Monthly Archives: May 2011

Random Plant: Ostrich fern

Since I wrote about a relatively uncommon bladder fern the other day, I thought it would be prudent to back up and cover the common ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris, Dryopteridaceae).  Every year I find these ferns in a large congregation … Continue reading

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Random Insect: A shy bumble bee

Yesterday I saw a bee’s behind (a bee-hind?) sticking out from under the edge of a common mullein leaf (Verbascum thapsus, Scrophulariaceae).  I thought this bumble bee (Bombus sp., Apidae) seemed shy, but it was probably just engrossed in some … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Stinking chamomile

A common weed in disturbed areas, stinking chamomile (Anthemis cotula, Asteraceae) lives up to its name.  When the leaves are crushed they give off a pungent odor.  Personally I don’t find the smell to be too repulsive, but I could … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Eastern carpenter bees on common marigolds

Similar in size and appearance to bumble bees (Bombus sp., Apidae), the bee shown here is actually an eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica, Apidae).  You can tell them apart by looking at the top of their abdomens.  Bumble bees have … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Leaf mining larva on an American elm

While out along the River Raisin I came across an American elm leaf (Ulmus americana, Ulmaceae) showing characteristic leaf miner wounds.  Leaf mining insects have larvae that feed within leaves, eating the soft tissues while remaining relatively safe from predators. … Continue reading

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Random Insect: Leaf mining hispine beetle

I came across this beetle a few weeks ago in a floodplain forest in southeast Michigan.  The poor thing doesn’t seem to have a common name, so I’ll just generically refer to it as a leaf mining hispine beetle (Sumitrosis … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Bladder fern

According to Michigan State University there are a number of ferns that are present in Michigan floodplain forests.  They include the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris, Dryopteridaceae), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis, Dryopteridaceae), royal fern (Osmunda regalis, Osmundaceae), New York fern (Thelypteris … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Basswood leaf mining beetles on an American basswood

A few weeks ago I wrote about some basswood leaf mining beetles (Baliosus nervosus, Chrysomelidae) that I discovered in some forest leaf litter.  They had apparently awoken from overwintering and were just starting to become active. Yesterday I was out … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Vitaceae) is probably the most common vine I find in southeast Michigan forests.  I suspect it’s equally common in woodlands throughout its range in eastern North America.  I see it all the time, climbing trees to … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Caterpillar on a boxelder

Boxelder trees (Acer negundo, Aceraceae) tend to be common in floodplains, including one in southeast Michigan where these photos were taken.  These maples have a preference for ample water and sunlight, so they grow readily in these disturbed areas.  They’re … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Hawthorn

When it comes to thorny trees in southeast Michigan floodplain forests, the most impressively thorny is easily the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos, Fabaceae).  It’s not the only thorny tree I find, however.  Just as common are hawthorns (Crataegus sp., Rosaceae). … Continue reading

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Plant-Arachnid Interaction: Comb-footed spider on a spotted ladysthumb

While out in a floodplain forest in southern Michigan, I came across a lot of spotted ladysthumb (Polygonum persicaria, Polygonaceae).  Introduced from Europe, this invasive plant is very common in this area.  While photographing the foliage, I noticed several leaves … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Cleavers/stickywilly/catchweed bedstraw

There are a lot of common names for the native weed Galium aparine (Rubiaceae).  They include cleavers, stickywilly, and catchweed bedstraw.  Although I find some humor in the name “stickywilly,” “catchweed bedstraw” is probably more fitting since members of the … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Lady beetles on garlic mustard

This time of year I frequently find lady beetles (family Coccinellidae) crawling around on a variety of flowers.   It seems that they’re eating pollen, but I can’t be sure.  They’re normally considered predaceous, with the adults and larvae feeding primarily … Continue reading

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Random Insect: Carpenter ant queen

A couple of week ago I found this ant (family Formicidae) crawling around on some foliage in a Michigan mesic southern forest.  I keyed it out to the subfamily Formicinae, and then the genus Camponotus (carpenter ants).  I suspect it’s … Continue reading

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Random Plant: American elm

Since the introduction of Dutch elm disease to North America in the 1930s, American elms (Ulmus americana, Ulmaceae) have seen their populations decimated.  Luckily some have escaped this threat, especially those like the one shown here that grow in floodplain … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Spittle bug nymph on a night-flowering silene

While out walking along the edge of a field here in southeast Michigan, I came across a handful of night-flowering silene (Silene noctiflora, Caryophyllaceae).  While taking some photos, I noticed there were a number of bubble clusters on the plants: … Continue reading

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Plant-Insect Interaction: Small carpenter bees on a common dandelion

The other day I noticed some small carpenter bees (Ceratina sp., Apidae) crawling around on a common dandelion flower (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae).  These insects visit a wide range of plants, showing little specificity.  This location was at the margin of … Continue reading

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Random Plant: Garlic mustard

Note:  The following is an excerpt from an undergraduate paper I wrote in 2010. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata, Brassicaceae) is considered one of the most harmful invasive plant species in North America.  This introduced shade-tolerant herb thrives in deciduous woodlands … Continue reading

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Random Insect: Mosquito

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the near-record-breaking April rainfall we had in southeast Michigan, and the flooding that followed.  Since then the floodwater has been receding, leaving behind many ephemeral pools in the local floodplain forests: These … Continue reading

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