Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Friday, September 23, 2011

September Means School

As Rod said "It's late September and I really should be back at school". I thought I'd find myself a rock-and-roll band that needs a helping hand, but because I'm a horn player they said they don't give a damn about no trumpet playing band. I guess it's not what they call rock-and-roll. So I'm stuck teaching.

What the heck am I saying. Back to business. Here's to a good quarter of Dendrology and Plant Ecology. This is a pic of my class measuring a 61 inch DBH Red Oak. Let's hope we find such interesting things again this year. School doesn't mean I have to stop blogging though. I've been busy all month shooting new photos. Below is just a random selection of extras you might say, but I have more theme posts on the way soon.

The notched rays growing well below the flower head makes Common Sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale, easy to identify. It's commonly found in moist soils, where the dark centered Purple-headed Sneezeweed tends to be found in drier sites. Speaking of autumn and sneeze, not only am I suffering from fall hay fever, but I have to start setting my alarms again. Plus I am depressed, my furnace went on for the first time the other night. Guess summer really is over. As Dr. Smith would say "Oh the pain, the pain". Another flashback for you baby boomers.

In my last post I pictured a white cotton ball caterpillar. It was the next to last instar of the Black-waved Flannel Moth. I found it again at the same location, and here is the mature stage getting ready to pupate.

Pilewort, Erechtites hieracifolia, is a member of the Asteraceae and distantly related to the Sow-thistles, Hawkweeds, and Dandelion. It's a common plant of waste places, disturbed sites, and recently burned areas. Most people consider it a weed. While it appears the entire plant has gone to seed, the green portions are in full bloom. The flower has a swollen base, looking like a vase. It has no rays or petals. The reproductive parts are small, yellow, and stick out of the top.

I spent a lot of the summer hiking the Mill Creek metro parks in Mahoning County. The ones I explored have very heavy public use, so I found some of their lesser known wildlife preserves to be more interesting. Most of those areas are being re-established into wetlands, and right now contain a lot of asters and goldenrods. Stay tuned for a post on those. Lining the wetland areas were these planted species going to fruit. Ohio Buckeye, Aesculus glabra. Funny how the word glabra means smooth, yet this Buckeye has spiny husks. The Yellow Buckeye actually has the smooth husks.

While not native to Ohio, for some reason Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum gets planted quite frequently around the state. It's natural range stops just south in Kentucky. It looks nearly identical to Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Don't use the cones, branches or growth form to try and separate them. Just look at how the leaves attach to the twig. Dawn Redwood is opposite and Cypress is alternate.

Lately it seems every time I photograph a caterpillar, it turns out to have an almost identical double. Many of these hump-backed caterpillars are in the family Notodontidae. This one is Schizura ipomoeae, the Morning-glory Prominent. Looking at it from the side isn't enough because it resembles the Unicorn Prominent, Schizura unicornis. The Unicorn has a larger horn on the first abdominal segment, just behind the green.

You have to look at the white pattern on the back to keep the two apart. Again going back to my previous post, I mentioned how tough it is to identify the Variable Oakleaf Prominent. I will say again, sometimes you have to wait to see what hatches out to be sure what you have. See Dave Wagner's book on caterpillars for a very detailed description.

Like caterpillars, when you get into legumes, the Pea family, many of the wildflowers are similar. This low growing, prostrate, twining vine-like plant I knew wasn't a Desmodium or Milk Pea. The very hairy fruit, and the long stalked flower lead to Fuzzy Wild Bean, Strophostyles leiosperma. This was in my "unknown" folder for quite awhile. With summer ending, I took many of my unknowns and sent them off to several people. When they come back I'll do another post and give credit to all who helped on them.

Spilosoma virginica, the Yellow Wooly Bear caterpillar. Don't be fooled by the name. It can be yellow, white, orange, or brown. This color form is often mistaken for the common, or banded wooly bear because the head end often is black. The common wooly bear, or Isabella Moth is usually black at both ends, but can also be all orange or all black. The main difference is it has only short bristly hairs. This guy has long soft hair protruding up from the bristle like hairs. Tiger moth larvae are abundant during the fall. To see a larger selection of Tiger Moth caterpillars, go back to my Clear Creek post of September 2010.


  1. hope to bump into you in the halls soon! love the red oak, where's that leviathan hiding at? also, I'd been meaning to email you and bob (scott) about being a dendro tutor this fall. Love to help in and outside of class. let me know!

  2. Andy, stop by and we'll set something up. My office hours will most likely be Mon. Tue. & Friday, but during the first week I may be found more than that.