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, August 17, 2012

August, Summers Home Stretch

Since we have switched to semesters, my summer has been cut short. I've been busy walking around some local spots, visiting prairies, Old Woman Creek, Lorain Metro Parks, Mohican Forest, etc. This black blister beetle caught my attention first. Handle carefully, as these guys will emit a chemical known to cause skin rashes. Not sure on the ID, but probably Epicauta pennsylvanica.

Sitting along a gravel road is a common behavior for Red-spotted Purple butterflies, Limentis arthemis. It will tongue the crevices looking for nutrients in any wet spot. The red spots are visible near the top of the wings, but are much more pronounced underneath.

This strange view from behind shows the hind wings of the Spicebush Swallowtail. The green shading and green spots along the wing edge tell us this is a male. If the spots were green, but the wing center was bluish, it would be a female. The caterpillar has big false eyes near the head region. Besides Spicebush, it feeds on Sassafras and Tulip (Liriodendron).

Up on the prairie I found this Narrow-leaved Lady's Tress, Spiranthes vernalis. Spiranthes are white blooming orchids. The latin name refers to how the flowers spiral around the stem like a barber pole or candy cane.

Lady's Tress Orchids can be separated by whether on not they have a single spiral, like this, or a double row of flowers on the stem. Most of these orchids have grass like leaves. S. vernalis has very thin leaves. The plant has another common name, Spring Lady's Tress. It can bloom in May, but this species commonly occurs in late summer. It's one of the tallest in the group, reaching several feet in height.

Often overlooked is this weedy plant of roadsides. Galinsoga quadriradiata, the Shaggy Galinsoga. The Hairy Galinsoga, G. ciliata is the same species. These were introduced from South America as a garden plant, but have since escaped into the wild.

Same goes for this species. Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium, is another introduced plant of gardens. Look for Parsley like leaves and white rays that are notched. Native to Greece and Bulgaria, it has a large history of medical uses.

Looking like little Chicory flowers, these blooms are from Blue Lettuce. Like Galinsoga and Feverfew above, they are members of the Asteraceae. They are more closely related to the Dandelion and Sow-thistle side of the family.

Evidence of that is noticeable when you break off a leaf. A white milky sap exudes. This species also shows a white waxy coating or glaucous on the plant. When talking about plant identification, I often mention that leaf shape is important. The variation of leaves is extreme in this species. The following are a few examples.

Because we have two species that look alike, I tend to pay attention to how the flower heads appear. In Tall Blue Lettuce Lactuca biennis, the flowers are crowded together in a narrow torpedo shape. In this species the flowers are more spread outward, making this what I believe to be Lactuca floridana.

Always nice to see something pop up on a plant you're photographing. Such was the case with this Spring Peeper, Pseudacris crucifer. We tend to think about frogs more often in the spring, but peepers will occur all season long. Not only can you see the X on the back, but this guy is also highly spotted.

Once again sticking with the Asteraceae, the Tall Thistle is in peak bloom. This is a native species that can reach 10 feet in height.

Cirsium altissimum leaves are not as spiny as other thistles. Their leaves are also not divided. The margins are entire, but covered in stiff hairs. The undersides are bright white.

Plants along forest edges tend to be straight and narrow. When growing in the open, with no competition, it not only gets tall but will appear very wide.

As I mentioned with the Spring Peeper, it's always nice to have things land on flowers you're shooting. This is a male Zabulon Skipper. I've posted him before, but there is more to the story.

Shorty after the male appeared, this female landed. The white streak at the top of the hindwing is a key feature.

There were several males "bugging" the female, so she left and landed on a plant below.

Immediately a male followed and landed behind her.

Her wings look blurry because she started to flutter them rapidly for the male.

This was followed by the male hopping from side to side, and fluttering his wings. From time to time he would stop and briefly flash his hindwings open. This mating sequence was a nice surprise to capture on camera. Another example of how you need not walk far to observe interesting animal behavior.


  1. Nice post, Dennis. I've been spending some time on the Lactuca genus this summer and just saw the rare L. hirsuta in Shawnee the other day. Despite being weedy and not very showy I think they're fascinating and fun plants.

  2. Wow, awesome photos and a big THANK YOU for identifying everything. Nice to peruse a blog written by a kindred spirit.

  3. I've been wondering what that blister beetle is---a goldenrod field near my house is absolutely full of them. I caught one and it exuded a lot of orange, cylindrical pellets. I assume those are its chemical defenses?

  4. Can't say Derek. Most blister beetles exude a liquid chemical defense. Perhaps you saw what was simply frass.