Eight Lobe-leaved Plant of Japan

Top Photo: Fatsia japonica on Dinosaur Trail. An evergreen shrub, Fatsia japonica is native to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Here, it’s a common and popular landscape plant which does well in full and partial shade. At the museum, its white umbel flowers bloom in November when it attracts many late season insects. Everything from ants to butterflies come to the flowers for their nectar. But there are other posts about the insects that are attracted to the fall blooming flowerRead more

Mantid, Frog and an Odd Fruit in Mid-November

Top Photo: Butterfly House volunteer and insect lover Daniel holds mantid which, itself, had just captured a cabbage white butterfly. It’s mid-November and insects are still active. In fact, Butterfly House Volunteer Daniel was out exploring the Butterfly House Outdoor Garden here at the museum when he came across three on-the-prowl mantids. One of them had just captured a cabbage white butterfly (above photo). Volunteer Sam reveled in letting one of the mantids crawl up her arm. I’ve seen bullfrogsRead more

Crayfish Revisited

Top Photo: One red swamp crayfish jets away as another approaches it. I’m frequently asked about the creatures that live in our wetlands. Inevitably, the subject of crayfish, red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), enters the conversation. I ask whoever it is I’m talking to if they’ve read my blog postings on the crayfish. If not, I urge them to do so as soon as they get the chance. The following was first published in October of 2011 under the titleRead more

What You Might See

Top Photo: Mystery bird in red maple. If you identified the bird in the top photo, you did well. It’s a blue-headed vireo. It was formerly know as solitary vireo, a name which I prefer over blue-headed. It’s not a rare migrant here in the Piedmont, but I haven’t seen one at the museum in several years so I thought it noteworthy. Occasionally they’re seen in the area during December, January, or even February. Fatsia Japonica is in bloom onRead more

November

Top Photo: Panaeolus sp. mushroom. These attractive mushrooms (Panaeolus sp.) sprouted under a fern at the entrance to the Dinosaur Trail. Boxelder, also known as ashleaf maple is a common tree here at the museum, but none reach their maximum height of about 60 feet. The name ashleaf maple comes from the tree’s compound leaves resemblance to ash leaves. It usually has five leaflets per leaf but may also have as little as three leaflets, which is the reason forRead more

Parasitic Wasp and Caterpillar

Top Photo: Mystery objects on redbud leaf. Rangers Becca and Robert discovered an unusual leaf mixed in with the regulars in the leaf liter at the base of a redbud tree next to the path near the Cafe Plaza. The leaf had dozens of objects attached which appeared to the two rangers as some sort of insect eggs or larvae. A radio call and several minutes later, I was staring at the objects myself. My first impression was of someRead more

Mimosa and the Web

Top Photo: Mimosa leaves with mimosa webworm infestation. Both mimosa the tree and the webworm are non-native and considered invasive species. The tree was introduced into the United Sates during the mid 18th century. Most sources quote 1745 as the year of introduction as an ornamental. Mimosa is a legume and produces copious amounts of long, seed containing pods. The seeds are very hardy and stay viable for years. New trees pop up all around the mother tree, even sproutingRead more

Golden Afternoon

Top Photo: Common buckeye on goldenrod. Positioning oneself next to a stand of goldenrod on a sunny fall afternoon is a wise choice for a naturalist interested in getting a quick inventory of the local flying insects. The insects are attracted to the yellow flowers for their nectar and accessibility. There are no long tubular flowers requiring a lengthy proboscis to reach the sweet liquid. No hovering necessary either, the flowers are right there on top of the plant. SmallRead more

A Few Fall Encounters

Top Photo: Eastern Phoebe. Eastern phoebes can be seen in every month of the year in central North Carolina. Here at the museum, they nest under the boardwalk each spring/summer and are present in all but the coldest months of the year, although some years I see them regularly throughout the four seasons. The phoebe above is in fresh fall plumage. You can see the distinctive greenish belly and chin on this newly molted bird. The green tint will soonRead more

Yellow Flowers, Gray Frogs, and Green Caterpillars.

Top Photo: Crownbeard. Crownbeard is a local herbaceous composite, meaning it grows in the area, has no woody stems or branches and has both disk and ray flowers. I refer to it as the unkempt, or messy sunflower. The flowers seem never to be complete. The ray flowers are uneven in shape, and in most cases are missing many petals Yellow crownbeard (Verbesina occidentalis) is common in the piedmont and can be found along roadsides, edges, and water courses. IRead more