A Little Catching Up Part 3…

Auricularia americana (Jelly Tree Ear) at 2:22 PM on 6-26-22, #896-9.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you all doing well. It has been hot this past week. It is 99° F as I am starting to write this post. There is rain in the forecast for next week so hopefully, the temps will cool off a bit.

I had an interesting walk in the hayfield on June 26, just a couple of days before the hay was cut. It was kind of difficult to walk in the tall grass, but I was on a mission and needed to get to the back of the farm.

Auricularia americana (Jelly Tree Ear) on 6-26-22, #896-10.

I made my way through the trees in an area north of the chicken house to get to the pasture. I ran across a couple of Auricularia americana (Jelly Tree Ear) on a limb that had fallen. I have seen these before and they are very weird and kind of slimy.

I did a little reading on the MushroomExpert.Com and found out a few things… There are several species of jelly fungi (even in other genera) that differ somewhat in characteristics. The issue is “this species is NOT actually Auricularia americana… Auricularia americana grows on conifers, NOT deciduous trees… You can click on the link above to get the whole story.

Interestingly, it was recently discovered there are several genetically distinct species of Auricularia in the United States but there was a snag in naming them. As with other plants, there are strict rules that apply when naming new species. New species of fungi have to be registered online and given an identifier number. When submitting their publication about the new species, they didn’t include the identifier number, so their publication was invalid…

Hmmm… That was in 2015, seven years ago. Did they resubmit the publication again with the correct numbers? It’s like watching a series on TV and being left hanging in the end!!!

Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) on 6-26-22, #896-5.

By 2:32, I had made my way to a nice group of Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed). There are plenty of them here on the farm, as I have probably mentioned before, and are hard to miss because of their height.

Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) on 6-26-22, #896-7.

There is always A LOT of activity on milkweed. Not only on their flowers but sometimes on their leaves as well. Milkweed plants serve our ecosystem quite well. More about those little black bugs farther down…

Tetraopes tetrophthalmus (Red Milkweed Beetle) on 6-26-22, #896-28.

Ummm… I was taking photos of the flowers, minding my own business, when a pair of Tetraopes tetrophthalmus (Red Milkweed Beetle) appeared. She started to blush and he said, “Do you mind?” I’m not sure if he was talking to me or the other bug…

Tetraopes tetrophthalmus (Red Milkweed Beetle) on 6-26-22, #896-29.

I moved to a different plant and found another one. I was trying to get good photos of its back, but these guys move rather quickly. I did some reading on several websites about this critter and found out it is very interesting. Interesting facts include:

The genus and species names mean “four-eyes” because their antennas actually separate their eyes, giving them four eyes instead of two.

Tetraopes tetrophthalmus prefers Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) over other milkweed species. Other members of the genus are also generally host-specific and prefer other milkweed species.

Adult Red Milkweed Beetles feed on the plant’s leaves, buds, and flowers. When feeding on the leaves, they cut a slit in the veins and feed on the sap as it runs out of the cut. They have to wipe their mouths on the leaves so their mouth won’t get gummed up… The toxins from the sap is absorbed into the beetles, which also makes them toxic to predators. I read where the toxins give the beetles their color, which is a warning to predators that they are distasteful and toxic.

Females lay clutches of reddish eggs toward the base of the plants and the larvae burrow into the soil and feed on the roots. Perhaps depending on when the eggs are laid, some information says they hibernate in the cells they make around the roots.

If they are startled, they make a shrill noise but they purr when interacting with other beetles… Hmmm…

Red Milkweed Beetles only live for one month…

Chauliognathus marginatus (Margined Leatherwing Beetle) on 6-26-22, #896-11.

Then I ran into a very busy Chauliognathus marginatus (Margined Leatherwing Beetle) which didn’t want to stand still either. Another common name is Margined Soldier Beetle. To its right, hiding, is another one of those small black bugs… These insects are beneficial pollinators and they feed on nectar, pollen, and small insects such as aphids. Their larvae are also vicious predators. The coloration of the adults is quite variable. These are a farmer’s and gardener’s friends, so if you see them in large numbers on your flowers, don’t worry. They have their own mission and they will not damage your plants.

Oebalus pugnax (Rice Stink Bug) on 6-26-22, #896-19.

Then, I ran this Oebalus pugnax (Rice Stink Bug)… I have identified several species of stink bugs here on the farm that look similar, but this one was different. This bug IS NOT a friend, especially for farmers who grow rice, sorghum, wheat, etc. They feed on wild grasses and then migrate to fields to do their damage. They feed on the endosperm of the seed leaving an empty shell or shriveled kernels.

