Would You Prefer Breakfast or Brunch?

 

One of the more amusing plant names I’ve come across belongs to Corydalis curvisiliqua, sometimes known as curvepod or curvepod fumewort. Once a member of the Fumariaceae, or fumewort family, it’s been moved into the poppy family, but its wonderful popular name still survives: scrambled eggs.

Given the every-which-way-ness of its blooms, the name makes sense. When I found the small colony that included this plant alongside the Willow City loop on February 25, the early blooming, deer-resistant plant looked for all the world like a plate of scrambled eggs. Even had I not known the popular name, I might have described the flowers in exactly that way.

An interesting feature of the flower is the way its two outer petals enclose two inner petals which often aren’t noticed. Here, they can be seen in the bottom bloom.

To be honest, I can’t help wishing we had a biscuit-bush and some slimleaf sausage to go with the scrambled eggs.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Some Friends for the Big Green Guy

The Big Green Guy ~ photo by Steven Schwartzman

This little marvel munching away on a gaura leaf, clearly unwilling to interrupt his meal in order to tidy up for the camera, has been tentatively identified as the larva of a white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata): the same moth I featured recently on The Task at Hand.

The first time I saw the creature, I dissolved into giggles and immediately dubbed him the Big Green Guy. His vulnerable chubbiness, his tiny, multi-purpose feet, his air of concentration, his apparent lack of embarassment at being revealed as a messy eater: all evoked a response of absurd protectiveness.

Unable to help myself, I emailed his image to friends. Despite mixed reviews, everyone recognized it as a caterpillar, although some less sensitive souls deemed it ‘just’ a caterpillar. “Yes,” I said. “It is a caterpillar. But it’s not just any caterpillar. It’s an Alice in Wonderland, ‘Let me look you in the eye and ask you some questions’ caterpillar.”

Eventually, I purchased and hung a print of the creature on my wall. A neighbor said, “You might as well have mounted a collection of cockroaches.” I considered her judgment unnecessarily harsh, and said so. “To each her own,” she said.

Over the months, I began to wonder why I never had found a caterpillar. I saw monarchs being raised here and there, and occasionally a friend would find a chrysalis hanging from a lawn chair or a shrub, but caterpillars of any sort evaded me.

Then, in late October of this year, I noticed yellow tape along a roadside, attached somewhat casually to stakes. Suspecting that someone might have marked a milkweed patch, I stopped to explore. When I did, I not only found milkweed plants, I found a group of monarch larvae happily feeding: as plump and adorable as the Big Green Guy.

This one appeared to be sampling a stem.

A second was making short work of what seemed to be an especially tasty plant. At the time, I didn’t notice what appears to be an empty chrysalis nearby.

Focused on eating as much milkweed as they could, as quickly as possible, the group clearly wasn’t interested in posing, but they provided a wonderful hour’s entertainment.

In a recent post on his Learn Fun Facts blog, Edmark M. Law offered this quotation from Charles Dickens’s 1850 novel, David Copperfield:

Indifference to all the actions and passions of mankind was not supposed to be such a distinguished quality at that time, I think.
Yet I have known it very fashionable indeed. I have seen it displayed with such success that I have encountered some fine ladies and gentlemen who might as well have been born caterpillars.

Dickens might have sought a different analogy, had he met the Big Green Guy and his friends.

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Part and Its Whole

A single flower of the longleaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia)

One of the less obvious delights of spring is the variety of milkweeds hidden away in grasslands and prairies. During a recent visit to my favorite nameless hayfield, I found green milkweed (A. viridis), slim milkweed (A. linearis), and an explosion of longleaf milkweeds, which look for all the world like vegetative fireworks.

Although quite different in structure from a daisy or rose, milkweed flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen for a variety of insects, especially native bees. For humans, they provide an unending source of visual delight.

The single flower shown above, in its larger context

 

Comments always are welcome.