Flatworm in the garden

A visitor from southeast Asia in the garden. This is Dolichoplana striata, one of many introduced flatworms now found in the United States. Most of the flatworms feed on earthworms, 30% of which are also foreign species. Flatworms are slimy and can be killed with a generous application of salt. But don’t cut them inContinue reading “Flatworm in the garden”

Natural Teaching Lab Trails

When visiting the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville (FL), be sure to visit the nearby Natural Teaching Lab Trails. In spring and fall, there are many small animals and interesting plants. The pictures below were taken in May.

Spider wraps itself in a leaf

I was watering my hydrangea when I noticed that one of the leaves was tubular. I immediately suspected a caterpillar and instinctively pinched the leaf from its stem. “Shoot. Why did you do that?” I’d recently done the same while checking another plant, only to realize the tube held the larva of a Long-tailed Skipper,Continue reading “Spider wraps itself in a leaf”

Native Pine Trees in Florida

There are seven pine species native to Florida: Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)Pond Pine (Pinus serotina)Sand pine (Pinus clausa)Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)Spruce pine (Pinus glabra)Shortleaf or Yellow Pine (Pinus echinata) Below are photos of four of the seven, taken during early spring at Jacksonville Arboretum. All trees were mature and of similar girth.

Walkingstick Rescue

I’ve been partial toward stick insects since my husband and I hiked a Florida park, where sporadic high-pitched whines crossed the trail in waves. Sometimes the sound was nearly imperceptible, then slowly grew in volume. At its peak, the sound matched the whir of green aliens in outer space movies. Late that afternoon, we noticedContinue reading “Walkingstick Rescue”

Beauveria bassiana – An insect-eating fungus

I noticed something along the trail – a 1 cm, white gob hanging from the underside of a palmetto frond. It looked like a small bird dropping, except that it was alone and on the wrong side of the leaf. Something about the curvature of the spot suggested an insect. I’d read that some caterpillarsContinue reading “Beauveria bassiana – An insect-eating fungus”

Indian Pipe flower – a rare sighting

On the ground, I noticed a translucent stem with a pinkish tinge, black flecks, and drooping, waxlike petals. It resembled the potato I’d grown in darkness, part of a fourth-grade science experiment. I thought it might be a sucker emerging from a nearby tree root, but took a photo just in case. The lighting conditionsContinue reading “Indian Pipe flower – a rare sighting”

European Paper Wasp cooperative with nestmates and neighbors

While hiking, I noticed a wasp with striking bands of yellow and black. It ignored me as I filmed, enraptured by the blossoms of White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), a poisonous plant native to the eastern United States. The insect was a European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula), a species introduced into Boston in the 1970s. UnlikeContinue reading “European Paper Wasp cooperative with nestmates and neighbors”

Screams in the garden: Encounter with an Eastern Black Racer

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is known for its large garden and ancient oak trees. As I walked the roadside edging the garden, I heard a scream. I stopped and listened. Silence, then the screaming resumed. And this time it didn’t stop. I was alone in the park and, as I ran to the sound,Continue reading “Screams in the garden: Encounter with an Eastern Black Racer”