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Blog Nature


Fall is here. It’s September and fall is all around us. Birds and butterflies are migrating, late-season flowers are blooming, seeds are nearly ready to cut loose into the wind, and fruit is on the vine. It’s even a bit cooler outside than it’s been the past few weeks.

Here’s a group of photos of what’s going on outside, in case you missed it because of the heat.

An American redstart stopped in at the Lemur enclosure to take a bath.

Testing the water
A quick bath for the young redstart.

Over in Catch the Wind, on the backside of Earth Moves, the cattails are just about to burst open and release their seeds to the wind.

Cattail head beginning to split open.

Duck potato or arrowhead grows in the shallow water on the north side of the Wetlands, exclusively at Water’s Edge. The roots or tubers of the plant are a favorite of certain duck species and can also be eaten by humans.

Duck potato.
It’s also called arrowhead.

I visit the frog pipes located at Water’s Edge, Dinosaur Trail, and Earth Moves each morning to have a peek inside. Over the past week or so I’ve found one or two frogs in each pipe on different days. I was surprised to see a juvenile gray tree frog in the pipe at the retention pond in Earth Moves.

Frog pipe with green treefrog.
Small spec inside a pipe at Earth Moves.
Close look reveals juvenile gray treefrog.

There are many grapevines on the Museum’s 84 acres, most of which are muscadine. The leaves are characteristically toothed, or serrated, and rounded.

Muscadine grape leaves.

The fruit ripens to deep purple.

Deep purple ripe fruit on right.

The tendrils of the vine are simple, that is, they are single-tipped (not forked). Other grape varieties have forked tendrils.

Tendrils hanging from the vine are simple.
A closer look at muscadine tendrils.
Note the forked tendrils on different grape variety.

Green anoles are active most of the year. Throughout the seasons, I most often see them in the vicinity of the demonstration garden near the Cafe.

Poking about sunflower seed head for insects.
Anole pauses to give me the once-over before climbing down the sunflower stalk.
Licking early morning moisture from handrail on Butterfly House entry ramp.

The ID of a plant in bloom near the retention pond in Earth Moves had me stumped. It looked very familiar, but I just couldn’t identify it. It seems today, if you ask someone for help in identifying a plant, they whip out their phone, take a picture and, poof, like magic, up comes the name of the plant. It’s the “app way.”

I’m old school. I have to figure it out with a look inside a book, noting similarities between what I’m looking at and other plants or plant families and maybe some discussion. But I guess, the app way is a bit faster.

What kept surfacing, by people I was consulting with and who were using the app way, was boneset. But which boneset?

Mystery plant in Earth Moves.
Small delicate white flowers.

I’m familiar with boneset, common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). It has perfoliate leaves, the leave bases wrap all the way around the plant’s stalk. This plant didn’t have such leaves.

Mystery plant’s leaves.

Further investigation revealed it was indeed boneset, not common boneset with the perfoliate leaves but late boneset (Eupatorium serotinum).

This plants’ tiny white flowers attract a large number of insects, so if you want to help out the pollinators in your area you might consider leaving this plant to grow in or around your garden.

Carpenter bee.
Great golden digger wasp.
Potter wasp.

Yellow passion vine which had bloomed earlier in the summer now has passion fruit on the vine. According to what I’ve read the fruit is edible, but bland. The few people I know of who have taken a bite, and spat it out, are still doing well, so it won’t harm you. As a consolation, the fruit will make a purple or indigo dye.

Ripe passion fruit on left (yellow passion vine).
Looks like someone took a nibble and declined to go further.

Monarch butterflies are once again on the move. I’ve witnessed egg-laying by some of the migrants on our remaining milkweed plants in front of the Butterfly House. Caterpillars are present too.

Monarch laying eggs on milkweed.
Monarch caterpillar ready to pupate.

Keep your eyes and ears open for the changes to come.