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Upcoming Events

 

Early to mid-April, East Lake Park, Osceola — Free Prescribed Burn Workshop. Date and time to be announced depending on weather. Email admin@siosa.org if you are interested in participating.

Family friendly, out-in-nature stroll from the South Shelter to Clark Tower and back.
April 22, 11:30 AM:FLS! is hosting the 2nd annual public “Walk in the Park” at Winterset City Park. Celebrate Earth Day by enjoying spring wildflowers with knowledgeable plant people as we stroll through the treasure that is Winterset City Park. Shelter is ours at 11:30.  Picnic before, pick up resources, get acquainted. Walk begins at 12:30 PM. Bring water, dress for the weather, and prepare to enjoy!

Saturday, May 5: Spring Nature Walk, Springer Woods, Decatur County — SIOSA members will lead a walk through the 40-acre woodland to observe wildflowers, birds, insects and other wildlife.

Saturday, June 23, 8:00 AM: Prairie Walk at Bobwhite State Park, Wayne County — Walk the Prairie Trail and learn about prairie wildlife and restoration work that has been done.

Sunday, July 22, 9:00 AM – 12 noon at Slip Bluff County Park, Decatur County — Monarch and Milkweed Monitoring. Monitoring for Monarchs, milkweeds and nectar plants was done at Slip Bluff County Park at three areas of the park in 2016 and one area of the park in 2017. In 2018, monitoring using the Monarch Larval Monitoring Project protocol will continue with a field day for the public to learn about the monitoring and participate. Monarch density and milkweed density studies will be done on the east side of the lake and possibly in the East Oak Savanna area. A list of flowering plants will also be made. Educational materials will be provided. Drinks and snacks will be provided. Email admin@siosa.org if you plan to participate.

Next SIOSA board meeting

The next regular SIOSA meeting is Wednesday, April 4 at 1:00 pm.  We will be meeting at the Clarke County Conservation Board headquarters at East Lake Park.  The park is located just east of Osceola on Hwy 34.

Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Monday, April 9, 2018 @ 07:04 PM
posted by veronica

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

Dumontinia tuberosa

I know it’s spring because the Nodding Trout Lily is in bloom, the Red-winged Blackbirds are nesting in the cattails at pond’s edge, male American Goldfinch wings are turning bright yellow breeding color, Wood Ducks are swimming in the pond and the calendar says so.  I know it’s spring until I look out my window and see that it’s snowing. 

So far this month we’ve had unseasonably cold weather.  Temperatures the first week of April were 20-30 degrees below normal.  On Monday, April 2 the morning low was 13’ F., on Wednesday, April 4 it was 14’ F.  (Average low temperatures for those dates in Decatur County are 37-38’ F.) So I was completely taken by surprise April 6 to see three large clumps of Anemone cup, Dumontinia tuberosa also known as Sclerotinia tuberosa fruiting on a south-facing hillside in the East Savanna. 

Anemone Cups, Dumontinia tuberosa, also known as Sclerotinia tuberosa

One expects to find Crimson Cup mushrooms early in the season but finding Anemone cups in such cold weather was a surprise.  Widely distributed but not common in eastern North America from New York to North Dakota and south to Tennessee this fungus fruits in early spring, March through May.  Ada Hayden Herbarium at Iowa State University lists collections from Winneshiek, Marshall, Boone, Johnson, Iowa, Decatur and Story counties. The underground portion consists of a long, slender stalk attached to a long, irregularly-shaped sclerotium, a compact mass of hardened mushroom tissue.  (Sclerotia of specimens I dug up were rooted in frozen soil.) Above ground, the stalk expands into a pale umber-brown cup, 1-3 cm. wide.  

Historically Dumontinia tuberosa has been regarded as a parasite of Anemone “but a more complex relationship may exist between the two organisms.” (Elliott et al)

In Europe it is known to parasitize the rhizomes of Anemone nemerosa.  Since it is parasitic on European species of Anemone it has always been assumed that must also be the case in North America.  But it is uncertain whether it is associated with any American species of Anemone. Mycologist Fred Seaver collected hundreds of specimens and “in no case has the fungus been associated with the rhizomes of any host. While there might be a mycelial connection, none was apparent.” (Seaver)  It may also be that the American form of this species differs from the European.  

