Friday, July 31, 2009

Tiny creatures make nature area interesting. If you don't click to enlarge you won't really see the picture

Please click to ENLARGE July 31, 2009, photos of small things on World Peace Wetland Prairie.
The top photo below of a rattlesnake master in bloom and a wasp hanging below turns out to be about "Who's for supper?" when enlarged. Anyone know who is having supper?

The tiny white bug in the lower two photos was plucked off a basket flower.

Pollinators love swamp verbena on west side of World Peace Wetland Prairie

Please click on images to see at least three pollinators working swamp verbena on the west side of World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 31, 2009. Only the one in the middle closeup photo looks like the honeybees I sometimes accidentally stepped on with my bare feet during my Louisiana childhood. But the other two are as plentiful as the honeybees on prairie acreage hereabouts. Protecting such native plants is important to the pollinators on which we depend for a high percentage of our food! Want to help? Then please don't mow before November!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Same plant as below but photographed in daytime so that various stages are included on July 20, 2009, on Pinnacle Prairie before before heavy rain

Please click on these two images to see same flowering plant as in the preceding post but showing the yellow flower that is its moment of greatest glory. Someone please name it!

South Fayetteville prairie plants require help for specific identification

I need help finding name of this tiny plant.

Please click on lower images to ENLARGE VIEW OF white variety of rose pink gentian, Sabatia albiflora, on Pinnacle Prairie on July 29, 2009.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Burnetta Hinterthuer reminded me of the name of this attractive sumac tree on WPWP

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of abundant sumac trees on WPWP plus big bluestem grass in foreground of one shot on World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 25, 2009.

Winged Sumac
Rhus copallina
Cashew family (Anacardiaceae)

Description: This native woody shrub is up to 20' tall, but more often 5-6' tall. The new growth of the stems is usually covered with a greyish pubescence. The alternate compound leaves are oddly pinnate,individually consisting of 7-21 leaflets and a central leaf stalk that is conspicuously winged. These compound leaves are up to 2½' long. A leaflet is about 3" long and 1" across. It is ovate or ovate-lanceolate, with smooth margins and an upper surface that is glabrous or slightly pubescent. Some of the upper stems terminate in a panicle of flowers up to 1' long. This panicle is broader at the bottom than the top. The small flowers are yellowish white and individually about 1/8" across. Each flower consists of 5 spreading petals, 5 stamens, and a central pistil. The calyx is divided into 5 triangular lobes that are recurved. Sometimes Winged Sumac is dioecious, with male and female plants. When this occurs, the flowers of the male plants will lack pistils, while the flowers of the female plants will lack stamens. The flowers usually bloom during mid-summer for about 2-3 weeks. Later in the year, they are replaced by dark red drupes that are covered with short acid hairs. Each drupe is about 1/6" long and contains a smooth stone. These drupes persist through the winter, gradually becoming black. The root system consists of a taproot and spreading rhizomes. Sometimes vegetative colonies of plants are created by the rhizomes.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun and mesic to slightly dry conditions. This plant often flourishes in poor soil that is sandy or rocky because of the reduced competition from other plants, but it should develop normally in richer soil as well. The foliage is normally attractive, but occasionally attacked by leaf spot and other kinds of foliar disease. This sumac is less aggressive than Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac).

Range & Habitat: Winged Sumac is common in southern Illinois, occasional in NE Illinois, and rare or absent elsewhere (see Distribution Map). Habitats include openings in upland forests that are sandy or rocky, woodland borders, sandy savannas, sand prairies, limestone glades, fence rows, and abandoned fields. This is one of the shrubby invaders of sand prairies in NE Illinois. It prefers areas with a history of disturbance, such as fire.

Faunal Associations: The nectar or pollen of the flowers attracts many kinds of insects, especially wasps, flies, and bees. The foliage is a food source for the caterpillars of several species of moths and other insects (see Insect Table). The caterpillars of Pyrrhia umbra (Bordered Sallow) also eat the flowers and drupes. Both upland gamebirds and songbirds eat the drupes during the fall or winter (see Bird Table), and help to distribute the seeds far and wide. Both rabbits and deer browse on the foliage, stems, or bark. In general, the ecological value of sumacs to wildlife is quite high.

Photographic Location: A sandy savanna at Hooper Branch Savanna Nature Preserve in Iroquois County, Illinois.

Comments: The foliage turns red during the fall and is quite attractive. It is easy to identify this species in the wild because the central leaf stalks of the compound leaves are conspicuously winged (see the lower photo). Another distinctive characteristic is the smooth margins of the leaves – other Rhus spp. have leaf margins that are serrate or crenate.


Prunella vulgaris not a native species but its common name, selfheal, suggests its status as a medicinal herb found worldwide and plentiful on WPWP

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of Prunella Vulgaris on July 25, 2009, on World Peace Wetland Prairie. It is also known as heal all and woundwort.

Native thistle on World Peace Wetland Prairie supports pollinators and birds

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of native thistle on World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 24, 2009. The flower of this thistle is very important to many species in late summer.

The underside of the leaf being white is one indicator that this is a GOOD, native thistle. The fact that it isn't too sharply spined to be handled is another indicator!

