Yellow and blue

A few summer flowers:

The flowers are swamp yellow-loosestrife (Lysimachia terrestris), a Helianthus species, and blue vervain (Verbena hastata). The vervain is remnant of what was a thriving wildflower meadow. For a few years, this location was jammed with Black-eyed Susan of different types, vervain, boneset, and three species of milkweed. Just a few vervain, orange milkweed, and Black-eyed Susan are left. The culprit may be the vetch that’s taken over a lot of the meadow.

False milkweed bugs

From the same patch of sunflower-like composites where I found last week’s nursery-web spider:

My first thought on seeing these bugs was “what are these milkweed bugs doing on a sunflower”? It wasn’t just one, there were about a dozen, many of them as amorous as this pair. A brief search found the name of this small milkweed bug lookalike, false milkweed bug (Lygaeus turcicus). It turns out that false sunflower (Heliopsis spp, maybe Heliopsis helianthoides) is a favorite of this bug. Like other true bugs they have a long mouthpart that they put deep in the flower and draw out nectar. Many of them were head down in the flower. The field mark to look for to distinguish the small milkweed bug (Lygaeus kalmii) from the false one is the dark mark surrounded by red near the head. False milkweed bug has a Y-shaped mark, and small milkweed bug has a heart-like shape. Or just rely on the plant you find it on. False milkweed bug doesn’t feed on milkweed.

Nursery web spider

A spider I’ve seen many times in many kinds of locations – on the ground, once on a lily pad, in a shrub – but this is the first time I’ve seen this spider in a flower:

There’s a bit of lunch visible above the petal, a mosquito I think. Crab spiders are what I usually see on flowers, often on the underside of the petals. There were other discoveries in this sunflower patch, small milkweed beetles, and colony of red aphids.

Milkweed beetles

A pair of amorous milkweed beetles and solitary feeding milkweed beetle:

They are usually on milkweed leaves, rarely far from the plant. If you don’t find them on milkweed, you can see traces of a visit from the holes they leave behind in the leaves. They prefer the tender tips of the leaves. As they feed, their mouthparts become gummed up up with milkweed latex. I’ve watched them try to brush latex off their mandibles with their legs. I’ve read that the gummy latex is a protective mechanism, but it doesn’t work with these bugs.

Flowering milkweed

Milkweed has been flowering in my area in the last few weeks, here are three views: buds, a cluster, and a closeup of the individual florets:

There are all common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Orange milkweed is blooming as well. Click an image to view it larger and enter the gallery.

Two butterflies

Two recent close encounters with butterflies:

The butterfly on the left is Edward’s Hairstreak, the other butterfly is Common Ringlet. I found the hairstreak in the same hilltop meadow where I found the racemed milkwort a few weeks ago. The flower the hairstreak is feeding on is New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus. New Jersey Tea is a magnet for hairstreaks. Unfortunately it also attracts lots of the small black beetles you see here, sometimes a dozen on one flower. Hairstreaks are lovely and have a short season. They are also quite small and fast-moving. An uncooperative subject, in other words.

Common Ringlet is a bigger butterfly. I found it in a light rain on a cool day, so it was quite cooperative. I was able to use a tripod, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever done with a hairstreak.


A closeup look at a clover bloom, just starting to open:

Nothing could be more common! But I liked the pattern of the opening florets.

Shades of green

In the Northeast, the transformation from spring to the green season seems to happen overnight, but of course it is more gradual than that. In the course of a week or so, the woods go from not quite bare branches to lush green. A few things I saw in late May and June:

Beech leaves have feathery edges when they first open. In the first image you can see the brown bud covering in place, ready to fall. I love photographing ferns, this is one image of many I took, some of the ferns as they started to unfurl, and many of fully open ferns like this one. The dense greens of the grasses in the last image were beautiful to see.

Flowers from the hill

Horn Pond Mountain is a hill in a neighboring town. It’s a great place for butterflies and flowers. I had hopes for butterflies and dragonflies on this visit, but found a number of interesting flowers, including a species I’ve never noticed before, racemed milkwort:

From left to right, they are old-field toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis), false Solomon’s-seal (Maianthemum racemosum), and racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama). There were also large patches of whorled yellow loosestrife. I saw just one butterfly, a beautiful dark form Tiger swallowtail that wasn’t cooperative for this photographer. The milkwort is a relative of different-looking, orchid-like gaywings, or fringed polygala (Polygala paucifolia).


A wild geranium at the edge of a forest path:

This was the last of the flowers in this spot. All of the others had dropped their petals. The other flowers I saw on this walk included many blue-eyed grass and cinquefoil.