Adults overwinter near the ground in grass then lay their eggs in clusters of 10-30 in double rows on the leaves or seed heads of grasses. The nymphs molt 5 times to become adults in 18-50 days, depending on temperature. They can produce 2 to 5 generations per year…

Tragia betonicifolia (Betony-Leaf Noseburn) on 6-26-22, #896-30.

I moved on a little northeast from the milkweed and stumbled across another plant I hadn’t seen before. I took quite a few photos and uploaded the one above on iNaturalist to get an idea. Its top suggestion was Tragia urticifolia (Nettleleaf Noseburn), the second was Tragia ramosa (Desert Noseburn), the third was Rhynchosida physocalyx (Beaked Sida), then they went downhill after that. The first was a possibility but not the other two.

I checked on the Missouri Plants website and it wasn’t on the list but three other species were. The only one I saw that looked close (from the photos) was Tragia betonicifolia (Betony-Leaf Noseburn). At the bottom of the page it says T. urticifolia closely resembles the species but isn’t found in Missouri. I checked the maps on Plants of the World Online, Flora of North America, USDA Plants Database, and BONAP and all agreed T. urticifolia isn’t in Missouri. Well, one would have been enough but I had to try. 🙂 The maps do show Tragia betonicifolia is in Missouri but not in Pettis County where I live. However, the species has been found in Henry County which is across the street, and Johnson County which is only a few miles away. How many times has that happened? Too many to count… Even the tree frogs that like my house are a species not found in Pettis County but they are in Henry, like 100′ away. 🙂

Even though I had my doubts the species was Tragia urticifolia, I went ahead and submitted the observation as such with seven photos. The more detailed photos you have the better especially when you are in doubt… Oddly, no one agreed or suggested a different ID even after a month (when I am writing this). I decided I would go back and do more exploring… There were only two observations of Tragia urticifolia posted in Missouri and one was mine. However, there were seven for T. betonicifolia and three were from botanists. SO, I sent them a message along with a link to my observation. One replied the next day and said “…I hate basing IDs on geography alone, so I keyed it out to confirm the ID. Your plant is T. betonicifolia. They are difficult to distinguish from photos (keying requires an angle of the flowers that shows the right character), so it doesn’t surprise me that iNat’s algorithm had trouble with it.” I can certainly understand that… Out of 909 observations (402 different species) I have submitted to iNaturalist, they have only been a little off a few times. I think that is pretty darn good!

Tragia betonicifolia (Betony-Leaf Noseburn) on 6-26-22, #896-34.

Tragia species are monoecious and produce separate staminate (male) and pistillate (female) flowers on the same plant but in an odd sort of way. Unlike members of the Asteraceae, for example, which produce male and female flowers on the same flower. They produce a single pistillate flower at the base of the inflorescence (floral stem), then a raceme of up to 30 staminate flowers. Compared to other photos I have seen online, the inflorescence in the above photo is, ummm, somewhat short and apparently, the pistillate flower has already been fertilized…

Tragia betonicifolia (Betony-Leaf Noseburn) on 6-26-22, #896-36.

The above photo was taken of a different inflorescence where you can see the fuzzy fruit that has started to develop from the ovary of the pistillate flower. Above the fruit, you can see the remains of a few staminate flowers. There were more staminate flowers at the top of the inflorescence but those photos were all blurry… By the time I went through the photos, the hayfield was cut along with this plant… GEEZ! You know what they say? “He who hesitates…” The ovaries have three large carpels…

OH, I better not forget to mention that Tragia species are members of the spurge family Euphorbiaceae. They are covered with STINGING hairs that are said to cause intense pain. One website said as much pain as you could ever have. When I read that, I was reminded of my kidney stones…

if you want to read more about this species, the Missouri Plants website has some good photos with technical descriptions. The Arkansas Native Plant Society also has great photos and a lot of very good information.

Moving right along…

Apocynum cannabinum (Hemp Dogbane) on 6-26-22, #896-1.

I ran across a good-sized colony of Apocynum cannabinum (Hemp Dogbane), which is beginning to be an old story. I first identified this species from a single plant I found in the south side of the main hayfield in 2020. Since then, they have spread like you wouldn’t believe! In 2021, I found one along the road in front of the garden so I let it grow… After the hay was cut in the south hayfield in 2021, a HUGE patch came up toward the front. This year, the single plant along the road in front of the garden turned into a HUGE colony… GEEZ!!! I think this species could be somewhat invasive…

Apocynum cannabinum (Hemp Dogbane) flowers on 6-26-22, #896-4.

They produce LOTS of flowers. Ummm… There are those darn black bugs AGAIN… Maybe we should have a closer look…

Corimelaena pulicaria (Black Bug) on 6-26-22, #896-13.

