Monday, July 31, 2006

Two mysteries

The house we moved into 5 years ago had a small plastic pond in the backyard. We resurrected it and in the second year there suddenly appeared a frog. It wasn't the usual bullfrog but a nice green yellow one with spots and it was not very big. I think it was a leopard frog. Now it's happened again! I heard a glibpppp and saw a flash but I thought it may have been one of the fish splashing. But I definitely heard and saw the blur in my peripheral vision. Still haven't made a definitive sighting but there was the tell tale wet spot on the rock it had been sitting on.

1) The mystery is how the heck could a frog - two frogs appear from nowhere? We don't have a large body of water anywhere close by just a cache basin but that's about a hundred feet away, about 10-15 feet below the pond and usually doesn't contain water. My wife thinks a storm dropped it in the pond. But wouldn't we see more frogs then? We also have a much larger pond but no frogs there.

2) I've always wondered what the wheeet, wheeet sounds were, coming from the wooded areas during summer in the evenings. Are these sounds made by birds, frogs, insects? I thought it may be the sounds made by the nightjar bird but I have yet to spot one in the early evening hours when there's still light. Anyone have some idea of what make the sounds? It's quite pleasant and would lull you to sleep if you were camping under the trees.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Seven sons tree photos

Here's some pictures of the badly hacked Seven sons tree - one of the trunk/bark, flower buds and tree itself. I primarily bought the tree because of it's nice reddish tan exfoliating bark and bright green leaves. It is an extremely vigorous tree/shrub so I'm sure it will come back even with even more vigor next year. I should try to shape it and make it a specimen tree that it deserves to be.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Another mystery plant identified

I was looking through the newest issue of Horticulture magazine which had an article about the Seven sons tree, Heptacodium miconioides. This looked like an interesting tree to have and also it reminded me of a small tree planted in front of a nursery that I coveted which bloomed late in summer. The description of the Seven sons tree fit the bloom time of the nursery tree so I thought I would purchase a tree online.

Well after looking a photos of the tree I discovered that we already had one in our yard!! We bought it for half price at a different nursery but it didn't have a name tag on it and the nursery person thought it was some kind of yellow dogwood after I mentioned that the leaves sort of looked like dogwood leaves. I researched it through two botanic books without success. Anyway it was severely rootbound but as soon as we planted it leaves sprouted like there was no tomorrow. The next year it was so heavily covered with foilage I had to prune it in early summer. This year my dear wife cut the s--t out of it and it still is trying to put out new shoots.
Well it's not the tree I was looking for but still a nice addition to the yard and at least now I know what it is.

Thanks to Kay the previously mystery plant was identified as Hibiscus trionum. Here's a good website which throughly describes the plant.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Unknown plant-weed?

We have this annual volunteer plant/s growing all over our yard but I don't know what it is, whether it's a weed or valued annual. The blossoms last only 1 day and they look like miniature hibiscus or ablemoschus but it doesn't have a woody stem and the plants are rather sprawling. I haven't seen it in any of the neighbor's yards which seem strange...maybe they pull them out before it blooms. We keep them around because the flowers are so beautiful tho fleeting.

I found some hellebores along the street curbing (the township will pick up plant material for composting)tossed out by someone . Of course being a scrounge, I snatched them up especially since they had roots and clumps of dirt attached. With the humidity we've been having they had not wilted. As I was planting them I noticed that one had a green stem close to the base of the plant and the other a reddish purple so I hope they are two different varieties. Can't wait to see the blooms.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Too many bugs and fungi, time for something different!

I've been dwelling too much on fungi and bugs. Here's a more pleasant garden presence...lillies. I don't know the names of these lillies but they started out last year only about 1 foot tall. The blooms were large but low in height. This year they're about 3 feet tall and the blooms are very large a someone's face. My favorite is the white ones with ruffled petals and yellow throat but my wife prefers the white with pink speckles. She's inspired now to create a lily cutting garden for flower bouquets so we're on the hunt for interesting varieties. I like the scent so I'll be looking for the Formosan lily at least I think that's what it was. I think it's called the Regale or Black Dragon?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Green June beetle - cotinus nitida

We found this beautiful jewel-like beetle on the deck rail. Looked it up and it's an apparently common beetle especially in the south. I usually see about one a year so it's not abundant here in NJ. It eats fruits in the adult stage and the larvae will eat turf grass roots like the other scarab beetles. This one is so beautiful and scarce in these parts so we just let it go, actually it flew off just as I took the last photo. Note the metallic and flourescent markings on legs, side of body and near the shell that covers the wings. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here are a couple of excellent beetle sites. The bugguide site is a tremendous resource of beetle photos.

The Oklahoma State site is a nice informative site about the lifecycle of the beetle and photos of color variations.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Eat fungus - Quorn

I read about a new product they were trying to commercialize several months ago. I finally saw it in a local supermarket. We try to eat a mostly vegetarian diet so this was of interest to us. It's called Quorn and it's made of fungus. I know, ewww! When people think of fungus they think of toenail fungus, athletes foot fungus or candida yeast infections. Well we eat mushrooms and they are fungi. In fact I read somewhere that the dna of fungus are very close to human dna and that's why it's so hard to get rid of fungal infections. They may be us or part of us. Quorn calls it mycoprotein - less off putting to people.