Little-leaf sensitive brier: Native relative of nonnative mimosa trees a rare delight in Northwest Arkansas lowlands such as WPWP

Please click on image of sensitive brier, also known as Mimosa microphylla and Schrankia microphylla
Mimosa microphylla, the Little-leaf Sensitive Brier--a plant whose flowers are delightful to behold but whose real claim to fame is its behavior. "Plant BEHAVIOR?" you ask. Yes, plant behavior.
M. microphylla grows naturally in the southeastern U.S. as far west as Texas; it is considered "very rare" and subject to possible extirpation in Virginia. And while Asian Mimosa is a woody tree that reaches 40 feet in height, its smaller local namesake is a perennial herbaceous vine whose green stems wind along the ground or ramble over low walls and shrubs. The 3-to-6-foot stems grow from a taproot that allows Little-leaf Sensitive Brier to overwinter underground and get a head start when warm days of spring arrive. We found our first plant at Hilton Pond Center back in the mid-1980s in a spot that is now too-shaded by new-growth trees; the specimen depicted on this page is in full sun on the Center's road frontage--right where road crews are likely to whack it back next time they cut vegetation along the shoulder. One vine from the taproot grows flat along the substrate, while the other has managed to find vertical support from low branches of an Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana (large bottom photo).

The pink "powderpuff" blossom of Little-leaf Sensitive Brier is reminiscent of that of Mimosa trees, but to our eye it has much better form. Perfectly spherical and about three-quarters of an inch across, the flower heads erupt along the stem and are quite complex. Each globose cluster consists of many individual flowers: Sets of five petals fused into tubes; long anther stalks; and multiple stamens that carry a tiny spot of pollen at their tips. The overall effect is such that the entire blossom resembles a burst of fireworks, or--as one observer put it--the flower of Little-leaf Sensitive Brier looks like it could have been designed by Disney studios.

Both Mimosa and Little-leaf Sensitive Brier are classified in the Fabaceae (Pea Family), so one should not be surprised to find that seeds from each are borne in pods. Mimosa's fruit ripens in a more typical pea pod, while that of Little-leaf Sensitive Brier is produced in a 3-6" spiny, downy, awl-shaped structure in which lies a row of tiny seeds. Members of the Pea Family are also known as "legumes"--plants that harbor nitrogen-collecting bacteria in nodes on their roots. Like soybeans and other legumes, Mimosa and Little-leafed Sensitive Brier help enrich land on which they grow by returning nitrogen to the soil.

Incidentally, one problem native plant enthusiasts will encounter when seeking information about Little-leaf Sensitive Brier is that it has been known by a confusing variety of scientific names. First described by Swedish botanist Jonas C. Dryander in the late 18th century, it was "misidentified" or "rediscovered" so many times that the scientific literature lists a dozen synonyms--the most common being Schrankia microphylla.

To learn more about the subject of this week's photo essay, we also need to dissect its common name: Little-leaf Sensitive Brier. Like many legumes, this plant has compound leaves, but in this case they are doubly compound; i.e., the petiole comes off the stems and is divided into leaflets that, in turn, are divided into subleaflets. These subleaflets are less than a quarter-inch long--hence the name "Little-leaf." The "Brier" part of the name pertains to inconspicuous decurved thorns (above right) that grow along the main vine, on the flower stalk, and on the midrib of the main leaf petiole. In spite of being less than an eighth-of-an-inch long, these briers are quite sharp and can easily lacerate a bare ankle or ungloved hand.

Rose pink, pollinators highlight World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 25, 2009

Please click on images to Enlarge view of wildflowers on World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 25, 2009. Below the tiny pink Sabatia angularis in the top close-up photo, see the tall variety of the Asclepias viridis, which no longer has either its inflorescence or the seed pods that follow the flowers and in the third photo see the Asclepias hirtella, a narrow-leaved, tall green milkweed with various insects feeding on it.

Milkweed bugs feed on milkweed and their young feed on the seeds of World Peace Wetland Prairie

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of insects using Asclepias hirtella, a narrow-leaved, alternate-leaved tall-green milkweed. The Oncopeltus fasciatus, also known as the large milkweed bug, in the top photo raises its young on the milkweed plant and the growing bugs feast on the seeds in the milkweed pod. The "walking stick" in the second and third photos of an Asclepias hirtella on World Peace Wetland Prairie is less frequently found on a milkweed plant.

Predatory insects control insects that damage native plants on World Peace Wetland Prairie after lengthy drought in July 2009

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of predatory insect on rattlesnake master on World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 25, 2009.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Viceroy butterflies rest on barren new parkland northwest of World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 25, 2009, while swamp milkweed nears full bloom

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of Viceroy butterfly resting on bare fill dirt covering rich prairie soil in new parkland adjacent to World Peace Wetland, another resting in oak tree nearby and a swamp milkweed about to burst into bloom. The milkweed is one of many varieties of milkweed on World Peace Wetland Prairie and Pinnacle Foods wet prairie on which monarchs must leave their eggs to become caterpillars and then the next generation of monarchs. The new parkland had a mix of seed that includes fescue spread on the fill dirt on Friday. No milkweed or other native species is likely to appear there this year.

Insects pollinate, nectar and serve as predators of smaller, more harmful critters on insecticide-free World Peace Wetland Prairie

Please click on images to ENLARGE view of some harmless, even beneficial insects and bugs on World Peace Wetland Prairie peace-circle garden on July 25, 2009.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Butterflies love World Peace Wetland Prairie because of variety of native species available there

Please click on images to see images of butterfly opening and closing wings on World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 22, 2009.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Coneflowers in full glory and an American basketflower trying to bloom under drought conditions on WPWP on July 19, 2009

Please click on images to ENLARGE flowers on World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 18, 2009.

On the coneflower below, a Japanese beetle does his best to reduce the quality of the crop of wildflowers on WPWP in summer 2009.

Tiny pollinators make a big difference in the future of flowers on World Peace Wetland Prairie on

Please click on images to ENLARGE pollinators nectaring and spreading pollen on World Peace Wetland Prairie on July 17. 2009.