Well, I took several photos to get a good one… I uploaded the photos on iNaturalist and they listed several suggestions of species seen nearby. At first, I thought they were possibly Sehirus cinctus (White-Margined Burrower Bug), so I selected that name on the list and went with it hoping someone would have an idea. The color looked similar, but so did the other suggestions. Within no time, a member suggested the genus Corimelaena, a member of the family Thyreocoridae (Ebony Bugs)… So I checked the genus out and found a website that listed several species and what plants they preferred. Low and behold, it said Corimelaena pulicaria feeds on Apocynum cannabinum (among other plants). So, I went with that species and changed the name on the observation. Even though iNaturalist gives the common name Black Bug, many websites don’t even give a common name. There are many species of “Black”, “Ebony”, and “Negro” bugs in several genera that look exactly alike to me… I didn’t feel like catching one looking at this and that part with a magnifying glass… Looking again, they could be Corimelaena obscura… I think I will stop thinking about it for now and just stick with Corimelaena pulicaria or maybe just some kind of a Thyreocoridae. Well, since I can’t pronounce that either, how about just a black bug… 

I went on the back of the pond AGAIN to check on the Calico and Ontario Asters which basically looked the same as they did a month earlier only a little taller… Nothing exciting to report.

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 6-26-22, #896-18.

I walked over to where the Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) are growing and they were looking GREAT! I don’t remember if I mentioned it before, but there are two small colonies. One behind the pond and one under the persimmon tree. The plants under the persimmon tree are much easier to get to.

Diospyros virginiana (American Persimmon) on 6-26-22, #896-17.

The persimmons are coming along nicely…

Time has sure flown by The next post will be more or less up to date.

Until then, be safe and stay positive. Always be thankful and try to GET DIRTY.











Wildflower Catch Up With A Few Bugs…

Hello everyone! It is an interesting time of the year to go wildflower hunting since most of them have gone to seed. There are still a few flowering, especially where the hay was cut. I also noticed there weren’t as many insects as last week but there are still a few Monarch butterflies. The weather has been nice for the most part but we are supposed to have a couple of chilly nights. After that, it will warm up a little again.

Of course, the seeds of the Desmodium paniculatum (Panicledleaf Ticktrefoil) are always trying to hitch a ride. I have done pretty well avoiding them until the last three times I went out. This time was the worse. I walked through the middle of the south hayfield to avoid them which turned out to be a good idea. Unfortunately, I had to go through them to get to where I was going. I was on a mission. 🙂 Then when was finished, I walked out of the briars and looked at my boots. GEEZ! I should start wearing my old rubber boots with the hole in them. After that, I didn’t bother trying to avoid them. When I came back to the house, I removed them off my pants then sat down on an old telephone pole to pick them off my boots.  I removed them from one boot then thought how glad I was they weren’t those other stick tights (from the Torilis japonica). I pulled off the other boot and sat my foot right down on a cluster of the other stick tights I hadn’t noticed when I sat down. GEEZ!!! My sock was LOADED! One of their common names is the Tall Sock Destroyer and they live up to their name.

Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) seed pod…

I originally went out for the walk to check on the last of two milkweed seed pods for the experiment crew at the Augusta University Biology Department in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They are studying the Showy and Common Milkweed and the hybrid species between the two. The Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) grows in the eastern half of the United States and the Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) grows in the western half. There is an area where they overlap and hybridize in the middle. They contacted members of iNaturalist that submitted observations of these milkweeds to participate in the study. I agreed to participate so they sent envelopes for the samples. I mailed the two pods on Thursday.

Their information says, “We gave been collecting genetic, metabolomic (any small-molecule chemicals found within a tissue sample), and phenotypic (physical characteristics, such as shape of the leaves, color of flowers, etc.) data by taking leaf and seed pod samples from plants in each species zone and within the hybrid zone. Once we have finished collecting this data, we will begin to analyze the differences between the two species and their hybrid species. With this information, we hope to begin to understand why these species remain geographically separated and how genes are passed between them.” 

On the way to where the milkweed was, I stumbled on something very interesting…

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 10-12-21, #843-9.

I remember seeing maroonish leaves on another plant just like this one closer to the briar patch a while back, but this one was more in the center of the hayfield. I didn’t pay much attention earlier because I thought the plant had maroonish leaves because maybe something was wrong with it. You just never know… Weird things happen in nature. Anyway, Wednesday I saw this one with flowers and I completely didn’t recognize it. Of course, I took A LOT of photos. 🙂

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 10-12-21, #843-10.

The large leafy bracts should have turned a light on because I have identified only one species like it. The flowers weren’t open which is probably why I still didn’t recognize it.

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 10-12-21, #843-11.

After I went through the 94 photos I had taken for the day and deleted the ones I didn’t want. I separated them by species and uploaded the observations on iNaturalist that I already knew. Then, I took the first photo for this one and uploaded it for ID. It suggested ONLY Elephantopus carolinianus. I thought it was completely whacky! I did the same to the second and it said the same thing. I took a better look at the second photo and then it hit me. HOLY CRAP! I have Elephantopus in my hayfield!

