Welcome to bobklips.com, the website of Bob Klips, a plant enthusiast living in Columbus, Ohio.
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Biennial Gaura acts like Evening Primrose
September 29, 2010
Waldo (wherever that is), Marion County, Ohio

Even though it's in the evening-primrose family (Onagraceae), which does indeed include some strictly night-blooming plants, this biennial gaura, Gaura biennis, is pollinated principally by day-flying bees. The fowers apparently are atttractive at night as well, and it would have been hard not to notice this specimen looking quite pretty well after nightfall.

Gaura biennia
Gaura biennis during the evening of September 29, 2010. Marion County, Ohio.

Gaura is a fairly common late-summer/early autumn wildflower with spectacular, albeit smallish, flowers. The plant has an rather thin and wiry appearance, causing it to be easily overlooked. This gaura is a native plant found in most of eastern North America, occupying disturbed areas, dry meadows and prairies. It prominently displays several features of the Onagraceae. Note in the photo above the 4 petals, 8 stamens, and the very long style ending in a cross-shaped set of 4 wide-spreading stigma lobes.

Other pertinent aspects of the evening-primrose family flower structure are better seen in this image from last year, taken at the OSU-Marion Prairie, wherein we see clearly the "inferior" placement of the ovary, i.e., the ovary is situated beneath all the other flower parts. Like all flowers with an inferior ovary, the bases of the sepals (of which here there are only 2!) and petals (of which here there are 4) are fused into a special tube called the "hypanthium" that is itself fused to, and then extends above, the ovary. In Gaura  and other members of its family the hypanthium is so very long that it could be mistaken for a flower stalk (pedicel). The Gaura gflowers are actually sessile, i.e., attached directly to the stem, without a stalk.

MOUSEOVER the image to see interpretive LABELS
 Gaura biennis 
 Gaura flowers are sessile, with an inferior ovary and a very long hypanthium.

Tonight the gaura flowers are being visited by moths, and it is reasonable to assume they may act as pollinators too. This moth appears to be a type of looper in the genus Zanclognantha, the larvae of which feed, interestingly, on dead leaves.

Gaura with moth
A moth, possible Zanthcognantha, forages on gaura.
September 29, 2010. Waldo, Marion County, Ohio.

Here's another moth, this one resting, on a gaura blossom. Note the plumose antennae, a useful way to distinguish moths from butterflies, which have filiform antennae.

moth resting on gaura
Moths have plumose antennae.
September 29, 2010. Marion County, Ohio.

Bugs on Trees, Bugs in the Water, and Plants
Caesar Creek Bio-Blitz
Warren County, Ohio
September 24-25, 2010

This year, like last year and next year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers celebrates National Public lands Day by holding a Bioblitz at Caesar Creek in southeastern Ohio's Warren County. It's a great educational event. Specialists in various taxa come to identify as many species as they can during a 24-hour period from 4:00 p.m. Friday until 4:00 p.m. Saturday. I went there with two bright young college students, one of whom has 23 chromosomes with genes that are nearly exact copies of mine (or so I am told), and we all looked at bugs and plants. We got there late (this is us we're talking about, and there was no mutation of the lateness gene from my generation to hers, that's for sure), so our first bio-activity was looking for insects at night at the campground.

One of the night-time bugs is this as-yet unidentified owlet moth, or "dart," a member of the large family of so-called "cutworm moths," the Noctuidae. I've tried picture-matching this with as many memberes of the genera Feltia and Euoxa (the closest-looking ones) on various buggy web sites, but none seem quite right.

Dingy cutworm moth
Unidentified cutworm moth resting on a tree at night.
Caesar Creek State Park, Warren County, Ohio. September 25
, 2010.

Oooh this is creepy. Aren't we supposed to be out in the wildnerness? What's a freakin' cockroach doing here? Oh, wait...yes it's a roach, but it's kind of a nice one. This is the Pennsylvania wood cockroach, Parcoblatta pennsylvanica, a species that lives mainly under bark and in hollow trees. It only comes indoors occassionally, usually hitchhking on firewood. This is a nymph (immature), a good example of an insect with gradual metamorphosis, wherein immatures resemble wingless adults, they just get bigger and bigger with each successive molt until finally achieving the winged, sexually mature stage, without any intervening cocoon-like pupal stage.