 

(Note: This species is not edible)

Key words:  Timberhill Oak Savanna, Dumontinia tuberosa, Sclerotinia tuberosa

Todd F. Elliott, Steven L. Stephenson. Mushrooms of the Southeast. Portland: Timber Press, 2018: p. 54

Fred J. Seaver.  The North American Cup-fungi (Inoperculates). Lancaster: Lancaster Press, 1951:p. 76

Sunday, March 25, 2018 @ 12:03 PM
posted by veronica

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

Crimson Cups (Sarcoscypha dudleyi) are usually the earliest spring mushrooms to fruit at Timberhill.  This year I found the first specimen during the January thaw near the end of the month.   But fruiting was cut short by the frigid February temperatures that followed. It wasn’t until the milder temperatures and adequate precipitation the third week of March that the Crimson Cups fruited again.  Now they are truly abundant.

The Iowa Crimson Cup species was called Sarcoscypha coccina until it was found to differ microscopically from S. dudleyi. S. coccina is found only in the Pacific Northwest whereas two species S. austriaca  and S. dudleyi are found in eastern North America.  All three are part of a complex whose species can only be separated microscopically. The margins of these bright red cups are strongly scalloped and incurved in young specimens.  As they age the margins curve backward and the bright red inner surface fades to reddish orange. (Note the difference of inner cup surface color between upper and middle specimens on the left.)

Crimson Cups

At Timberhill I find Crimson Cups attached to buried or partially buried American Basswood sticks. Basswood sticks are easy to spot because their dark reddish brown color is quite different from other downed wood along the creek bottom.  It helps to carry a hand rake when searching for crimson cups as they are often hidden under leaf cover. 

Note: Crimson Cups are not edible.

American Basswoods (also known as American Linden) are fairly abundant in the sandy soil along Brush Creek north and east of the house.  Even without leaves this large (50-100 feet) handsome tree is easily identified by its medium gray, rough textured bark with long, shallow furrows and flat topped ridges.  The ridges are occasionally interrupted by horizontal fissures. 

American Basswood

D.M Huffman et al. 2008. Mushrooms and Other Fungi of the Midcontinental United States. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Michael M. Beug et al. 2014. Ascomycete Fungi of North America. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Peter J. Van Der Linden and Donald R. Farrar.  2011. Forest and Shade Trees of Iowa. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Friday, November 3, 2017 @ 05:11 PM
posted by veronica

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

Although the Checkered White, Pontia protodice, butterfly is a breeding resident I’ve never seen one at Timberhill until this year.  Most common in western and east-central Iowa, the first specimen I’ve seen at Timberhill was nectaring on marigolds blooming in the terrace border west of the house on October 17.  Because of the summer drought, butterfly bush and marigolds in the terrace border and roses east of the house which I kept watered are the only plants still blooming.  Everything else has dried up. Interesting that this checkered white managed to find the last blossoms of summer.

Checkered White Butterfly

The drought ended after almost six inches of rain this month. But it didn’t rain soon enough to stimulate abundant mushroom fruiting.   The only terrestrial fungi we found were two waxcap species, Hygrocybe conica and Hygrophorus sordidus.  Sometimes called “the witch’s hat” Hygrocybe conica is one of the small red waxy caps.  It is easily identified because virtually all parts of this species bruise and discolor black.  Usually associated with oaks, we found several clusters of H. conica fruiting under clumps of little blue stem grass on the East Savanna ridgetop. 

Hygrocybe conica

 

Hygrophorus sordidus

 

The slimy feel and thick waxy gills that run down the stalk make Hygrophorus sordidus easy to identify.  Medium sized white with a yellowish center it was the only Hygrophorus species we collected this year. This species was named sordidus because of the dirt that usually adheres to it.  At Timberhill we have identified ten species of Hygrophorus.  I usually expect to collect several species each fall. It is unusual to collect only one.  If it doesn’t get too cold there may be more fruting.  I have collected Hygrophorus specimens as late in the season as November 25. 

We also discovered a fairy ring of Giant puffballs, Calvatia gigantea, fruiting in the woodland east of the house.  Known for its large size the round fruiting bodies of this species are about the size of a soccer ball. Immature specimens which are still completely white inside are edible.  Unfortunately ours were too mature – the center had already begun to turn yellow.  (It will turn brown when completely mature.)