I first saw this species on September 9 in 2019 while I was herding cattle on a friend’s mother’s farm. I was in a dead run going down a wooded hillside toward the creek when I spotted them. I almost rolled the rest of the way down. Anyway, you can read about it on THIS POST.

The Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) is definitely one of the most interesting wildflowers I have ever seen. I will try and get photos of its flowers opened up, but you can click on the name above to go it its own page.

Ipomoea hederacea (Ivy-Leaved Morning Glory), 10-12-21

There were several Ipomoea hederacea (Ivy-Leaved Morning Glory) blooming in the south hayfield as well. I don’t have a page for this one because I just got a proper ID. 🙂

Then I walked to the southeast corner of the hayfield to go to the back pasture, through the blackberry briars…

Vernonia missurica (Missouri Ironweed) in the southeast corner of the back pasture on 10-12-21, #843-28.

The Vernonia missurica (Missouri Ironweed) are still blooming up a storm. They attract A LOT of pollinators and other insects that have a hard time finding food this time of the year. Normally, they probably aren’t flowering that much now, but they regrew after the hay was cut. I do not have a page for this species yet.

Danaus plexippus (Monarch) on the Vernonia missurica on 10-12-21, #843-5.

There are still a few Monarch’s flying around the ironweed but not near as many as last week. This one let me get very close.

Euthochtha galeator (Helmeted Squash Bug) on 10-12-21, #843-22.

There are many species of insects that look similar to this Helmeted Squash Bug. This one was feeding on what looked like whiteflies when I first saw it and it didn’t really like my intrusion. I asked it to pose and give me a big smile but it kept looking at its food.

Croton capitatus (Wooly Croton) on 10-12-21, #843-3.

There is a lot of Croton capitatus (Hogwort, Wooly Croton, Goatweed Etc.) flowering in the back pasture right now… There aren’t usually that many here…

Then I walked north toward the…

Diospyros virginiana (American Persimmon) on 10-12-21, #843-7.

The Diospyros virginiana (American Persimmon) tree in the back pasture is really LOADED this year.

Diospyros virginiana (American Persimmon) on 10-12-21, #843-8.

Besides being able to cut the milkweed seed pod and seeing the Elephantopus, being able to eat a few persimmons made the whole walk worthwhile. Then I walked to the house to pick off the mess on my boots.

That’s all I have for now. Until next time, be safe, stay positive, and always be thankful.

Tomato Update and Worm Warfare!

The garden on 7-15-20.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. Well, it is mid-July and the normal summer excitement and issues are upon us. Rain is hit and miss and sometimes we get a little but mostly the clouds just blow over. The grass has slowed down and I was debating on mowing or not. I always keep the mower deck at 4″ and then when it is hot and dry sometimes I don’t mow it at all.

But, a few days ago a friend needed me to change the blades on her zero-turn mower so I did. I had her mow a little in the back yard behind the house and it did a great job. I told her I was going to mow on Wednesday because I didn’t have money for gas at the time. Then I decided maybe I wouldn’t mow because it really wasn’t that tall and wasn’t growing because of no rain. Tuesday morning, when I was still in bed sleeping, I heard a mower go by my bedroom window… I may have heard a mower earlier but thought it was the neighbors. She had come and mowed the entire yard (around 3 acres) before I even knew it. I am very thankful she did that. Even though she had it set at 4″ because I told her before that’s the height I cut it at, it still seemed very short. I am not complaining, though. Even though I installed new Gator blades on my mower, her 54″ zero turn did a tremendous job.

First, let me introduce the tomatoes then I will get on with the worms and other issues… ‘Rutgers’, ‘Goliath’, ‘Mortgage Lifter’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’. I will introduce them the way they are planted…


I rate tomato taste on a score of 1-10, 10 being the best. Of course, tomatoes from the grocery store and what you get on your hamburgers from fast food are 1-5. I worked at Sonic for a while and sometimes I would rate them a negative number. Almost makes me not want a tomato on my hamburger from any fast-food chain or any restaurant for that matter. The tomatoes I picked up from a grower last summer were really good. He sells them in large quantities to someone but he gave me and a good friend of mine what he couldn’t sell for some reason. I would easily rate them 8-9… I don’t consider what the tomato looks like when rating taste…

Tomato ‘Rutgers’

Tomato ‘Rutgers’ on 7-15-20.

