Air Potato Beetle Population Abounds

Last year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released air potato beetles (Liloceris cheni), a biological control agent for the horrible invasive air potato vine (Dioscorea bulbifera), which threatens to overtake the mesic hammock at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area. Pictured above is Ken Gonyo’s hand last year with an air potato beetle. Unfortunately, the air potato beetles failed to thrive last year.

The story is different this year, and Ken sent this breeding beetles picture taken with his phone …
air potato beetles breeding
Bob Montanaro recently posted beautiful breeding beetle pictures on his wide-reaching blog.

From my phone come these pictures of beetle damage …
The air potato beetles, even though abundant this year, need human help to even begin to control the air potato population! Air potato is amazingly prolific.

Much to my husband’s dismay, I bring a few air potato bulbils home each year to conduct an annual air potato ‘experiment’. This year the air potatoes were relegated to the laundry room with no water, little light, and plenty of dust. Of 7 bulbils, 6 germinated and, as always, grew wildly producing teeny-weeny leaves …
Note the white portions of the vine that grew among hanging clothes with absolutely no light. Even the smallest of the bulbils sprouted and grew …
And already reproduction has begun with small new bulbils at the leaf nodes …

Lifelong Learner – Florida State Bird

mockingbird copy
Some birds capture our hearts, and the mockingbird, the Florida state bird, has always had mine. Lifelong learners, mockingbirds learn new sounds throughout their lives.

They inspire us in so many ways, as Miss Maudie, the avid gardener in Harper Lee’s classic book, To Kill a Mockingbird, tells the protagonist, Scout, “Your father is right,” she said. Mockingbirds don’t to one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs. They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

The beautiful photograph above was taken by Bob Montanaro. Visit his blog to see absolutely amazing photos of a mockingbird chasing off a hawk that was plaguing a sandhill crane family.

Brownhead thinks that it’s an Acorn

At a glance, a person – or a young scrub jay – might think that the sphere pictured above was an acorn. It is a gall on a myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia). For a wonderful photo of a juvenile scrub jay – a brown head – ‘mouthing’ a gall, visit Bob Montanaro’s amazing blog.

Galls come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Galls can occur on different parts of plants: Leaves, leaf buds, stems, roots, flowers and fruits. Galls can be caused by fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and insects. Insects are the primary cause.

Many kinds of insects cause galls: Midges, aphids, jumping plant lice, mites, and wasps. Gall – host plant relationships are quite specific. Most gall-makers cause galls only on a particular species (or genus) on a specific part of a plant. More than 50 species of tiny gall wasps have been identified on scrub oaks at Archbold Biological Research Station.

The myrtle oak forms the gall pictured above in response to chemicals produced by the gall wasp as it inserts its eggs into the plant tissues and by the larvae that develop inside the protective structure of the gall. Note the obvious exit hole left by the emerging adult!

Fabulous Florida Hibiscus

2Hibiscus coccineous by Karen SchusterThe singular beauty of native swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is captured in this photo sent by Karen Schuster. Swamp hibiscus is now in flower at Blue Cypress Lake where Karen took these photos …
Hibiscus coccineous by Karen Schuster
In the late fall or winter, swamp hibiscus dies back to the ground to re-memerge in the spring, quickly growing to be 6 to 8 feet tall. Its showy scarlet red flowers are at least six inches across.

Scarlet rosemallow is another name for this fabulous native plant that is not found at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area. Seashore mallow (Kosteletzyka virginica), another member of the Hibiscus (mallow) family, Malvaceae, grows at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area near the wetland crossover bridges …
Either one of these native plants would make a wonderful addition to your landscape in a moist place in full sun or light shade.

