Rayless Among the Rocks

After my recent posting of Gaillardia aestivalis and the white variety known as Winkler’s Gaillardia (G. aestivalis var. Winkleri), several readers commented on the pleasing structure of the ball-like seed heads.

Another Gaillardia species, G. suavis, is ball-like from the beginning. Known for its sweet scent and generally missing the ray flowers that mark other members of the Asteraceae, the variously-named fragrant Gaillardia, pincushion daisy, or perfume balls, is common along roadsides in the Texas hill country.

The disk florets that form the pretty round flower tend toward a reddish brown, interspersed with numerous stiff bristles. All of these were found on open, dry hillsides in Medina and Kerr counties, thriving in the gravelly soils.

This especially vibrant example reminds me of the fruit of the buttonbush, another ball-shaped bloom.

I’ve yet to find any fully-developed, fluffy seedheads of these flowers, but perhaps this will be the year.

Comments always are welcome.

Sympathy for a Grasshopper

 

Even when my car’s covered in mud or dust — which happens frequently — I keep the windows clean: the better to see other drivers, as well as whatever might be blooming alongside the road.

Recently, another advantage of clean windows presented itself. While stopped at a traffic light in Fredericksburg, this little gem — a differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis) — emerged from the security of its hidey-hole beneath the wipers and stared at me through the windshield.

When the light changed, I felt certain the grasshopper would fly off as I accelerated. Instead, it gripped the glass ever more tightly and stayed put: staring at me through ten, fifteen, and twenty-five miles per hour. By thirty-five, things were getting iffy, and finally, at forty-five, a look of what I imagined to be a combination of supplication and terror crossed the insect’s face.

I pulled over, captured this somewhat unusual view of the creature, and then stepped out of the car. Sensing its opportunity, the grasshopper flew off while I, in turn, returned to the car and drove off: happy for my own unusual opportunity.

 

Comments always are welcome.

White-Lined Sphinx Moth: The Prequel

White-lined sphinx moth caterpillar (Hyles lineata)

When I discovered this gem trucking along a Gillespie County roadside in early May, it appeared to be headed toward a patch of pretty yellow primroses, members of the family (Onagraceae) that includes some of Hyles lineata’s favored host plants.

Their distinctive patterns, rear ‘horn,’ and dotted head and anal plate make identification of these mature caterpillars relatively easy. On the other hand, anyone who’d not yet encountered a white-lined sphinx moth browsing an evening flower garden or shady canyon creek might find it hard to imagine the result of the caterpillar’s transformation. It’s one of those remarkable stories nature’s more than happy to produce.

Adult white-lined sphinx moth feeding on wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) 

 

Comments always are welcome.
For my earlier post devoted to the white-lined sphinx moth in art and science, please click here.