Another edible mushroom, Flammulina velutipes (Velvet stem), is fruiting abundantly on downed Hackberry along Brush Creek.  This species is considered a winter mushroom and may be found when nothing else is available.  It is the same species as enoki sold in grocery produce sections but the orangish brown cap and velvety stem are completely different in appearance from that cultivated species. 

(Caveat:  do not consume any wild mushroom unless it has been positively identified by a local expert, amateur or professional.)

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017 @ 04:10 PM
posted by veronica

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

Several white oaks along the driveway have died this year.  With the recent publicity about oak wilt and oak tatters diseases in Iowa I wanted to know if we had a problem. So I consulted Randy, our district forester. Bill and I toured the oak woodlands with him on October 3. Besides oak wilt and oak tatters Randy told us that two-lined chestnut borer may have killed our trees.  It attacks oak trees weakened by drought.  It begins with dieback of the upper crown branches followed by dying and red-brown leaves in the middle crown while the lower leaves remain green.  But then he added, “Nobody knows for sure what is responsible for oak decline. Trees just up and die.”

Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus campestris

Earth Puffball, Scleroderma sp.

 

Our three month drought finally ended the first week of October. By October 8 over two inches of rain had fallen.  That stimulated fruiting of Meadow Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris, the first summer mushrooms of the season. Since then we have been harvesting clumps of this choice edible from the south meadow. Closely connected to the common commercially grown mushrooms it is very similar in appearance. Also fruiting are two puffball species:  small white Lycoperdon and the larger Scleroderma puffballs with tough outer rinds.  More rain and continued unseasonably mild weather may stimulate fruiting of other choice edibles next week.

Darling Underwing, Catocala cara

 

Besides a lighted sheet strung between two poles in the East Savanna we have been using a 15-watt black light tube over a homemade funnel trap to attract moths. This month we decided to add a bucket trap set-up to our moth collecting equipment.  Rather than build it ourselves we purchased one from Bioquip, a company that specializes in entomology equipment.  On October 13, the first night we used it we collected eight Underwing specimens, seven black and white and one beautiful Catocala cara, Darling Underwing.  That’s the most specimens we have ever collected this late in the season.  Was it because of the unusually warm night with a last quarter moon or the new trap? In any case more warm nights and a waxing crescent moon are predicted beginning October 18-21 when we will set up again.

Catocala moths, particularly the black and white species can be difficult to identify.  However, I have found two very helpful internet sites. Theodore Sargent’s Legion of Night is available at http://bcrc.bio.umass.edu/kunkel/Moths/sargent/index.html.  It includes a complete survey of eastern underwing moths with full descriptions and photographs.  Bill Oehlke’s North American Catocala website has very useful identification keys and species groups listed by hindwing color.  You can even send him images for identification.  It is available at http://bcrc.bio.umass.edu/kunkel/Moths/sargent/index.html.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017 @ 02:10 PM
posted by veronica

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

So far fall is making up for a very disappointing summer Lepidoptera season.  In the last two weeks several Underwing and Stem Borer moth species were attracted to our black-light fluorescent tubes.  We alternated one light between the Hickory Grove and West Creek prairie remnant, the other in front of a sheet strung between two poles in the East Savanna. The East Savanna site is on top of a ridge of widely spaced oak trees over an understory of native forbs and grasses. 

Catocala neogama

 

Near the Hickory Grove I was particularly pleased to collect Catocala neogama, The Bride. This species has yellowish-orange underwings with black bands that are very similar to Catocala subnata, Youthful Underwing. To tell the difference, one must inspect the hind legs:  in C. neogama the tibia is flattened and very sparsely spined whereas it is cynlindrical with dense uniform spines in C. subnata.

A few years ago a friend introduced me to Stem Borer (Papaipema) moths.  At the time I only looked for Stem Borer species long enough to determine that they were to be found at Timberhill. Since then I’ve been too focused on surveying the Catocala to look at other genera.  Last week when my friend asked what Stem Borers had come to our lights I was ashamed to admit that I hadn’t even thought of looking for them this year. But we began looking for them last week.

