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.

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Raccoons love Whole Foods!

Raccoons eat insects

Guess what this raccoon had for dinner last night. Raccoons have a varied diet, similar to ours. Raccoons eat berries, other fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. They also eat insects, eggs, poultry, rats, squirrels, small livestock, birds, fish, snakes, craw fish, worms, frogs, and mollusks. Additionally, raccoons will eat pet food, carrion, and human garbage.

Raccoon 1

You can tell it was a raccoon meal because they are so tidy. Craw fish remains from another feast are similarly displayed. Did you guess what raccoon had for dinner last night?

 

insect praying mantis 1

Oh dear…

It’s a boy! Sexing Monarch butterflies!

Insect Monarch

This Monarch butterfly is a boy! You can tell because there is a small black dot on his hindwing (lower wing). Look for it on the narrow vein close to the butterfly’s abdomen (back end of his body).  Who ever thought sexing butterflies could be so easy?

Insect Monarch 2

Here is a shot of the underside of the hindwing. This Monarch is enjoying nectar from wing stem sunflowers. Find some tasty flowers and enjoy butterfly watching while the weather is still warm and wonderful.

Why is this called a red spotted purple?

insect red spotted purple

This is a red spotted purple butterfly.  FYI: it is not dead. I chased it around the road and barely managed to capture this out of focus shot. It mimics the poisonous pipe vine swallowtail and is known to interbreed successfully with the white admiral. The underside of the hind wings have wonderful red spots but I have no idea where the purple is.

Death by Water Hemlock

Flower water hemlock

In 399 BC Greek philosopher Socrates was sentenced to death. He chose hemlock as his means of death and he was required to drink the poison by his own hand. Water hemlock is one of the most deadly poisonous plants in North America. It is extremely beautiful, very similar to Queen Ann’s Lace, but prettier. It grows abundantly in damp soil in southern Maryland and often guides people to springs during droughts. I picked a wonderful bouquet of it in Great Falls, VA, arranged it in my best Mission vase and then looked it up in my flower ID book. Oops.

Blooms in August. Wait until next year… unless you know where to dig up the tubers now.

Flower Groundnut

Sorry I’m late sending photo of groundnut vine. Wonderful little bunches/balls of reddish-brown/maroon and cream, dense, pea-like blossoms grow in moist soil in August It’s still out there to be found in September but it is going to seed now. It is proof that Native Americans lived around here. It is edible and should be harvested in early November. It is considered an invasive by cranberry farmers.

Per Tamara Dean in Orion Magazine article, “Stalking the Wild Groundnut”:

Indeed, for centuries Apios americana was a staple in the diets of many Native Americans, which explains why it grows profusely where they once encamped. Almost every part of the plant is edible — shoots, flowers, the seeds that grow in pods like peas, but, most importantly, the tubers. These tubers (the groundnuts) are swellings that form along a thin rhizome, like beads on a necklace. They can be small as a fingernail or, rarely, large as a melon. And as with other root vegetables, they sweeten after a frost and overwinter well in a cool, damp place, offering sustenance in a time when the land provides little other food. Pilgrims were taught to dig and cook groundnuts by the Wampanoags, and these “Indian potatoes” probably spared the newcomers from starvation. Henry David Thoreau knew and ate the tubers. He wrote in his journal, “In case of a famine, I should soon resort to these roots.”

However, neither Thoreau nor the Native Americans nor the Pilgrims could have known how healthy groundnuts are. Like potatoes, they are high in starch. But they’re also relatively high in protein, containing up to 17 percent — about three times as much as potatoes. In addition, studies from at least two U.S. universities reveal that groundnuts contain a significant quantity of isoflavones, chemicals linked to a decreased incidence of prostate and breast cancers. Plants for a Future, a British organization that educates the public on “edible, medicinal, and useful plants for a healthier world,” ranks Apios americana as the fourth-most-important plant in its database of seven thousand.

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