around to the left of the garage.  Most of the plants are herbaceous perennials that have self-seeded.  
We started with 3 liatris plants, 6 moonbeam cosmos, 3 purple coneflowers, 3 black-eyed susans, and 3 butterfly weed plants.
The back garden is shadier and on the north side of the house.  We have ferns and hostas in the lower garden, which is the shadiest.  In the upper part we have astilbes, more hostas, lilacs, hydrangeas, bell flowers, balloon flowers, lungwort, speedwell, and lots more. 
The trellis separates our yard from the neighbors' yard.  The hummingbirds love the geraniums and begonias in the hanging baskets.  For some reason, the clematis (at the left end of the trellis) was more interested in growing bushy than in climbing the trellis.

I'll end this post with a backlit view from underneath a crane's bill geranium.  This little plant has blooming its heart out all summer and shows no sign of slowing down.
We have gotten so much pleasure from creating it and watching it progress from spring, through summer, and into autumn for 18 years.  With any luck, this is our last summer here in this house;  leaving it and the garden will be bittersweet.  Hope you enjoyed the tour; we certainly enjoyed our time here.
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21 August, 2011

Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth, Hemaris diffinis

Dennis and I were in the garden yesterday to hook up the garden hose so we could replenish the water in in our little garden pond.  I noticed this insect flying low with an erratic path.  When we got a decent look at it we could tell it was a hummingbird moth.  A little smaller than what we have seen before and it seemed to have clear wings, also different from the others.  It was flitting around very jerkily, so none of my photos are very sharp, but that is the nature of this beast.  

Its wings beat so fast that is hard to even see them.

It, or rather she as it turns out, has found a plant that she likes.

You can tell here that the wings are clear.
She is getting in position to lay an egg.

Looking for another spot to lay an egg.

She tucks the tip of its abdomen under the leaf.

Off to find another good spot.

Here we go ...

I didn't want to disturb her any more, so I let her be.

I came back the next morning to check for eggs and found 3.

Tiny, glistening, green globules.

Two were very round.

And one seemed to be a little flat on top.

They should hatch in about 3-4 days.
I'll keep an eye out for hatchlings, but they will be very small and also green - hard to see on the green leaf.  I think this plant is a honeysuckle, which is one of their preferred plants.  It came up as a volunteer in the garden and I almost weeded it out.  Glad I left it.  

By the way - this post is for Dean who reminded me recently that there are clearwing moths.  :-)
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