Indigo Stem Borer

 

Papaipema, Stem Borers, are medium-sized moths which are often brightly marked yellow or orange with white spots on the forewing. There are also essentially unmarked dark forms with only a faint outline of spots. Moths of this exclusively North American genus emerge in late summer and fall when they deposit eggs on or near their larval food plant.  The eggs overwinter in the leaf duff and hatch in May.  After hatching, the larvae tunnel downward into the stalk and roots where they mature.  Since most are food plant specialists that require very specific habitats, a number of them are nearing extinction. (Wagner)

Cream Wild Indigo blooming in the East Savanna

 

Both Cream and White Wild Indigo are abundant at Timberhill and we have collected more Indigo Stem Borers than any other species. Cream Wild Indigo which blooms in early May is well established under the widely spaced oak trees in the East Savanna.  In summer White Wild Indigo blooms in all our prairie remnants.  So I was not surprised to see the Indigo Stem Borer on September 28.  Two more came to our lights on September 30. We also attracted some dark species which were too worn to identify.  I’m already looking forward to next year when I will begin looking for Stem Borers on September 1.    

David L. Wagner, Dale F. Schweitzer, J. Bolling Sullivan & Richard C. Reardon.  2011.  Princeton University Press.  Princeton

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Monday, September 18, 2017 @ 02:09 PM
posted by veronica

Field Journal:  September 1-15, 2017

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

Bill and I began this month at Timberhill with a family gathering to celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary.  Chris, his wife Agustina, Alex, grandson Hugo and his friend Ajin spent the entire weekend with us.  The warm sunny days were perfect for long walks and butterfly forays. 

Bill, Hugo and Ajin netting a butterfly

 

On Labor Day Bill photographed this Dion Skipper nectaring on Rough Blazing Star in the prairie remnant above the West Creek bottom field.  An infrequent breeding resident in Iowa, the Dion Skipper is uncommon almost everywhere.  In Iowa it is restricted to wetlands in the northern half of the state and has never been recorded at any other Decatur County site.  Its larvae feed on Tussock Sedge.  It has been observed at Timberhill (12 miles north of the Iowa-Missouri border) every year since July 2009, four years after we began restoring the West Creek sedge meadow. When we purchased this unit the sedge meadow was overgrown with elm and red cedar.  A raw ditch separated the north and south portions of this unit.  Now a sward of Tussock Sedge fills that space. To the south is the restored sedge meadow. Perfect Dion Skipper habitat.  But how this skipper survived the years of habitat degradation is a puzzle.

Dion Skipper on Rough Blazing Star

 

I finally collected an underwing moth on September 15.  In a normal year underwing moths come to our lights between mid-June and mid-October.  So far we have identified 15 species at Timberhill. The Obscure Underwing, Catocala obscura, on September 15 was the first of the season. Hopefully there will be more before the winter sets in.

The abundant bloom on Rough Blazing Star and goldenrod is attracting lots of butterflies.  Besides the resident species, southern migrants including Sachem and Fiery Skippers and a Variegated Fritillary were on wing the first two weeks of September. Hundreds of Painted Ladies migrated through here as well.  We continue to see several Monarchs daily.  

Yellow Patches, Amanita flavoconia

 

Despite the continuing drought I found a few ectomycorrhizal mushrooms. Two clumps of poisonous Yellow Patches, Amanita flavoconia, were fruiting on the trail through our West 40 on September 4.  The Brittle Cap Russula tenuiceps was abundant on the same trail.  Another puzzle since we have had so little precipitation.  It finally began raining here on September 15.  Hopefully that was just a prelude.   

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Monday, September 4, 2017 @ 07:09 PM
posted by veronica

Field Journal:  August 15-31

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

On August 23 we finally had a significant rain event – almost two inches.  It was just enough to stimulate fruiting of two mushroom species in the East Savanna.  There I collected three specimens of a red brittle cap, Russula tenuiceps.  Although this genus of large colorful fungi includes some easily identified species, the red Russulas can be difficult to key to species. A species described as red could be pink, purple, or rose-red depending on the age of the specimen.  In wet weather the cap can be viscid or remain dry and become pruinose or velvety.  The taste is either acrid, slightly acrid or mild but you must have a fresh specimen to accurately determine taste. To confound matters the best key is still found in Kauffman’s Agaricaceae of Michigan published in 1918. Kauffman describes Russula tenuiceps as “deep rosy-red or blood-red, sometimes white, spotted or tinged with orange blotches, sometimes uniform red.”  Spore color is “some shade of ochraceous, yellowish or creamy-yellowish.”  The stalk can be either “white or rosy-tinged”. My specimens were deep rosy-red with yellow blotches, a pinkish stalk and yellow-ochraceous echinulate spores, 6-8 microns.