I don't usually endorse a product but this one tastes very good. We've tried many meat substitute products and this one is up there with the best - easily as good as Morning Star Farms Chik patty if not better. Just think of eating the white part of a button mushroom and you'll think it's delicious. They had two products, the patties which is a breaded cutlet and naked Quorn which looks like a piece of chicken breast. I guess you can cut up the naked Quorn and stir fry the pieces or fry, broil or bbq the whole piece. Try it if you can find it - you make like it. One patty has 140 calories, 16% protein and quite a bit of sodium, 525mg or 22% of your rda.

I'm not affiliated with the company in any way.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More Oriental beetle

We emptied the beetle traps at dusk and I checked the traps the next morning. The bags contained mostly Oriental beetles indicating that they are indeed nocturnal and do most of the damage unseen at night. I thought our lawn's sad state last year, large areas of yellow and brown grass was due to Japanese beetle grubs. Now I know better. Hopefully since we caught so many Oriental beetles this year the lawn will fare better. Of course I'm still trying to reduce the footage of lawn so we can escape the cycle of fertilize, weed and mow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oriental beetles, Japanese beetles and baited traps

The Japanese beetles have been as prolific as last year's benchmark plague proportion. Instead of hand picking them off of our poor crepe myrtle I decided to try the bag traps again despite our bad experience when we first tried them. I had placed the bag too close to the plants in our old townhome.

This time I read the instructions and placed 3 bags at least 30 feet away from the plants we wanted to protect which amounted to placing the bags at the upwind corners of our property and slightly beyond. This was much more satisfactory tho I'm daily picking off a few beetles from the crepe myrtle. They also love the ornamental cherries, Yoshino and Kwanzan but the trees are too tall for me to spray or hand pick so I just shake the trees and hope that the beetles then are attracted to the bait. They also love the blossoms of the golden rain tree. I just hope we're not attracting beetles from the whole neighborhood.

We dumped the bags after 3 days because we were expecting thundershowers and we had about 3-5 pounds of beetles . More than a flour sack full! Yuk. Must have been thousands.

The information printed on the bags stated that it would also attract Oriental beetles. I was not familiar with this beetle but these were the first to be attracted and caught. In fact as I was setting up the traps, I cut open the attractant bait sealed in small plastic bags and by the time I was finished assembling the traps about a half dozen brown beetles were on the bags! The photos are of these beetles. I'm assuming these are the Oriental beetles. I used to see one occasionally but they didn't seem to eat any of the ornamentals so I didn't think much of them. But at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the traps are filled with these beetles. I wonder what they eat?

Just googled it. Oriental beetle, Exomala orientalis are very bad. It is considered a scarab beetle. They eat turf grass roots and will kill large patches of grass. They also eat some ornamentals but are active at night so are not as evident as JBs. Here's an excellent website. And here's a good grub identification site. I didn't know there were so many different kinds of grubs! I thought all the grubs I saw when digging a hole for new planting were JBs. Apparently not. Oh well, I'm glad the traps are catching more than JBs...OBs are just as destructive.

Sorry about the crappy photo. I need a better macro camera.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Edith Bogue Magnolia blooming for the first time now.

After 2 years in ground our Edith Bogue Magnolia is blooming. There was only one bud on the small tree. The flower is nicer than I expected it to be with a beautiful but not overwhelming scent. The Magnolia grandifloras I've seen in the township don't seem to have as full a flower...probably they are a different cultivar. In contrast the sweet bay magnolia is much more fragrant but the flower is not as spectacular. Unfortunately the Japanese beetles love the scent and in spite of having 3 beetle traps at the far corners of our property several beetles have already found the Edith Bogue. We are already anticipating next year's blossoms which we hope will be many.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hatchlings and updates

I found these hatchlings washed down the street curbing while walking the dog. Victims of the thunderstorms and strong winds. They almost look like actors in a dramatic play, bodies posed in an exaggerated fashion. By the next day the bodies were gone, no doubt eaten by some birds or cat. The size would probably indicate that they are a fairly large bird, possibly a robin.

The Japanese beetles are out early this year and in force. I thought since we had such a heavy infestation last year that this year would be a diminished one but unfortunately, not so. The mild winter may have made it possible for more to survive.

The giant magnolia scale is back. No matter that I applied insecticidal soap and volck oil also sprinkling diazinon powder around the base of the tree to discourage the ants that are milking the scales. This is an ongoing battle. One I'm determined to win before the tree gets too tall to easily treat. Unfortunately when pruning today,I found that some of the stella magnolias also have the scale. They apparently go into a fly like stage and can move around easily and far because the affected trees are behind the house from where the first infected tree is planted. I am almost at wits end in trying to deal with this problem.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Swallowtail butterfly larvae?

I found this worm on the dog walk. It was just lying on the it got there is a mystery. No plants nearby but a very large silver maple tree. I think it's a swallowtail larvae but will have to look it up to be sure. Nice color tho and sorta cute with its false eyes on top of the body. The head is the beige colored small portion at the very front. Stuck it on the newly planted spicebush as it's purported to be one of the worm's favorite food source. Hope we see it pupate one day and fly away as a butterly.

P.S. Thanks to Janet, the caterpillar has been IDed. It is a Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus).

Here's a pretty cool website for caterpillar identification.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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