Pennsylvania wood roach
Pennsylvania wood cockroach.
September 25, 2010. Warren County, Ohio.

The next day we explored the creek, and the environs along the creek. It was a treat to see Ohio's largest species of crane fly, Tipula abdominalis. Flies have the complete egg-larvea-pupa-adult metamorphosis type. The larvae of this species are aquatic, common inhabitants of streams in wooded areas, where they feed on decomposing leaves. They are sometimes sought as bait for fishing.

Tipula abdominalis
Tipula abdominalis resting on tree, dorsal view.
September 25, 2010. Warren County, Ohio.

Crane flies are long-legged slow-flying insects that are often mistaken for something that doesn't exist: huge mosquitoes. Here's a side view.

Tipula abdominalis
Tipula abdominalis resting on tree, dorsal view.
September 25, 2010. Warren County, Ohio.

Wading in the creek and gently flipping rocks, our sharp-eyed aquatic entomologist found a fairly cryptic immature damselfly. Dragonflies and damselflies --members of the insect order Odonata --occur as predaceous aquatic larvae called "naiads," as part of a metamorphosis type called "incomplete." Incomplete metamorphosis is like gradual metamorphosis in that there is no pupal stage, but here the immatures are aquatic and strikingly different than the adults.

damselfly mymph
Damselfly naiad in Caesar Creek. September 25, 2010.

My job was to look for mosses. Here's one, a common carpet moss of moist ground that has a feathery growth form with light green leaves swept to the sides of the branches. It's Calliergonella lindbergii in the family Amblystegiaceae, until quite recently known as Hypnum lindbergii, and considered a member of a different family entirely, the Hypnaceae!

Calliergonella lindbergii
Calliergonella lindbergii is a bright robust feathery carpet moss.
September 25, 2010. Caesar Creek State Park.

A highlight of the Caesar Creek 'blitz is nature walks led by experts, and it was great fun to go on a fungus hike with the uber-knowledgable and excellent myco-explainer Nicholas Money of Miami University. The weather has beed dry as of late, so it was hard to find many fungi, but find them he did. Here's a pretty distinctive bracket fungus. Sometimes called "turkey tail" because of its colorful pattern of parallel bands, this is a extremely common and wide-ranging species, found most often as a saprophyte on hardwood logs.

Trametes versicolor
Trametes versicolor is a common saprophyte on hardwood logs.
September 25, 2010. Warren County, Ohio.

Turkey tail is a type of club fungus (basidiomycete) that produces its spores from within downward-pointing tubes opening on the undersides of the brackets. The ends of the tubes form distinctive pores, hence these types of fungi are often called "polypores."

Trametes pores
Dr. Money showed us a pore fungus. 
September 25, 2010. Caesar Creek. Warren County Ohio.

This being autumn, the principal plant family in bloom is the Asteraceae. In this large and advanced plant family, what look from a distance like individual blossoms are actually tight head-like clusters, called "capitula" of small flowers. In asters the flowers are of two types: (1) strap-shaped outer ones called "ray flowers" that simulate the petals of larger sinle flowers, and (2) radially symmetric "disk" flowers in the center of each capitulum. This woodland aster has light blue rays and yellow disk flowers. It's Short's aster, Symphyotrichum shortii, no longer called "Aster" shortii because it's been determined that the North American members of the large aster group are distinct from the European ones, and now belong to this crazy new polysyllabic genus. Short's "aster" is distingished by its leaves: hairless, heart-shaped at the base, with an non-winged petiole (leaf-stalk).

Short's aster
Short's "aster" has long-stalked, non-winged leaves with heart-shaped bases.
September 25, 2010. Warren County, Ohio.

