Autumn sunsets are wonderful

Sunset 9-24

Autumn sunsets are wonderful. Watch the sun move south. If you can, find a way to mark this midpoint in its path along your western skyline. You will be amazed how quickly it moves toward its southern-most point at the winter solstice. After that, it turns and travels north toward the summer solstice point.

Sunset 9-24 A

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Is frog as green as grass or is grass as green as frog?

frog green tree

Is a green tree frog as green as grass or is grass as green as a green tree frog? The deadly cuteness strikes again. Those little toes! I think that might be its ear behind its eye. Wish I could remember these details! I could watch them all day! They are easy to catch if one happens to get into your house and quite sturdy so you probably won’t hurt them.  You must catch them as soon as you see them because they dry out quickly indoors. Also please watch carefully when you open and close sliding glass doors. These frogs like to hide in crevices around doors and windows.

Blue flowers in autumn

Flower VA Dayflower

The Virginia Dayflower is one of my favorite blue flowers in autumn. It is a perennial herbaceous plant, native to the mideastern and southeastern US. It is important to count the blue petals. The Virginia Dayflower has 3 blue petals. The Asiatic Dayflower has only 2 blue petals, plus a tiny white one. They bloom now too, often close to each other in wet soil,  and are a deeper blue.

Why is this called the pink-striped oakworm moth?! Oh. Duh.

Insect Moth pink striped oak

Don’t you think “Sunset Moth” would be more appropriate than “Pink-striped Oakworm Moth”? Maybe not. Now that I look at it again there is a prominent pink stripe. It was on my kitchen screen door this morning offering a photo opportunity. It is a species of silk moth of the family Saturniidae and is considered a pest of forests because it defoliates trees. Primarily a pest of the urban forest, it is fairly common but not often abundant. Maybe that’s why I don’t recall seeing it before today. Adults do not feed. Males and females both have the white spot on wings. When I Googled it, I discovered lots of people take pictures of this colorful moth. One article said they don’t have antennae but I found a photo with lovely feather-like orange antennae.

 

Wasp Sandwich!

A pile of Polistes wasps. Left photo is top view. See all 3 heads lined up like beads. Right photo is side view. That’s where you can see more clearly what is really happening. Crazy! Bottom wasp is smaller female. The pile moved around, climbing and flying. All the climbing and flying was done by the female with the males remaining on top of her. When I Googled it, someone said they’d seen a pile of 4 wasps. These photos are dedicated to my friend Tom Cullen to wish him a happy birthday!

Imagine wild mushrooms with your scrambled eggs

Mushroom puffball 4-7

Much to my surprise I found my first fresh puffball of 2017 on 4/7.  They are called puffballs because their dust-like spores create a brown cloud when the mature mushroom bursts. That makes it fun to kick them. The biggest puffballs contain 7 trillion spores! Unlike other mushrooms, the spores are produced internally. The mushrooms are delicious before the spores form. When people collect puffballs, they cut them in half to check the interior. If the flesh is all white and free of spores, it can be eaten raw or sliced and cooked in butter.

In Tibet puffballs were traditionally used to make ink by burning them, adding water and glue to the ash and then pressing out the excess water.

Does this look like an elegant poinsettia?

Tree catawba leaves

We usually think of the colors of leaves in the fall. But the young leaves of spring contain equally magical colors.  The leaves in the photo are from the catalpa/catawba tree. When I was a kid we called them cigar trees and Indian bean trees because of their long, bean-like seed pods which were fun to play with. The leaves of this native flowering tree eventually become heart-shaped or three-lobed.  They are the sole source of food for the catalpa sphinx moth caterpillar. When caterpillars are numerous, infested trees may be completely defoliated. Due to their large leaf size, catalpas are a popular habitat for many birds, providing them good shelter from rain and wind.

Because the caterpillars are an excellent live bait for fishing, some dedicated anglers, particularly in southern states, plant catalpa mini-orchards for their own private source of “catawba-worms”.

Catalpa is occasionally used as a tonewood or sound board in guitars. Who knew?