Venus looking glass II

Venus’ Looking glass

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

Al Bernstein

 

This spring took forever, it seemed, to warm up, but it did, and just in time. Rains provided a boost to plants that suffered during the drought of last year, and dogwoods, crabapples, azaleas and rhododendrons had fabulous flowers this spring. But now June is here, and yesterday marked the first day of summer, and so we move on to the warmer weather and all it brings with it.

elderberry blossoms 2011

Elderberry flower head

Native elderberries are in full bloom right now and many bushes are covered with the large, white flower clusters. Later on, the dark purple fruits will provide food for many birds and mammals. While edible for humans, and high in vitamin C, most people do not care for the raw fruits, but may make jam or pies from them. And mountain laurels are still in bloom now as well. Some cultivars, such as ‘Kaleidoscope and ‘ Firecracker’ have striking red flowers. Dewberry, a native berry that forms mats sometimes as it creeps along the ground, is in bloom now, and its flowers are important food sources for many native bees and butterflies. Soon to come into flower are the native Canada lily, Indian pipe and native wood lilies. Venus’ Looking- glass, Triodanis perfoliata, is a native purple wildflower that has its flowers along the stem at the leaf axils. Poke milkweed, Asclepias exaltata, should be blooming now. This native milkweed grows well in wooded, shady areas. Flower heads dangle down, unlike those of most milkweeds. The white flowers are attractive to several moth pollinators.

poke milkweed.JPG

Several insect pests are making their presence known. The infamous 4-lined plant bug, a lime green adult with 4 black lines down its back, leaves behind diagnostic feeding damage that later on will look like black angular leaf spots. They are cosmopolitan in plants they will eat. This year they have been reported feeding on many herbs, dandelions (who cares?!), sunflowers, sedum, and the list goes on. Also, both the Colorado and false potato beetles are mating as we speak, and they seem to be heading for a banner year, population –wise. So crush the eggs as you may find them on any of your nightshade family plants like tomatoes and peppers. Be careful not to crush any lady beetle eggs, though, as the larva will feed on those of the potato beetles.

moutain laurel

mountain laurel cultivar

Colorado potato beetle June 2017pg

Colorado Potato Beetle laying eggs

On a walk along a power line yesterday, I was delighted to see two visitors from the south- common buckeye butterflies. I have not seen these occasional visitors since Hurricane Sandy, so this a good butterfly to keep on the look-out for. Red- spotted purple, viceroys and American lady butterflies should be in the process of laying eggs now, if they haven’t already. I found several tiny spicebush swallowtail caterpillars also this week. Check out your dill, fennel or parsley, because the black swallowtail butterfly may have laid an egg or two on them, and the caterpillars may have hatched out.

common buckeye June 21 2017 Coldbrook

A visiting common buckeye butterfly

Swamp milkweed leaf beetles are easy to spot with their red and black elytra. Not pests, these chunky beetles are just a colorful splash on a green background. Pine sawyers, longhorn beetles commonly mistaken for the invasive Asian long-horned beetle, are active now. They will often visit newly stained decks until the stain dries out. Dogwood calligrapha beetles, striking in their spiffy black markings on a white background, are out and about on native dogwoods now.

calligrapha

dogwood calligrapha beetle

There are many birds that are now fluttering around trying to keep up with newly fledged young.  Catbirds, robins, red-tailed hawks, Carolina and house wrens, Bob-o-links and some sparrows have a clutch early and some species, like the ubiquitous robins have a second brood. Fledglings are often very loud as they beg for food, and get louder still as mothers withhold food briefly, to teach them how to fend for themselves.

chipping sparrows just hatched 6-6-14

Chipping sparrow nest

we recently had a visitor to our office. A green bullfrog somehow landed in our window well and could not escape. So we managed to catch it and Joan Allen walked it to a nearby pond. Another bit of excitement at work.

froggie in the window.jpg

froggy in the window

As you venture out into the landscape, I hope curiosity will get the best of you, causing you to turn over leaves looking for insects, watching birds as you see and hear them, and bending over to see what is lurking on the ground by your feet. In such a way we become more interactive with the environment and thus, less frightened or at least dismayed by new discoveries. Look stuff up when you find it. Curiosity did not kill the cat, nor will it do likewise to people. Nor has asking questions ever done any harm, at least as far as I know…

