Friday, August 31, 2007

Movie of a Cicada Killer Wasp Sphecius speciosus dragging its prey

I was wandering around the yard looking for things to photograph when out of a corner of my eye I saw something fall from a redbud tree. I could see something moving in the grass and I thought it might be a baby bird or small animal but it turned out to be a Cicada Killer with its prey, a newly killed cicada.

I took a few photos then remembered that the camera had a movie function so I quickly switched to movie mode and began filming. Luckily I set all the movie presets so I didn't have to fiddle around with the camera.

I previously posted photos of a dead Cicada Killer but this one was definitely alive and deadly. What drama played out on a small stage with two interested bystanders looking on!

I noticed that blogger now has a movie upload so I wanted to try it out and this is the perfect subject to do it with. Trouble is blogger only accepts certain movie files and the Panasonic camera I'm using uses the .mov codec which blogger doesn't accept so I had to search for a movie file converter. I previously tried to post a converted movie but received an error message so I hope it works this time. One other problem, with only a DSL connection the upload is taking a very long time. The movie is 76M in best mode and it's taking about a minute to do 1M. At this rate the upload will take more than an hour for a short 2-3 minute movie. I guess I should use a smaller resolution file next time. I will be royally P Oed if I get an error message.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More plants from the Biltmore House grounds and gardens

This is a view of the Biltmore house from the Esplanade which is probably about 1/4 mile from the house. How would you like to mow that lawn? The size of the living space in the house is about 4 acres and it is the largest private residence in the U.S. It was built by George Vanderbilt who inherited a vast fortune. His grandfather Cornelius amassed the unheard of $150 million in shipping and railroads. Cornelius' son doubled the fortune to $300 million which in today's money would be worth about 90 some odd billion if I heard the tape correctly. But they had no sinks in the 43 bathrooms even if they had the then new commodes.

I thought this was a new hybrid frilly shasta daisy but it doesn't have the characteristic yellow eye so it is probably something else instead. Centaurea?

Thanks to Entangled of Tangled Branches Cultivated this plant has been identified as Stokesia laevis alba 'Peach Melba'. It could also be S. 'Silver Moon' but it has a faint peach color in the center of the flower so it's most likely 'Peach Melba'. This site has a photo of both flowers.

There were two types of Anemones blooming. The pink multi-petaled (I don't think this is x hybrida 'Party Dress' but I'll be able to compare it soon with the one I have which is setting its flower buds now) and the white which is probably 'Honorine Jobert'.

The sweet scented Stephanotis floribunda. I was surprised at the number of tropical plants grown by the Biltmore plants people.

A banana tree in one of many large planters scattered around the house and grounds.

And a wonderfully colored green blue silver fan palm.
Chris of Digital Flower, one of my favorite plant photoblog sites I might add, has identified the palm as a Bismarck Palm, Bismarckia nobilis a native of Madgascar.

An odd pairing of purple wandering Jew, Tradescantia pallida and angel wing Begonia.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More photos from the Biltmore Estate Conservatory

Calotropis gigantea
Family: Asclepiadaceae
Giant milkweed, Giant Calotrope, Crown Flower

Blue Glory flower, Clerodendrum ugandense (thanks Annie in Austin for the ID).

Some kind of pea plant.

Some kind of ginger???
Thanks to Julie of the Human Flower Project the ginger has been identified as: Globba winitii, the dancing ladies ginger or dancing girls ginger
Family: Zingiberaceae
More information on the Floridata website.

Allamanda sp. Alba
Family: Apocynaceae
Allamanda Blanca

Crown of Thorns, Christ Plant, Siamese Lucky Plant (Euphorbia milii)
I saw this plant on Nicole's A Caribbean Garden blog site. Thanks Nicole!

Possibly a kind of Cycad amongst the Tradescantia zebrina? You can see the spiny leaf stalk at the bottom of the photo.

Photos from the Biltmore Estate Consevatory, Asheville, NC

Some photos from the Biltmore Estate Conservatory. Some are familiar, others unusual. Sorry no names. More to follow.

A kind of Tumeric, Curcuma longa or ginger?

Banana flower.

Five different Bromeliads.

Shrimp Plant, Justicia brandegeana

Cuphea llavea, Mickey Mouse Plant, 'Tiny Mice' and 'Georgia Scarlet'
or 'Bat Face'?

Two photos of a Heliconia?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back from North Carolina

First plant impressions of North Carolina in no particular order - the ubiquity of kudzu, large stands of white pine and crape/crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia).

We visited Raleigh for a few days several years ago and I don't remember seeing much of the above plants but not being an especially observant coot, I could have missed seeing many obvious things.

What was striking was the size of the crepe myrtles and their use as small trees rather than shrubs. Our neighbor, several houses down the block has a very dark pink crepe myrtle that's almost as large as some we've seen in NC but the plant is still grown as a shrub albeit a very large one with many trunks and branches close to the ground. The ones in NC are grown as small trees with fewer trunks. And the attractive bark is exposed by removing all the lower branches which reminds me of the strawberry guava trunks with its attractive mottling.