Iris in Florida ?

iris hexagona from carol copy
Dixie iris is one common name for Iris hexagona, an iris of southern wetlands shown above in a photograph taken in north Florida sent by Carol Thomas from the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. This iris sometimes is used in littoral plantings on retention ponds and does grow ‘wild’ in wetland areas in the western part of our county, including near Blue Cypress Lake, where it flowered in late March of this year …
This beautiful native iris is a wonderful choice for a moist, freshwater area, but do be aware that its blooming period is brief. It is not found at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, where the wetlands tend to be brackish.

Tarflower Local & Distant

The tarflower (Bejaria racemosa) has flowered gloriously at the south Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area this year. Steve Goff (Class of 2006), Pelican Island Audubon Society treasurer, provides scale in the picture above taken on 6/15/2014.

Tarflower also was abundant at Archbold Biological Station located in Venus, Florida, in these pictures taken on 6/20/2014, blooming along one of its nature trails …
… and near its one of its ingenious interpretive signs …
… and with its Adrian Archbold Lodge in the background …
Plants were in flower and beginning to form seed capsules …

The Birds & the Bees

Bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, and other insects are all important pollinators. We are in the midst of pollinator week — June 16 through June 22, 2014, so bee nice to our pollinators … Minimize (or void) the use of pesticides and plant native nectar plants.

Pictured above is one of our solitary native bees, the southern carpenter bee (Xylocopa micas) nectaring upon tropical sage (Salvia coccinea), an easy-to-grow native wildflower that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

European honeybees nectar our native plants, including beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), now in flower at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area …

To learn more about bees, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bee Basics

Bees are not as ‘sexy’ as butterflies like our Florida state butterfly, the zebra longwing which roosts communally as shown in this beautiful photo by Bob Montanaro.

To learn more about pollinators and pollinator week, check out the pollinator network.

Orchid Island

Orchid island is the given name of the barrier island in Indian River County, and, if you closely examine the road signs that herald its name, you will see a depiction of butterfly orchid (Encyclia tampensis). The picture above was taken on Sunday, June 16, at the south Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area along the new trail cleared as part of Sam Keiffer’s Eagle Scout project. This stunning display was of epiphytes was spotted by (Eagle Eye) Steve Goff with Ken Gonyo after air potato control work.

Flowers are this orchid species are quite variable and range in color from greenish to reddish brown …

Note the substantial pseudobulbs, thickened stems often found on epiphytic orchids, that serve as storage organs …

Thorny & Thigmonastic Mimosa vine

Thigmonasty is the term for touch-induced movement in plants. Fourvalve mimosa (Mimosa quadrivalvis) is a thorny vine that grows in dry, scrubby areas at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area. This diminutive but daunting vine flowers with small pink poofs about the size of a dime. Please do not confuse it with sunshine mimosa (Mimosa strigilosa), a thornless groundcover that sports showy pink poofs about the size of a nickel and prefers much moister conditions.
Each leaflet has a pulvinus, a specialized ‘motor cell’ that responds to touch. No, pulvini are not visible. The thorns on the stems and seed pods of this plant are quite visible, though …
This armored seed pod splits into four segments, when ripe, giving rise to the common name four valve mimosa and the species name quadrivalvis.
Its seeds are said to be eaten by songbirds, quail, and gopher tortoise.

Other common names include sensitive briar and cat’s claw. This plant once was known as Shrankia microphyllum.

Pretty Pink Poof

Sunshine mimosa (Mimosa strigilosa) – in the right spot – can serve as a substitute for lawn grass, as shown in this photo from Carol Thomas, a member of the Eugenia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society who works at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory …
Sunshine mimosa grows low, produces pretty pink ‘poofs’ about the size of a nickel, and co-mingles well with lawn grasses, responding to regular moving with shortened flower stalks …
A member of the pea family (Fabaceae), this plant fixes nitrogen — as well as has wildlife value: It attracts pollinators and is a larval food source for the little sulphur butterfly. The Florida Nursery Growers Association named it to be their plant of the year in 2008. For information about using this lovely low-growing plant in your landscape, visit Lee County Extension Agent Steven H. Brown’s excellent fact sheet.