Archives for category: June

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Tillandsia usneoidea

Perenniel,. forb/herb, vine

Native, L48, PR, VI

Spanish moss is an epiphytic bromeliad, a flowering plant which grows most often on trees.  It is not a parasite (take nutrition away from trees), but rather uses the tree to support its growth.  It has silvery-gray scales which capture water and air-borne nutrients.

The photos here show the 3 petaled flowers on the Spanish moss, which will eventually develop into seed capsules with about 20 seeds.  The capsule when ready will eject the seeds into the air.  Each seed is hairy to allow it to float on winds and secures itself until germination with root like fasteners.  After germination, the moss adheres to the trees by its “branches”.   The flowers have a noticeable scent at night.

The plant itself is used for nests by birds, which also helps in dispersion.  The Seminole bat roosts in clumps of Spanish moss.   Rat snakes may be found in thick stands.  There is a species of jumping spiders (Pelegrina tillandsiae) which is found only on Spanish moss. Common lore cautions against contact with the moss because of chiggers or red bugs.  Use of Spanish moss where skin contact will occur recommends steeping in boiling water or microwaving it.

Its use by native Americans was as fibres for bedding, floor mats and horse “blankets”.  Twisted, they created cordage, which was used to lash poles for housing construction.  It was mixed with clay for plastering the interior of houses and for fired pottery design.  Dried moss was used for fireballs shot with arrows.  It was boiled as a tea for chills and fever.   The moss was also used as menstrual pads.

Contemporary use  includes  packing, decorative, mulch and mattress stuffing.

Air pollution has resulted in diminishing populations in certain cities.

 

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Romalea microptera (Romalea guttata)

Size: adult female 50-70mm (2-2.8″), males 43-55mm (1.7-2.2″)

Location: Southeastern US, broad range in low, wet areas in pastures and woods and along ditches.  In north Florida from about March to November.

Food:  broad variety, but prefers broad-leafed plants.  Polyphagous — eats small amounts of a large variety of plants.  In Florida can create problems in citrus groves, vegetable plots and landscape ornamentals.

Life cycle:  One generation per year, with eggs over wintering (this stage can be as long as 8 months), egg laying begins about one month after reaching adult hood, usually the summer months.  Eggs are deposited in soil located in drier areas although adults prefer damp or wet habitats.

Predators:  tachinid fly (Anisia serotina).   Most birds and lizards avoid these insects, except loggerheard shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) will capture them, impale and cache the grasshoppers on barbed wire and return when the toxins have degraded.

Generally the adult is dull yellow color, but in North Florida adults remain black.

The common name describes the walking and crawling behaviour of the grasshopper.  “Lubber” is from an old English word meaning lazy or clumsy.  Novice seamen were called “landlubbers”.

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Lyssomanes viridis

Size:  females 7-8-mm (2.8-3.1 inch), males 6-8mm (2,4-3.1 inch)

Range:  throughout Florida, from spring to early autumn

Habitat:  woodlands, on broad leaf evergreens (e.g. magnolias, bays) and live oak.

Food:  aphids, mites, ants, other plant insects and other jumping spiders

The photo above seems to be that of a female.

 

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Helenium flexuosum

Hebr, Perennial

Native, L48  (predominant in SE US)

Blooming: May, June, yellow

Major identification markers, reddish disk flowers and decurrent (winged) stems.    This is the first time since 2011 we have seen this plant, which is common on this creek, bloom in May.  It will take root in even small areas such as a partially submerged log with some soil.  It seems to prefer sunlight.

KatyKa

 

Amblycorypha oblongifolia

Male nymph.

Green is the most common color of this species, but it can also be pink and tan (rare), or dark tan or orange (both very rare).  The color determined by genes and remains constant from birth through adulthood.

 

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Asclepias perennis Walter

Forb/herb, perennial

Native, lower 48

Blooming: May, June

Flower color:  white

Milky sap may be irritant to some people.

Larval host to monarch, queen and soldier butterfly.  Attracts other pollinators. Unlike most other plants, Asclepias has pollinia or pollen sacs which has five slits in each flower.  The base of the pollinia attach to the insects such that the pollen sacs can be pulled free when the insect flies off.  An insect too small to exert sufficient pulling force may be trapped.  Native honey bees are trapped and die in these slits.

Three defensive qualities limit caterpillar damage:  hairs on leaves, cardenolide toxins and latex fluids.

Perennis does not disperse by wind, rather its seed pods burst and is dispersed by water.

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Libellula vibrans

Either female or immature male

Habitats:  ponds, slow streams and especially swamps

Frequency:  common April, May, June, July, August, September

Behaviour:  unwary

Information from Giff Beaton, Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast.

 

 

 

 

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Family:  Tetragnathidae

Spiders have 8 legs, 2 body parts and no antennae.

Longjawed spiders are called because their fangs (chelicerae) are as long or longer than their cephalathorax.  All Tetragnathidae have 8 eyes.  They are called orb weavers because they build a web which has a circular grid, although the spokes (radii) are not as many and the webs look a bit disorganized compared to regular orb weavers.

The spiders hatch from eggs in the spring and look like small adults, molting as they grow.  They live for about 1 year, mating and laying eggs at the end of summer.

The genus Tetragnatha are often found near or over water, as the spider above was.

They do bite, but are not considered dangerous.

 

 

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Ardea herodias

Family:  Ardeidae

Great blue herons can be seen throughout Tate’s Hell, in the rivers, creeks and ditches along the roads that crisscross the forest.   These are large, elegant birds with blue-gray backs, black sides and gray and white striped bellies.  The heron’s has a white face, cap and black crest on its head.  The juvenile is duller color and without a crest.  White and intermediate phases occur in Florida.  Great Blues are easily recognized in flight by 6-foot wind span and neck folded into an “S”.

Great blues can be found anywhere in the continental US and southern portions of Canada.   Though they are migratory birds, they can be seen in Florida throughout the year.  Their preferred habitats include lakes, ponds, rivers and marshes.  They lay two to seven pale blue or blue green eggs on a shallow platform of sticks lined with finer material, usually in a tree, but sometimes on the ground or concealed in a reed bed.  They often nest in colonies.  The eggs incubate from 25 to 30 days and both adults share in the sitting.  The average life span is 15 years.

They are carnivorous and eat fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, shrimps, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers and other aquatic insects.  They forage while wading, of belly deep, impaling prey with their sharp bills.  They are active day and night.

The great blue heron in Womack Creek is particularly skittish and therefore we have not been able to get closer to the bird, unlike other places where it is fairly easy to get close enough to great blues while paddling.  All photographs on this blog are all taken on Womack Creek so until we are able to get closer to the bird(s), this photo will have to suffice.

Most of the information is from iBird PRO, a great I-touch application for bird ID.

P1020770Phyla nodiflora

Forb/herb; perennial

Native: L 48, PR, VI

Blooming:  April, May, June, purple

Location:  Landing, Womack Creek Campground