‘Rutgers’ was one of the tomato varieties by dad grew when I was a kid along with ‘Super Sioux’. I remember those days of luscious, juicy, mouth-watering tomatoes, and every year it seems I try to relive those days. The first three plants in the row of 16 are the ‘Rutger’s. There were only three plants in the 4-pack… The plants have done very well, but are naturally somewhat smaller than most because they are determinate. I accidentally knocked one of the smaller fruit off


Tomato ‘Rutgers’ on 7-15-20.

‘Rutger’s was developed in 1934 by Rutger University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the Campbell Soup Company’s research facility. It was the most popular variety in the world for many years. During its popular era, ‘Rutgers’ made up more than 60% of commercial tomato sales. Hunt’s and Heinz favored ‘Rutgers’ as well.

Sales plummeted in the 1960’s because the thin skin was not suitable for automated picking. Farmers needed tomatoes with thicker skin that would store longer and travel farther with less spoilage.


Tomato ‘Rutgers’ on 7-15-20.

‘Rutgers’ is a determinate type of plant which means they usually have a large initial harvest with a few tomatoes during the rest of the season. Plants grow 4-5′ feet tall.


Tomato ‘Rutgers’ on 7-15-20.

Even though they are considered a “beefsteak” type, fruit only averages 7 oz. or so. I have eaten a few of these already and, while they have been pretty good, I was disappointed because they didn’t have that ‘OH MY GOODNESS! HOLY S–T” taste I was hoping for with the first tomato of the season. So, at this moment, I would have to rate the tase as a 7.


Tomato ‘Goliath’

Tomato ‘Goliath’ on 7-15-20.

The next four plants in the row are ‘Goliath’. I have grown these for several years and I like them for several reasons. The plants are very hardy and sturdy which they have to be for the abundance of large fruit they produce. ‘Goliath’ isn’t a new variety by no means as the original heirloom variety was introduced in the 1800’s. The indeterminate plants can grow 6-8′ tall and, in optimal conditions, can produce around 70 tomatoes per plant averaging 10-16 oz. and as much as 3 pounds.


Tomato ‘Goliath’ on 7-15-20.

Also, depending on which ‘Goliath’ you grow and the conditions, you can expect ripe fruit anywhere from 65-85 days.


Tomato ‘Goliath’ on 7-15-20.

Sometimes you begin to wonder if those HUGE tomatoes will ever start to ripen. But when they finally do, you will see they were worth the wait. I have had any this year yet, but if I remember correctly they are AWESOME!


Tomato ‘Goliath’ on 7-15-20.

The plants are very strong and have very long leaves that provide good leaf cover. I haven’t eaten any of these yet this year because none have ripened. Once I try one I will give it my score.


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

Now for the ‘Mortgage Lifter’… I grew this variety when I was in Mississippi in 2009 and it seems like I grew them after that but there are no photos. So, maybe not. I have grown A LOT of different tomatoes mainly because there are so many to try. There are five of these because there was one extra in the 4-pack.

Although ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is said to have been developed by William Estler in 1922, he didn’t register the name until 1932. Some information suggests ‘Mortgage Lifter’ was developed by M.C. “Radiator Charlie” Byles, but he developed ‘Radiator Charlie’ and ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’. Not only that, there were several other cultivars with the name ‘Mortgage Lifter’ during the depression era but Estler’s and Byles’ cultivars were the most popular. Of course, the story goes that Radiator Charlie sold plants for $1 each in the 1940’s and was able to pay off his $6,000 mortgage in six years… 


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

‘Mortgage Lifter’ is an heirloom that produces HUGE fruit up to 2 1/2 pounds or more. Fruit is produced on indeterminate plants that grow very tall, up to 9’. Tomatoes begin to ripen in 80-85 days and produce until “F”. 


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

Hmmm… The plants are great as far as leaf cover goes but they aren’t as strong as ‘Goliath’.


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

The biggest problem I am having with ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is the weight of these HUGE clusters of HUGE tomatoes. Even though the branches are well supported, the stems with the tomatoes are not supported and some have bent and even split…


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’…

I ate one a few days ago that wasn’t quite at its peak flavor. Then I had another one that was a bit oddly shaped so I had to slice it weird. The flavor? What is the score? I would have to give this one a 9. Being a pink tomato, the flavor isn’t quite so robust so you don’t get that “AHHH, UMMM, OH THAT IS SO GOOD!” It was close, though.


Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’

Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple” on 7-15-20.

The last four plants in the row are the ‘Cherokee Purple’. It is considered one of the “black” fruited tomatoes that are supposed to have a distinctive flavor. ‘Black Krim’ was the type I tried in 2017 so I thought I would give this one a try. There is quite a story about the ‘Cherokee Purple’ which you can read by clicking HERE. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange was the first to offer this variety in 1993.

‘Cherokee Purple’ is an indeterminate plant that grows to only 4-6′ tall. They produce 10-12 oz. beefsteak fruit that is a deep, dusky rose with a greenish hue toward the stem with a dark red interior.


Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple” on 7-15-20.

Hmmm… I had noticed an issue with the fruit on the ‘Cherokee Purple’ but I thought they were just splitting very bad. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only problem…


Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple” on 7-15-20.

The leaves are very long and provide very good leaf cover and the plants have sturdy stems. I have noticed some heirloom tomatoes can produce some weirdly odd-looking fruit


Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple” on 7-15-20.

There is a lot of good-sized clusters of tomatoes at the bottom of the plants but that seems to be the way they all are this year.


Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’ getting ready for a taste test on 7-19-20…

This one isn’t that big, but it did ripen on the vine…


Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’ on 7-18-20.

Well, the bottom has a lot of cracks but I wonder what the inside is like?


Inside of the Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’…

Well, information says the inside is dark red with green gel in the seed cavities. So, what does it taste like? I put a piece in my mouth and had that pause. My eyes closed and I got that ‘OH WOW!!! THAT IS AWESOME!” So many words to use but none could quite describe it. A very distinctive flavor but I can’t quite find the right word or words to describe it. Some people say black tomatoes have a smoky flavor but I really couldn’t find the smokiness… Kind of like wine tasters who can come up with an elaborate description of how a wine tastes. I can’t find those flavors either… The score? 9.75!



Everything was fine and wonderful with the tomatoes and they were looking great UNTIL I saw two holes on one of the ‘Rutgers’ on July 9. For the most, the only pests I have ever had on tomatoes were hornworms eating the leaves and occasionally I would have whiteflies. I didn’t have whiteflies until 2017 when I apparently brought them home from the greenhouse on the tomato plants I bought. Anyway, after I saw those first two holes I started looking around for the culprit. I found nothing…


Spodoptera sp. (Armyworm species) on July 14, 2020.

I had been checking the tomatoes daily, sometimes twice a day, for hornworms and whatever I could find because you never know… Up until July 14, I had seen nothing except for an occasional hole since July 9. THEN I found this HUGE worm on one of the tomatoes at 12:12 PM on July 14…


Spodoptera sp. on July 14.

Of course, as you can tell, I took photos to put on iNaturalist… I had never seen these before on my Tomatoes or anywhere else so I had to find out what it was.


Then I found this tomato with a big hole in it…


Spodoptera sp., two of them, on July 14.

Then I found two huge worms, side by side, that were different colors! WHAT THE HECK!!! (I think I may have used a different word originally).


Spodoptera sp. on July 14.

One of them is mostly black while the other is mostly gray!


More holes and poop!


Whiteflies on a tomato leaf on July 14.

Then there were whiteflies. Whiteflies really don’t cause an issue for me and they usually appear when it gets hot and dry and there isn’t much breeze. I made sure I have a Neem Oil concoction on hand in case they get carried away. A few days later, when we were supposed to have rain, the wind picked up and it sprinkled a little. The next day, the whiteflies were completely gone. Of course, they came back…

Back to the worms…


Hmmm… Tomato Cherokee Purple’ on July 14.

Apparently, this was not just a cracking issue…


GEEZ! It was like an overnight disaster. Guerilla warfare! Rather worm warfare! They come in and eat then hide…

I uploaded the photos of the worms I took on iNaturalist to get an ID. Suggestions were the Spodoptera genus, Spodoptera ornithogalli (Yellow Striped Armyworm), and Trichordestra legitima (Striped Garden Caterpillar). The moths of these caterpillars look the same, according to the photos, but I have not seen any in person. I messaged a “caterpillar expert” on iNaturalist so he could check out the photos I uploaded. I had the black one listed as Spodoptera ornithogalli and he commented saying,

“One of the armyworms but I’m not great at telling them apart. These can be physically moved away from plants if they are being destructive. =)”…

I listed the grayer one as Trichordestra legitima and he didn’t make a comment but suggested it also as a member of the Spodoptera genus…

WELL, DOUBLE GEEZ! Apparently, there are quite a few species of both genera and they are variable as far as color goes. They cause the same issues, which is quite obvious… Some information about one or the other mentions the moth lays eggs, a lot of them, and covers them with scales… Hmmm…


I have not seen much evidence of eggs but I did find this weird thing on the 15th… Apparently, it was a newly hatched worm and left this behind… So, why didn’t I notice this before it hatched when I was checking for worms before? Hmmm… Because it wasn’t there…


Darn things!!!