Russula tenuiceps, a red brittle cap

 

Xerocomus subtomentosus was fruiting along the trail that winds through the southeast woodland to the Brush Creek bottom.  This reddish brown bolete is easily identified by its angular spores and the reddish brown streaks on the stalk.  The upper part of the stalk is widely ridged.  As it ages the pores elongate and become more defined.  A drop of ammonia turns the cap dark red.

Xerocomus subtomentosus, a reddish brown bolete

 

Dodder (Cuscuta), a parasitic plant, is feeding on plants along the Brush Creek bottom east of the house.  A host generalist, this member of the morning glory family grows more vigorously in patches of mixed host plants by parasitizing two different hosts.  On the Brush Creek bottom it prefers the combination of Climbing False Buckwheat and Wingstem. Besides transferring carbohydrates, water, and organic nitrogen from the host it has been found that RNA macromolecules in the host phloem can cross the parasite/host divide.  The macromolecules can interfere with parasitic development and reduce parasite damage to the host.  (Trewavas)

Dodder feeding on Climbing False Buckwheat and wingstem

 

Slender Ladies’ Tresses Orchids are blooming on the border between the old crop field and prairie remnant in our West Creek unit.  Rough Blazing Star is particularly abundant this year in the prairie remnant.  On a sunny day it is a good place to watch for butterflies and day-flying moths such as the Snowberry Clearwing.

Anthony Trewavas.2014.   Plant Behavior and Intelligence. Oxford University Press: Oxford

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017 @ 11:08 AM
posted by veronica

Field Journal, August 1-15

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Yellow False Foxglove, Aureolaria grandiflora, at Timberhill.  I was walking up the driveway in late July, 1998, when I noticed a clump of plants with bright yellow flowers at the east edge of the driveway border. I took a closer look and was able to identify these four-foot tall plants with abundant tubular yellow flowers as Yellow False Foxglove, which is usually found growing on the upper slopes of dry wooded upland in association with white, black or red oaks.

Bumblebee entering tube of Yellow False Foxglove blossom

 

Since that first sighting this species has spread north and south on the east facing slopes above Brush Creek. It now completely covers the understory of one hillside. When in bloom there is a constant buzz of nectaring bumblebees as they disappear down the flower tubes to collect nectar.  I have also observed Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds feeding on the nectar. Despite the moderate drought conditions there is abundant bloom this year. That’s because Yellow False Foxglove is a hemi-parasite: it obtains water and nutrients through small feeder roots that parasitize the roots of oak trees.

Yellow Giant Hyssop

 

Yellow Giant Hyssop, Agastache nepetoides, is another oak savanna specialist that came into bloom this month. Limited to partial canopy conditions, I have seen it growing east of the driveway and in the West 40 savanna. But deer have been feeding on it and flowering specimens are few this year.

I am seeing more butterflies, particularly skippers each day.  Besides the abundant population of Silver-spotted and Peck’s Skippers, Delaware, Little Glassy Wing, Indigo Duskywing, Common Checkered and Dun and Swarthy Skippers are now on wing at Timberhill. Also, it is interesting to note the high percentage of black morph female Tiger Swallowtails. They are almost as numerous as the yellow female morphs.

Indigo Duskywing

 

Cloudless Sulphur which I usually see in the West 40 unit is on wing in the East Savanna this year. Seeing it along the trail that runs through the Southeast Woodland was a surprise.

But the biggest surprise came on August 15. I found two species of bolete mushrooms fruiting under Bur Oaks north of the house. I was certain that it had been too dry for terrestrial mushroom fruiting.  Just goes to show how unpredictable the fungi are.  One species is probably Boletus badius, the other is one I’ve never seen before. I’ll have to obtain spore prints and do a microscopic examination to identify them.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017 @ 05:08 PM
posted by veronica

Field Journal: July 15 -31

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

During the last two weeks of July it has been interesting to observe the native plants’ response to our persistent drought conditions.  Bloom on the hillside prairie remnants is limited to a few species such as Rosinweed, Hairy Mountain Mint and Elm-leaved Goldenrod.  Everything else has dried up. Butterfly activity on the Rosinweed and Mountain Mint is scarce.  To my surprise it was on an old crop field south of Brush Creek below the East Savanna that the butterflies were most abundant.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