Closely related to Symphyotrichum, the genus Solidago (goldenrods) mostly includes plants with quite small all-yellow capitula that are themselves packed closely together into some type of secondary inflorescence. Here's a lovely woodland species, "zigzag goldenrod," Solidago flexicaulis. Look for egg-shaped leaves, zigzag stem, and capitula in small clusters just above the leaves.

 zigzag goldenrod
Rod, golden, zag, zig. September 25, 2010. Warren County, Ohio.

Tall white lettuce, Prenanthes altissima, is a woodland species that is a member of the Asteracae tribe  Cichoreae, characterized by having flowers that are only of the strap-shaped variety (disk flowers are lacking). Also, there are only a few flowers in each capitulum, making the whole thing look markedly non-Asteraceae-like. The Prenanthes capitulum demonstrates quite well the peculiar pollen presentation mechanism found in the Asteraceae, wherein each flower's five anthers are fused into a tube. The anthers split open (dehisce) introrsely (inwardly), and the pollen is picked up on the non-receptive back surfaces of the style branches as they extend through the anther-tube. Thus the pollen, produced by the stamens, is actually presented by the styles.

Prenanthes altissima
Tall white lettuce capitulum displays peculiar Asteraceae pollen-preentation system.
September 25, 2010. Caesar Creek. Warren County, Ohio.

Ants Swarm and Lichens Just Sit There!
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Berks County, PA
September 19, 2010

Each year the familette goes on vacay to pay rapt attention to hawks migrating along the Kittatinny Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains at the wonderful Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Berks County, PA.

Hawk Mountain view frm North Lookout
View from North Lookout

This vacation tradition started about 10 years, but it was inspired by a trip taken much earlier while I was an undergrad at The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry ("SUNY- ESF). Several of us nature-loving "Stumpies" (as ESF students are called) took a weekend field trip sometime in the fall of 1975, one of whom snapped a pic of me and great friend and then house-mate Diane perhaps looking at some bird attacking the fake owl on a post at the North Lookout. Now, a great many years later, still great friend (but no longer house-mate) Diane joined us at the mountain, where we relocated the precise rock we were perched on (these are very precise rocks), and re-created the picture. That was fun!

Bon and Diane at Hawk Mountain
Bob and Diane, then and now.

The hike up to the North Lookout afforded an opportunity to stop and look at some marvelous saxicolous  lichens.

Famously, most lichens are informally assigned to one of three growth form groups: crustose (crust-like); foliose (leafy) and; fruticose (shrubby).
This is "rock greenshield lichen," Flavoparmelia baltimoriensis. This is a robust foliose lichen, distinctive by virtue of its being yellow-green, as opposed to gray-green or some other color, and its occurence on rocks. (It's like a saxicolous verison of F. caperata, an uber common bark-dwelling lichen.)

Flavoparmelia baltimorensis
Rock greenshield is a yellow-green foliose lichen that occurs on rock.

A few other lichens on these rocks don't fall neatly into any one of the three (crustose, foliose, fruticose) categories. "Umbilicate" lichens, so called because of a similarity to a navel (an "innie," I presume), are roughly circular in outline and attached to the substrate only at the center. The common "rock tripe," Umbilicaria mammulata, is especially conspicuous here.

rock trips
Rock tripe is a distinctive umbillicate lichen.

Another umbillicate lichen is "toadskin lichen," Lasallia papulosa. It's light brown, and has a warty upper surface.

Lasallia papulosa
Toadskin lichen is warty.

An imprecisely defined intermediate between the crustose and foliose lichen growth form is the "squamulose" type. These guys are tightly adherent to the substrate (like crustose ones), but the they have a tendency to be lobulate at their margins (like foliose ones). This is, I believe, golden moonglow lichen, Dimelaena oreina.

Golden moonglow is a squamulose lichen.
A very cool thing happened today! A local ant species decided it was time to mate. Ants are social insects that spend most of the time based in underground colonies consisting of a single reproductive female --the queen --and a great number of wingless sterile female workers. Every few years, winged reproductives stream forth from the ground, pushed out by the wingless workers. The emergence is synchronized so that all of the colonies of a particular species in an area form great cloud-like swarms of winged ants, most of which are males, but a fraction of them are the future queens that will found new colonies.