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Pamm Cooper

 

 

 

Pinxterflower Native Azalea blooming in late May in Northern Connecticut

Pinxter flower Native Azalea blooming in late May in Northern Connecticut

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
– Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

My spirit always gets a jolt of energy and enthusiasm when green again is the prevailing color in the landscape, sprinkled here and there with the hues of native flowers. Along with the color reversal- the drabness of winter transformed to the vitality of new growth- comes the corresponding fauna that completes the composition of the landscape. Together, it is a better symphony than even Mozart could compose. For good or bad, nature has its own comprehensive coordination of flora and fauna, and all play the perfect instrument in the classical themes of nature. Phenology is a reliable system of determining what is happening and where to look for it.

This spring may have been late to start, plant development being 10 to 15 days behind “ normal”. But once plants started to green up, animals, birds and insects appeared on schedule right behind them. Last week, mantids emerged from their egg cases which normally is an event of mid- May rather than late May. But they are on a timetable that is in harmony with a calendar that is unrelated to the one we go by, and as such they can never be ‘ late”.

Chipping sparrows just hatched Late May

Chipping sparrows just hatched Late May

Late May is the time of lady slippers, columbine, tulip tree flowers and the star grasses. June follows with the milkweeds, the first of which is usually the whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), which is found in dry soils often near woodland edges in a little shade. The Pinxter azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides) can flower from early May to early June depending on location here in Connecticut. Named for the European Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Pinxter has honeysuckle-like flowers that are fragrant and appear in early spring, generally before the leaves appear. Look for these near the upland edges of ponds and streams.

Native Columbine

Native Columbine

This time of year gray tree frogs can be found along the ground and on low shrubs looking for mates. These frogs sing answering choruses during the day from perches in trees and come down during the night to feed on insects and other morsels. They may be endangered by mowing lawns as they are not exactly swift to respond to dangers while in the courting mode. Box turtles often appear in open areas during the day following rains. Many a box turtle leaving its forest home for a day has been spared from death when crossing the roads by alert and kindly motorists.

gray tree frog saved from the mower June 3 2015

Gray tree frog saved from a bad mowing experience on June 3 2015

Leaf feeding beetles are in full force now, including some of the more. Check native viburnum and dogwood for the attractively marked calligrapha beetles that feed exclusively on these trees and shrubs. Not as worrisome as the viburnum leaf beetles and the dogwood sawflies, these beetles usually occur in small numbers and are seldom pests. Potato beetles are laying eggs as we speak, so be on the alert for rows of yellow eggs on potato and related plants.

3-lined potato beetle laying eggs on nightshade June 3, 2015

3-lined potato beetle laying eggs on nightshade June 3, 2015

The colorful lily leaf beetle has already laid eggs, and its larvae are active now. On a good note, assassin bugs and predatory plant bugs are currently on the prowl and also should be laying eggs. Lady beetle larvae are also active now. So with mantids out and with the other predatory insects active in the landscape, aphids and other pests may be taken out to some degree. Pine sawyer adults are also active now and they are sometimes attracted to oil based stains applied to decks and railings.

Viburnum calligrapha beetle

Viburnum calligrapha beetle

Dogwood calligrapha beetle

Dogwood calligrapha beetle

If you have catbirds and cardinals living nearby, you may want to add a birdbath to your landscape. Catbirds especially enjoy a good bath morning and evening. Make sure to put the birdbath where afternoon sun will not cause the water to get too hot. Catbirds in particular take objection to a hot bath and will let you know the water needs changing. My dad had catbirds for years that would mew loudly after testing the water with their feet and found it was too hot for their taste. So he would put fresh water in and, within seconds, the birds were having a cool, afternoon bath.

Busy birdbath

Busy birdbath

Enjoy what remains of this spring. Remember to water any recently planted trees, shrubs and other plants if drought conditions return. And try not to get annoyed if house wrens living nearby break the morning peace with their loud trilling and chirring voices. They probably have young nearby and are celebrating that soon their nestlings will become fledglings, and in due time they will be on their own.

Pamm Cooper                       All photos copyright 2015 by Pamm Cooper