 

When we purchased the land that became Timberhill this field had been used to grow corn and soybeans.  We took it out of production in 1994 and implemented annual prescribed fire there in 1995.  We seeded it with warm season grass collected in one of our prairie remnants. We seeded no forbs yet various native wildflower species became established after each burn. Common Milkweed was the first to appear.  It dominated the field for several years.  Since then Wild Bergamot, Culver’s Root, Ironweed, Hairy and Slender Mountain Mint, Cup Plant, Round-headed Bush Clover, Evening Primrose, Goldenrod and Swamp Milkweed have become well established and the Common Milkweed has become less dominant.

Black Female Tiger Swallowtail on Cup Plant

 

Wild Bergamot, a favorite butterfly nectar source, stopped blooming in the prairie remnants over one week ago. But in this field there is still abundant bloom.  Silver-spotted Skippers chase each other and anything that comes near them from one pink inflorescence to another.  This is also the preferred nectar source for Southern and Northern Cloudywings, Delaware Skippers, Northern Broken Dash Skippers and Snowberry Clearwing Moths.  The Swallowtails are only occasional visitors as most had moved on to Cup Plant, Ironweed and Swamp Milkweed. Given all the Common Milkweed I was not surprised to see as many as ten Monarchs at the same time in the Swamp Milkweed patch in this field.

Imperial Moth

 

Other than the Sphinx Moths, Imperial and Tiger Moths have been most attracted to our lights.  I am puzzled by the lack of Underwing Moth diversity this year.  So far I’ve only seen a couple species.  In a normal year eleven species would have come to our black lights or baited trees by now.  It’s been a strange year.

It’s still too dry for terrestrial mushroom fruiting.  Mid-July through August into September is usually the best time of year for them.  We need a lot of rain for that to happen.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017 @ 06:07 PM
posted by veronica

By Sibylla Brown, Timberhill Oak Savanna

It always amazes me how native plants are adapted to our summer weather.  Although we have had well below normal rainfall so far this summer and daily high temperatures in the 90’s the wildflowers continue to bloom.  As one species fades another opens. Some of the plants currently blooming at Timberhill are Wild Bergamot, Showy Tick Trefoil, Pointed Tick Trefoil, Ironweed, Joe-Pye Weed, Culver’s Root, Whorled and Swamp Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Saint John’s Wort, White and Purple Prairie Clover, Pale Coneflower, Rattlesnake Master, False Sunflower, Scaly Blazing Star, Wild Quinine, Mountain Mint, Rosinweed, and Starry Campion.   

I’ve been seeing a lot of sphinx moths this month.  Two species that are considered common are new to the Timberhill list.  On July 6, I was walking around the border of the small prairie below the Hickory Grove when I flushed a small brown sphinx moth with bright yellow bands across the abdomen and a conspicuous fan-like tuft at the end of the abdomen.  This was the day-flying Nessus Sphinx.  Also a Timberhill first, a Pandorus Sphinx came to the moth light on our terrace.  Pale green with a complex pattern of darker green and pink veins this species is one of the larger sphinx moths. 

Nessus Sphinx Moth

 

Pandorus Sphinx Moth

 

 So far this month we have had two excellent butterfly sightings.  The first, on July 1, was a Hickory Hairstreak perched on an oak leaf in the Hickory Grove. It is distinguished from the very similar Banded Hairstreak by a sky-blue patch that extends deeper inward and an upper hindwing band that is white-edged on both sides.  On July 14 I saw the first Regal Fritillary of the season in the West Creek prairie.  This was several weeks later than usual. They usually appear the last week of June although I have seen one on wing as early as June 10,

July is blackberry month at Timberhill.   Bill and I always make several early morning trips to the Briar Patch in our West 40 unit where we harvest the big, juicy variety that is so abundant there.  Although we use them in dessert recipes I prefer them with our entrée recipes. Duck with Blackberry Sauce, Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry Chutney and Blackberry Chicken, a sweet and sour chicken adapted from a Moorish dish are among our favorites.    

On July 11 the hot and humid weather gave me an excuse to stay inside the air conditioning and read my son Chris’s debut novel, Tropic of Kansas, which was published that day.  I highly recommend it.  It’s a good read. 

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