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

Crownbeard growing along path.
Composite with incomplete ray flowers.
Silvery checkerspot.

Yellow crownbeard (Verbesina occidentalis) is common in the piedmont and can be found along roadsides, edges, and water courses. I begin to see sprouts in spring. By September and October it’s in bloom. It’s one of many yellow, roadside flowers at this time of year. The leaves on the plant are opposite. It’s one of the host plants for silvery checkerspot.

Spotted by Ranger Gregory on a sunflower leaf in the Prairie Garden in Gateway Park, the tiny gray treefrog in the photo below is a juvenile. It was about 13mm – 14mm when photographed. The white mark under the eye is a dead giveaway of its identification. Though gray treefrogs are highly variable in coloration, all have that particular mark under the eye. The mark may be lighter or slightly darker than the one on this juvenile frog and contrast more, or less, with the base coloration of the frog, but it’s there.

Tiny gray treefrog on sunflower leaf (note white mark under eye).

And finally, Ranger Robert spotted a large green and white striped caterpillar that had apparently just dropped out of a loblolly pine and onto the path in Catch the Wind. As soon as I saw its face I knew what it was, a pine sphinx moth caterpillar. There are several green and white striped caterpillars in the area, but the “/\” on this caterpillar’s face sealed the identification.

Pine sphinx moth caterpillar.
The “/\” on face is characteristic.

Most sphinx moth caterpillars have a “horn” projecting from the area near the tip of the abdomen, like the tobacco hornworm, tomato hornworm or the trumpet creeper sphinx below. The pine sphinx lacks a horn.

Trumpet creeper sphinx caterpillar (note dorsally mounted horn on posterior of abdomen).

There’s lots more coming, so stay tuned. It’s an exciting time of year.

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