Hmmm… Then I noticed these, ummm, eggs (?) around the stem of a tomato. There is nothing online to suggest whodunit… The moths DO NOT lay eggs around tomato stems… Sometimes other critters, like ants, move eggs and aphids to parts or plants they want to feed on but aren’t capable unless they get something else to do the work… Then they feed off of their secretions or juice…

I only found a few of the hornworms on one occasion, when I didn’t have the camera and haven’t noticed any since. After picking off the larger armyworms on two occasions I have only found small ones on the leaves so no additional damage has been caused. Sometimes I check and find no worms at all. SO, hopefully, I have them in check now. WHEW! 🙂


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

With the ‘Mortgage Lifter’, many of the tomatoes appear to be so heavy the stem starts to pull away from the fruit. This is a good place for the small armyworms, or whatever they are, to start feeding on the tomatoes. When they are very small they can’t chew a hole very well…


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ vine dying on July 17…

I noticed this issue with the ‘Mortgage Lifter’… Half of the plant was dying because…


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20…

The weight of the vine split where the two branches join. SOOOOO, I learned a lesson and I am correcting the problem. When I tied the string at the post and wrapped it around the vine,  I then tied the other end in the center between the posts. As the fruit grew and the vine became heavier, the top string was pulled down causing the branch to break. The solution is to tighten the string wrapped around the vine and move it closer to the post. OH, and don’t use balers twine around the stems… I have been replacing some of the twine with strips of material where I have noticed the twine cutting into the stems. That has only been a problem with a few plants. Some people keep only one main stem and just tie it to the post which also eliminates this issue. You can use cages BUT you would certainly have to use one that is very sturdy… My neighbor in Mississippi tied his tomatoes to cattle panels…


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ cluster bending the stem…

Besides that one branch splitting, several clusters of ‘Mortgage Lifter’ are so heavy the stems bearing the fruit are also bending. As long as the stems don’t break I think it will be OK.



I attempted to support one of the clusters and the stem broke…


Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ nearly touching the ground…

I know it sounds like I am picking on the ‘Mortgage Lifter’ but I am just pointing out some of the issues I am having with the tomatoes (besides the worms). The cluster in the above photo is close to the ground and is so heavy it is almost touching the mulch. If it weren’t for the hay, it would be sitting on the ground soon.

SOOOO, the issue with the ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is that the vines and stems are not strong enough to support the weight of the fruit.



Coleomegilla maculata (Spotted Lady Beetle) on 7-16-20.

With all the different bugs and worms lurking about in the garden it makes you wonder who are friends or enemies. There are quite a few Lady Bugs which are also called Lady Bird Beetles. Well, pretty much everyone I know calls them Lady Bugs but I suppose they are technically supposed to be called Lady Bird Beetles… ANYWAY, I saw this strange beetle on a tomato that wasn’t one of them or quite like any other I had seen before. Before I decided to smash it or not, I thought I better get a photo and identify it. Luckily, it turned out to be a friend called Coleomegilla maculata commonly known as the Spotted Lady Beetle. There are over 6,000 species in the Lady Beetle family Coccinellidae found throughout most of the world… 


Coelostathma discopunctana (Batman Moth) ?, 7-18-20.

I found this tiny moth while scouting for worms on a tomato leaf on July 18. I didn’t have the camera so I went back to the house to get it… I was very curious about this tiny moth and wondered what damage its caterpillars might do. Unfortunately, even though I kind of have it identified, there isn’t much online about it. In fact, the photos of this species on iNaturalist show moths of many colors that are likely members of other genera and species… There were several other suggestions, as far as what it could be, with all the same issues. Many photos of varied colored moths look the same as the photos of other species. So, whether it is a Coelostathma discopunctana (Batman Moth) for sure I have no clue… I have to say perhaps the species is variable but you know how I dislike using that word… Species in the bug world are like the plant world. Many species have been named that are synonymous with other species…


Murgantia histrionica (Harlequin Bug) on 7-18-20.

Then I found this critter on a kale leaf that sort of posed but seemed a little hesitant to be photographed. It was like it was unsure if I would kill it or leave it alone. I told it I wouldn’t kill him unless I knew for sure if he was a friend or foe. With that, he became even more nervous… Sorry, the photos are somewhat blurry. I think the bug was shaking. 🙂


Murgantia histrionica (Harlequin Bug) on 7-18-20.