Here are some pics of the emergence. The little red ones without wings are the workers egging the others on. (That is a bad choice of words, since they are sterile and have no eggs.) Among the winged ones, the larger ants are, I believe, the females.

ants swarm
Ant emergence at Hawk Mountain. September 19, 2011.

ants with wings
Ant emergence at Hawk Mountain. September 19, 2010.

Ant emergence at Hawk Mountain. September 19, 2010.
(The audio features another highly social species.)

Insects Love(d) American Chestnut!
 Lenhardtsville, Berks County, PA
September 18, 2010

American chestnut, Castanea dentata (Fagaceae), was a dominant component of Appalachian forests until it was all but eliminated by an introduced fungus disease around the turn of the last century. The species persists as stump sprouts, which succumb to the fungus as soon as they reach pole size.

Castanea dentata
American chestnut persists as stump sprouts.
September 19, 2010. Berks County, PA.

Each year we try to go to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary to see the hawks migrate along the Kittatinny Ridge, and have a little "family reunion." It's great fun, and very relaxing. An additonal treat is camping at the fairly rustic "Blue Rocks Family Campground," where, among other things, there's a good number of American Chestnut sprouts.

It was intriguing to observe the extent of herbivory on the leaves of chestnut during the evening of September 18-19, 2010. Although there is no way to tell what types of insects feasted so avidly here, because insects in general are the main food for many birds and other wildlife, this observation is a testament to the former ecological importance of chestnut in these forests.

(This is the abridged version: The full gallery can be seen HERE)

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  Chestnut leaves munched by bugs.
(A full set of these weird pics can be seen HERE.)

Color-coordinated Flowers and Spiders
(Bidens polylepis and Argiope trifasciata)
Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area
Marion County, Ohio. September 8, 2010

All summer long, mingled with the milkweeds at Killdeer, there have been these supple little herbs with oppositely arranged pinnately compound leaves gradually tranforming themselves into supple big herbs with oppositely arranged pinnately compound leaves. Now they are flowering, and the place is a sea of yellow. This yellow beauty is Ozark tickseed-sunflower, Bidens polylepis (Asteraceae, the sunflower family), one of our few non-native plants indigenous not to faraway Europe or Asia, but closer to home, i.e., elsewhere in North America. The species is native to states immediately west of Ohio, and was in fact considered native by Cooperrider, Cusick and Kartesz (2000) in their Seventh catalog of the vascular plants of Ohio. However, in 2004, after noting that there was only one pre-1950 specimen of this now fairly common plant in the OSU Herbarium (OS),
Andreas, Mack and McCormack revised the plant's status to "alien" in their Floristic Quality Assessment Index (FQAI) for Vascular Plants and Mosses for the State of Ohio. However, the distinction may have now be moot, as more recent treatments of the genus lump B. polylepis together with B. aristosa (bearded beggarticks), a known Ohio native.

Bidens and Argiope
Bidens and Argiope at Killdeer. September 8, 2010.

The spider is a very widely distributed type of orb-weaver (family Araneidae), the banded garden spider, Argiope trifasciata. This picture shows its distinctively banded dorsal surface.

Argiope trifasciata
Banded garden spider (female) at Killdeer Plains on September 8, 2010.

As explained by Richard Bradley in his excellent guide "In Ohio's Backyard: Spiders" (2004, Ohio Biological Survey). male and female spiders differ not only in their reproductive anatomy, but also in size and life history. Females are larger than males, and they tend to stay in one place more than do males, which spend the adult portions of their lives searching for females. Here at Killdeer, a male seems to have been successful  in his quest, and is now cautiously approaching her on the web.

banded garden spiders
Argiope trifasciata spiders: male (upper left) and female (lower right).

...here he's approached a bit closer.

banded garden spiders
Argiope trifasciata spiders: male (upper left) and female (lower right).

Here's a closer view of "Charley" (counterpart to "Charlotte").

Argiope trifasciata male
Male banded garden spider. September 8, 2010. Marion County, Ohio.