Monthly Archives: August 2010

Random Plant: Wood nettle

I’ve found that wood nettle (Laportea canadensis, Urticaceae) seems to be one of the dominant understory plants in at least one local floodplain forest.  Together with stinging nettle (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae) and giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida, Asteraceae) these large plants … Continue reading

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Textbook Cross-Bedding

One stop on my final undergraduate geology trip this March included a day at Zion National Park, located in southwestern Utah.  As I mentioned with Death Valley, there is a lot of stuff to talk about here and more will … Continue reading

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Insect Love: Lady beetles

I’m going to go ahead and call these lady beetles (order Coleoptera, family Coccinellidae) and not ladybugs.  True bugs are in the insect order Hemiptera, so it seems inaccurate to refer to lady beetles as “bugs.” The pair above are … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Cabbage white butterfly on giant ironweed

While the larvae of cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae, Pieridae) feed on plants of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), the adults seem to feed any any source of nectar.  Here a cabbage white is feeding on the nectar from a giant … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Cup plant

I found this cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum, Asteraceae) noteworthy because of the interesting leaf arrangement.  The broad, opposite, coarsely toothed leaves come together at the stem in a cup shape (presumably what gives it its common name): The flower is … Continue reading

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Random Insect: Scarab beetle, possibly an earth-boring dung beetle

I found this beetle trying to burrow underneath a dung pile I wrote about recently.  It’s in the superfamily Scarabaeoidea, and based on morphology and behavior I suspect it’s in the family Geotrupidae (earth-boring dung beetles).  The apparently 11-segmented antennae … Continue reading

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Random Plant: New England aster

In a prairie full of bright yellow goldenrod (Solidago sp., Asteraceae) this purple New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, Asteraceae) stuck out like a sore thumb.

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Lessons From the Field #4: Elevation matters

In a continuation of my previous discussion about my trip to Death Valley this March, I wanted to bring up the profound impact elevation has on temperature.  When we arrived at Furnace Creek the first night it was in the … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Black swallowtail butterfly on bull thistle

Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Asteraceae) is native to Eurasia but it’s present in North America as an invasive species.  It’s also classified as a noxious weed in many states.  Despite this unfavorable status, it has one benefit in that it … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Giant ironweed

This beauty is a giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea, Asteraceae).  I found a number of them growing in a small area near the bank of the River Raisin in southeast Michigan.  Here’s a closeup of the infloresence: The flowers seemed to … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Cutleaf coneflower

I recently found this cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata, Asteraceae) in a floodplain forest near Blissfield Michigan.  Here’s a closeup of the flower: When I was identifying this plant, what initially confused the hell out of me was the morphology of … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Walnut husk flies on a black walnut

These fruit flies are walnut husk flies (Rhagoletis suavis, Tephritidae).  I found a large number of them crawling and flying around the fruit of a black walnut tree (Juglans nigra, Juglandaceae). The flies were probably gathering to mate.  In late … Continue reading

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Lessons From the Field #3: Don’t feed the !@(*&# wildlife

This past March I went on a great geology field trip across northern Arizona, eastern California, and southern Nevada and Utah.  The biggest stop on the trip involved two days in Death Valley National Park.  This park is huge, and … Continue reading

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Three flies on animal dung

Most people probably don’t spend several minutes on their hands and knees staring at dung in order to see the flies it attracts.  Luckily I’m not most people.  Here I was lucky enough to capture three different flies on dung … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Black walnut

The interesting thing about black walnuts (Juglans nigra, Juglandaceae) and walnuts in general is that they’re not true botanical nuts.  They’re actually drupes, much like peaches or plums.  The walnut itself if surrounded by a fleshy husk, similar to a … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect-Insect Interaction: Goldenrod, Crabronid wasps, and jagged ambush bugs

Today I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at a goldenrod plant (Solidago sp., Asteraceae).  It’s not that I found the plant itself interesting, although it was flowering and rather beautiful.  What drew my attention was the sheer number … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Milkweed and monarch butterflies

Milkweeds (family Asclepiadaceae) are perhaps best known for two reasons:  First, they produce a thick, sticky white sap that is appropriate for a plant called “milkweed”.  Second, they’re the sole food source for the larvae of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus, … Continue reading

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Random Plant: California barrel cactus

I always knew cacti had short but spectacular flowering periods.  What I didn’t know was that they can also exhibit some interesting colors on their thorns, as was observed on this California barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus, Cactaceae).

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Lessons From the Field #2: Always keep the cooler latched shut

In November of 2008 I had the pleasure of going on a field trip to Arkansas as part of an undergraduate mineralogy course.  We camped at Lake Ouachita State Park near Hot Springs.  This area is a great place to … Continue reading

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Random Insect: Stick bug

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