A Trip Outdoors

Top Photo: Rudbeckia as part of the new “Prairie” in Catch the Wind.

Life goes on along the outdoor loop through Catch the Wind, Explore the Wild, and the Dinosaur Trail. Here’s some of what’s happening out there.

The tiny fruit of autumn olive is ripening. Though a non-native plant, the fruit is edible and has a sweet-tart taste. You should hold off on picking and eating until it ripens. When the fruit turns red with whitish speckles, that’s the time for picking.

These autumn olive fruit should be allowed to mature before eating.

Some, though, just don’t have the patience to wait.

This gray squirrel is not waiting. I watched it eat berry after berry.

Back in April, red buckeye had bright red tubular flowers on long spikes. It’s now showing the fruit of its labor, capsules which when mature, will contain 2 – 4 large deep brown seeds (buckeyes).

Buckeye going to seed.
When mature, each leathery capsule will contain 2 – 4 seeds (buckeyes).

Also in April, double file viburnum had two rows of white flowers along most of its long slender branches. Where there were flowers there is now fruit. The birds are working on removing the fruit.

Fruit on double file viburnum.
Birds will clean the fruit from the viburnum.

It looks like a fungus, but it’s not. It’s a plant. Though a plant, It doesn’t contain chlorophyll. It grows in deeply shaded forests. It’s ghostly white. Among other things, it’s called ghost pipes (Monotropa uniflora). This one (below) is on the Dinosaur Trail.

Though not themselves fungi, ghost pipes do however depend on fungi for their existence. Since it doesn’t have chlorophyll and can’t photosynthesize its own food, it taps into the mycelia of a fungus that’s likewise tapped into the roots of a tree under which the ghost pipe grows. So, ultimately, ghost pipe relies on the photosynthetic action of the tree for survival.

Ghost pipes on the Dinosaur Trail.

Beetles are everywhere you find them. The beetle below was climbing a stalk of crownbeard, presumably to get a suitable launch site for takeoff. It’s a grapevine beetle, or spotted June bug (Pelidnota punctata).

Grapevine beetle, or spotted June bug, climbing stalk in order to take flight.

Adult spotted June beetles eat grape leaves and fruit (grapes). The larvae, or grubs, feed on rotting logs and tree stumps.

The Dinosaur Trail is a great place to spot green tree frogs. The horsetail near the Troodons is the place to look.

Green tree frog hiding in plain sight.

Hearts a’ bustin or strawberry bush has set fruit. It’s small (about 3/8”), green fruit will eventually turn pink, and measure 1” – 2” in diameter. By September, the fruit will split at its apex to reveal crimson seeds

Strawberry bush fruit starting to grow.
By September the fruit will split open and shed its seeds.

Work continues in the wetlands.

Jim and Savannah (Outdoor Lanscaping) discuss strategy on how to proceed with new project in Wetlands.

In my last post I mentioned passion vine and its two representatives in our area Passiflora incarnata and Passiflora lutea but didn’t include a photo of lutea. Yellow passion vine or lutea is pictured here with its approximately one inch flower.

Yellow passion flower (Passiflora lutea).

I can’t resist the look of cactus flowers. It’s their translucence that gets me. Prickly pear cactus is planted around the exterior of the Butterfly House Conservatory. Here’s one of its flowers.

Prickly pear outside Butterfly House Conservatory.
A look inside at the pistil, stigma and stamens.

You’d have to go back to March and April to see the magenta blossoms of redbud. It now has seed pods hanging from its limbs, in typical legume fashion.

As all legumes do, redbud develops seed pods following pollination of the flowers.

A few posts back I pointed out the dozens of oleander aphids on a particular milkweed plant here at the museum. The numbers have swollen to the thousands.

Oleander aphids by the thousands.
Closer look at aphids.

How do you get rid of aphids on your milkweed? The best way is to squish them. If you’re growing milkweed in order to attract monarch butterflies it’s probably not a good idea to use insecticides on the plant. Put on gloves and squish the little aphids, and wash off the honeydew, the excrement of the insects, which will eventually turn moldy and black. Good luck.

Maintaining the exhibits in Catch the Wind is an important task performed by our Exhibits Department.

Stacey and Jerry (Exhibits Department) do maintenance on the Seed Tower in Catch the Wind.

Finally, while I stopped to peek in on the wolves, Ellerbe, one of our two males peered out at me from the cover of the vegetation in the enclosure.

Can you see me?

There’s always something going on outside.

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