Thursday, June 23, 2016

Common Milkweed's Moment

It is just that time of early summer...when everything is green and growing and then suddenly beautiful, fragrant blooms appear everywhere. Right now, you can't walk much of anywhere on our property without seeing or smelling Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in bloom.


We started with some small patches of this species naturally occurring in our old field, orchard and flower beds, but since it spreads rhizotomously (by underground root runners) small patches soon become large patches and we are thrilled!



The globe-like blooms are so satisfying to us - we just cannot stop marveling at them. This is a hardy species that grows readily as long as it isn't killed with herbicide or continual mowing. How lucky are we to have such a pleasing, beneficial plant grow so easily?




These plants are seriously humming with life. Most everyone knows Monarch butterflies require milkweeds for their larval development, which is reason enough to plant it, but besides monarchs - so many other insects nectar on the blooms and eat the seeds and the foliage; birds use the down for lining nests and who knows what else? This is a very important plant!

Honeybee...


Milkweed Bug...


Milweed Bug, Honeybee & Virgina Ctenucha...


Sweat Bee...


Banded Hairstreak...


I didn't get photos, but bumblebees, skippers, and Great Spangled Fritillaries are mighty huge fans too. (Update 6/24/16: We forayed out about 10:45 p.m. last night and these blooms were just covered in many species of beautiful moths!! Tree frogs were calling and sitting on the leaves too! It was such an exciting evening...we totally recommend venturing out after dark to witness.)

You can see the pollinium in the following photo and sweat bee photo if you click on it to enlarge it. Read here for a short and sweet explanation of this reproductive mechanism and to see an awesome video of the G.S. Fritillary excitement.


We've seen two Monarch butterflies and zero caterpillars at our place so far this summer. It's still fairly early so we are hoping to see lots more soon.

In the past year, we had a township representative in our county ask us about these flowers and say "these are weeds I mowed for the Ohio Department of Transportation." Yikes! There are hints of change afoot here in Ohio and we are excited to see how our roadside management changes for the benefit of wildlife and us. I mean what do you prefer...wildflowers or mowed grass? You know where our heart lies...

Happy Summer everyone!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Magic & Southern Indiana Glades (no not the air freshener!)

Steve and I were talking the other day and I said "I just love magic." This totally confused him because he knows I'm not a huge fan of magic shows that involve disappearing people, disappearing and reappearing objects etc. Why? I don't know. Maybe I'm a dud, but anyways - I had to clarify and said, "I love REAL magic." What is real magic? To me, it's fireflies, frog and insect song, the emergence of butterflies and moths, migration, trees from a tiny seed (any plant from a seed, I mean seriously), life, LOVE, the smell of Common Milkweed in full bloom and on and on I could easily go, but let's stop on Glades.

Glades are these dry, magical openings in the forest. (Really, if you've never been you must go. Let me show you why.) South facing slopes with shallow bedrock makes for a super hot place to grow that's often inhospitable to most trees so plants that can tolerate hot and dry grow there...think prairie plants. Here's a peak at the glade from the surrounding forest....


We emerged from the forest to witness this (pinch me, please!):




Yes, that is real magic folks: Pale Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) in full, perfect bloom, humming bees, fluttering butterflies, singing indigo buntings; it only gets better when shared with people you love. Here's Steve, me and our dear friend Beth - the Land Steward of these Harrison County Glades by job and by heart. She is a huge part of why these places are so well cared for and is completely bad *** in my opinion. She and Steve work harder than most everyone I know except for Steve and my Dads. More magic...two people giving so much of themselves for others and this beautiful land. Thank you both from the deepest part of my heart! As they both move onto new career & life paths, I know that new magic is in the making and I'm so excited to see where it leads. Congratulations to you both!


Not yet in bloom while we visited, Short Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) thrives in these glades. Look at that awesome umbel flower structure and it's a milkweed - of course we love it!


As we transitioned back into the woods...


we saw the super cool Climbing Milkvine (Gonolobus obliquus or Matelea obliqua), another member of the mikweed family.


Chestnut oaks shared their magical form and gift of shade with us and ...


with creatures like this beautiful mushroom (Michelle my mushroom guru - thoughts?).


Pure soul feeding MAGIC.