Thursday, August 25, 2011


A sure sign that summer's giving up the fight... huge argiope spiders sitting in perfect orb webs, sewn up the middle, all over the prairies. Or in this case, right smack dab in the middle of a window, which is pretty cool for the class inside that can watch any wrapping and snacking that occurs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Plant and New Bird

I learned a new plant today, the Wild Senna. I almost weeded it, but then thought better, and I'm glad I didn't. Apparently it's rare-ish. And useful as a laxative, in case anyone's looking.

This little waxwing apparently fledged too early. He's so cute; I hope he makes it!

Friday, August 19, 2011


Thinking of Spartina makes me think of my time in the salt marshes on the Georgia coast, but prairie cordgrass is a Spartina sp. also. It is one of the tallest prairie grasses. Though I find it quite beautiful and subtly striking, if that makes sense, I'm glad it's not too common in these parts. Its leaves slice the hands of those who unsuspectingly like to touch all the plants they pass by. (Not that I know anyone like that.) At this moment, pale pink flowers dangle from its stiff, branching seed spikes, blowing in the wind, getting tangled with each other...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wild Petunia's one of those native plants that I don't think I've ever seen growing native, but it does have a nice pop of mid-summer color (lavender) in a low plant that's good for edges... we don't have any in our yard but plan to get a bunch when we do the side yard next year.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Page of Prairie Dock

The notes read: "Flower stalks of the prairie dock rise high above their leaves, which are enormous, rough, veiny, cool. In the early morning, the buds still lean towards the setting sun of yesterday afternoon. Already, as I finish they begin turning their hears toward the east... The leaves are tipped in red, translucent and deeply shadowed with the morning sun... Still rolled tightly, terminal buds hold the promise of yellow.... Grasshopper rests on a leaf, hops when I touch him... Leaves clasp the stems -- the lower down on the stalk the longer the leaf's stem, like increasingly evolved giraffe necks [getting only so long that they can effectively reach food without giving up the ability to hold up the food grabber; leaf in this case, head in giraffe's]. Higher up, the "necks" are stubby, short, even absent at the top. Leaf teeth also get larger the further down the leaf is on the plant."

I am thrilled to have these stalks to draw in my yard. See, I planted this prairie dock, and 2 others, at least 6 years ago. They've done well enough, coming back the first couple of years with a few leaves and the last several years with huge leaves, many of them, looking robust and healthy. But this is the first year I have gotten the flower stalks. There are 8 of them total. I used to fear that my plants were somehow not happy, didn't like their places although the leaves were large. Now I think they were just children, and they have finally reached adolescence and started to grow tall. Next week, perhaps, the first yellow flowers will bloom upon them.

That reminds me... I saw this other phenology blog (I know, right?) that used a really neat method to convey a lot of information really fast. It listed plants and then weekly progress reports, as in:
Prairie dock:
last week -- flower stalks about 3-4 feet tall
this week -- flower stalks 5-6 feet tall, still no flowers
last week -- the first, bright purple flowers opening
this week -- full bloom
Etc. I love this idea... and, although I don't like the idea of copying another person... well, no ideas are really original anymore, right? And this format would allow me to go back to making more scientific phenological observations and recordings, which I haven't really been doing lately. I've just been profiling a few plants as they catch my eye enough, at some point in their life cycle, for me to want to draw them. Well. We'll see. (Opinions welcome.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Jewel Among Flowers

My long term followers may recall my ongoing plot to take over part of my side yard with jewelweed. Two years ago, I dug up 3 plants from my mom's house, where they are plentiful, and I watered and cared for them. I didn't think they'd make it, as every day they wilted as though they'd been transplanted to the Sarah, rather than a shady patch of yard near where they started. But they survived and flowered and popped their seeds all over and last year I had many jewelweeds emerge and go through their entire life cycle with no help from me. This spring, the seedlings were so plentiful and had spread so far that some had to be annihilated due to their pathway location.

However, the long hot and dry spell was not good for my jewelweeds. I had pretty much taken to ignoring them, and their whole part of the yard, which is overgrown but generally takes care of itself well enough. When I noticed that many of the jewelweeds weren't faring well, it was already too late for many of them. (The fern area right next to the jewelweed area suffered a similar fate, for the first time in 8 years...) Anyhow, a few of them did survive to flower, but not that many. Not as many as last year. So we'll see how things go. Meanwhile, they are still going strong at my mom's house, where the flower sketched above from many angles grew.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

To Honor and Obey

Obedient plant is named for the fact that, while the flowers come off the stem in a severely square arrangement, you can move them around and they will stay at the new angle. (My specimen appears to have that same quality in its stem! Or some random mutation that caused a kink to the side...) The flowers have a lovely pinkish hue, turning to white, decorated with deep purple spots that seem to be very effective at calling insects in. I watched many crawl into the tube-like flowers as I sketched them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cuppa Joe

Another whorl-leafed flower currently in peak bloom, Joe Pye weed. This particular stem had an oddity of some of the leaf whorls having one removed by an inch or so... Joe Pye weed has become, well, as weed in my yard, and it's one of those things that I sought out and planted and cared for and now am pulling out in the randomest of places. And because it's so tall, it looks pretty bad if I don't get it. Oh, well. You live, you learn. (Not that I wouldn't have planted it, but...)