In the first photo, you can see a woman in the lower left of the photo to give you some idea of the size of the two crepe myrtles in the photo. All of the photos were taken in the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville but almost every yard seemed to have at least a crepe myrtle if not two or more. Please click the photos to enlarge.

We even saw crepe myrtles planted as embankment and median divider plants along the interstate highways. I guess they use them for this purpose because they are rather drought tolerant and seemed to be thriving despite a prolonged dry spell. I was rather surprised that most were still blooming. The pink specimen we have, and we are much further north so the flowering began weeks later, is almost finished blooming yet most of the NC crepe myrtles are in full flower.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Asheville North Carolina Trip!

We are on a trip to Asheville NC. I was ready to post any interesting flora we find here but I don't have a ethernet cable and can't get internet access via wifi at our motel. So unfortunately the posts will have to wait until I get back.

I will respond to the comments at that time also.

See ya then.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Bird poo turned out to be an Ollie (Kukla, Fran & Ollie) caterpillar

Click on photos to enlarge.

Don't you think it looks rather cute!

Since I'm on a bug thread, I might as well add another. I was watering some plants using the garden hose and sort of dreaming off in this mindless activity when I saw what looked like bird poo on a leaf of the Sweet Bay Magnolia. Closer inspection revealed a web like structure under the poop. After myopically peering at the poo and deciding that it was a caterpillar I ran into the house to get the camera for the umpteenth time.

After I got to see the photos enlarged, it was indeed a caterpillar. The actual size of the caterpillar is about 1/2 inch long. I couldn't tell which was the front of the worm and I initially thought the fatter end was the rear but you can clearly make out the eyes on the big end. I don't have a clue what kind of moth or butterfly it will turn out to be. I also don't know why it set itself in such an exposed position. I wonder if it's getting ready to pupate? Seems as though any hungry bird could easily pick it off.

After doing a short search it may be in the Papilio family of butterflies. See this site for the Spicebush butterfly caterpillar, Papilio troilus which it resembles but... not quite. Funny because I found a Spicebush caterpillar last year and it was green with big false eye patches and huge about 2 1/2 - 3" long. It didn't look anything like the one on the above website.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yellow hairy caterpillar with a few black hairs & this year's Cicada

I was putting down some mulch when I noticed this caterpillar crawling through the grass. I let it crawl on the shovel then transferred it to the concrete floor of the garage so I could photograph it more clearly.

When the photo session was over I put it on the spice bush but later research indicates that it actually prefers red maples. Oh well there are a few ornamental maples along the street nearby so it can easily make its way to the trees.

I even thought of doing a video using the point and shoot camera so I have a 2 minutes long movie of the caterpillar... well...doing caterpillar stuff which is mainly crawling. Now I guess I'll have to open a YouTube account or post it on Google video for you to see it.

I did a search and it is an Acronicta americana - American Dagger Moth from the Bug site. Here's another site that shows the caterpillar and moth.

I nudged the caterpillar and it immediately rolled up into a ball. I guess those sparse tufts of black hairs could look like sharp spines to a predator.

I flipped it to see what the underside looked like. It turned out to be green.

I also found this year's race of cicada that was lying dead on the road. It's rear end looked like some of its innards were coming out but I think it must be part of the ovipositor although I don't know if cicadas have such a thing. Anyway it must be part of the egg laying organ. some of the cicadas I've seen in previous years have red eyes but this one is just black. Primitive looking but one of the more interesting bugs around with exquisite clear glass like wings.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - August

Mostly wordless Wednesday.

Two begonias, red and white.

The new 'Easy Wave TM' variety of petunia. Everblooming and prolific.

Callibrachoa, million bells*. A South American annual. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of it but this turned out to be an outstanding buy. The tiny plant was in a 4x4 pot and has spread into a mass of small trumpet flowers about 1 1/2' x 1 1/2' and still growing. *Thanks to Annie in Austin for the name of this flower.

Salvia splendens*. I should know the name of this one but I don't. It was another exceptional buy. It was in the $1.00 past bloom sale section of annuals at Lowes. We bought a bunch and they are reblooming and growing vigorously. Too bad they are annuals because I like the yellow pink/purple color combination. *Thanks again to Annie for the name of this flower.

The last of the annuals - Ageratum, probably Ageratum houstonianum. Again a $1.00 Lowes sale plant.

The annuals are doing a yeoman's job of shoring up the display of flowers.

But, a few perennials are also blooming too. And some re-blooming.

Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora with many pollinators. See how many pollinators you can find. I count 8.

Lavender Mist Meadow Rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum).

Three photos of the Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima'.

And the Penstemon 'Navigator mix' dwarf Pentstemon re-blooming after we deadheaded them in late spring.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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