It seemed to think I was getting a bit nosy and refused to show me his mouth. He turned around and decided it was time to leave. After I went to the house and uploaded the photo I found out it was the dreaded Harlequin Bug (Murgantia histrionica). OK, so I have heard of that one, and although I have seen them before I didn’t know what they were. Now that I do for sure… I also found out they especially like cabbage, kale, and other brassicas. Hmmm… So, along with the worms, there are these. In the past few days, the kale has been ripped to shreds, and now not even the new leaves can be eaten…

During the day so many critters are hiding from the heat and various predators like birds and wasps. They come out at night when it is cooler and they can feed in a little more peace… It is no telling what all lurks around in the dark of night in the garden. Hmmm… Maybe I should go out at 2 AM with the flash lght. Maybe then I will see who is eating what and whom…



Hopefully, the next post will be about the watermelons. I have been working on it off and on for a few weeks but I get busy with this and that and the post gets delayed. I did harvest some of the ‘Incredible’ sweet corn, which I didn’t photograph. I picked about 50 ears and a few were really nice and the others just so so. Even though the silk was brown and appeared ready, some of the cobs weren’t as plump as they could have been… Maybe I was just anxious… Anyway, I will try and wait a little longer for the next picking even though the silk is brown enough. Maybe the ears will get a little plumper. I know you are supposed to peel back some of the cover leaves (or whatever you call them) to check the kernels and milk, which I did on few earlier. But, then the bugs get inside which eat the corn. So, better I just “feel” before picking without being overly anxious…

OH, one more thing… Maybe two.

The Okra ‘Jing Orange’ has been budding for over a week and the plants have really taken off. They like it hot!


While I was finishing up this post I could hear it thundering. I took this photo when I went out to get a current photo of the Okra buds. I decided I would take ore feed and water to the chickens and by the time I got to the house, it was raining. THANK GOODNESS!!!

Until next time, be safe, stay positive and well, always be thankful, and GET DIRTY and SWEAT!

What Is Lurking On My Kale?

Kale on 7-10-2020.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. The garden is doing GREAT and I must say the tomatoes are the best I have ever grown. I think I say that every time I write or talk about them. I harvested my first ripe tomato on July 13, which was a Rutgers. It was very good. 🙂 I still like the new way I am pruning and hanging them up and I also think the mulch has made a big difference. BUT, this post is about the kale so I better stop rambling. I started this post on July 7 and have updated the draft 18 times…

Once you start seeing the Small Cabbage White Butterflies flying around your kale, you know you will start seeing their larvae soon. This year I noticed three newcomers to the table… I a sure they have been here in the past but I didn’t see any. Depending on what time of the day it is, you may or may not see them, but you will see where they have been…

I did learn a new word while I was writing this post… Crucifers… In botany, it refers to plants whose flowers have four petals. I would have thought the information would say the worms in this post prefer members of the Brassicaceae Family, instead, they say they prefer crucifers. Hmmm… Well, that may be true because brassicas are apparently crucifers. I just never saw that word used before but I don’t get out much… 🙂


Pieris rapae (Cabbage White Butterfly) larvae.

Pieris rapae (Cabbage White Butterfly)

Interestingly enough, most of the butterflies in the garden are Pieris rapae also known as the Cabbage White. It is called other names such as Small Cabbage White, Cabbage Butterfly, or White Butterfly. It is a member of the white and yellows family Pieridae which consists of about 76 genera and 1,100 species mainly from tropical Africa and Asia. This species is found all across Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It was “accidentally” introduced into Quebec, Canada in the 1860’s and has now spread across North America… 


Pieris rapae (Cabbage White Butterfly) larvae.

Most of the worms I find are just sitting there doing nothing but I found this one munching away…


Trichoplusia ni (Cabbage Looper Moth) larvae.

Trichoplusia ni (Cabbage Looper Moth)

I have seen this worm for many years and I always thought it was the larvae of the Cabbage White Butterfly. BUT, I have learned the error of my thinking. Do you see the way it arches its back? That means it is a lopper similar to inchworms (which are in a different family). Thanks to INaturalist, I found out these critters are the larvae of Trichoplusia ni, commonly known as the Cabbage Looper Moth. I have not seen any of the adults in the garden, but I have seen similar looking moths elsewhere. These caterpillars are called loopers because they don’t have the same amount of legs (or prolegs) as most other caterpillars. They only have 2-3 pairs on the hind end instead of the normal 5 pairs. When they crawl, they clasp with their front legs then draw up the hind end then clasp with the hind legs (prolegs). Then they reach out and grab with their front legs again. This gait is called looping because it arches it back into a loop when crawling.

I thought it was funny how they could be lying flat on the underside of a leaf until I started looking at it and taking photos. Then they would arch their back like they were trying to scare me off.

One very interesting thing about the adult is that they are migratory and are found across North America and Eurasia. According to information, over 160 plants can serve as hosts for this species but “crucifers” are preferred


Evergestis rimosalis (Cross-Striped Cabbageworm Moth).

Evergestis rimosalis (Cross-Striped Cabbageworm Moth)

This is the first year I have seen this critter but it doesn’t mean they haven’t always been around. Certain times of the day you may see no worms of any kind anywhere. This colorful member of the family Crambidae inhabits most of the eastern portion of the United States and can be found on all types of brassicas. The adult is a brownish moth and I have not seen any of them in the garden… I kind of think they do most of the damage to the kale which leads me to believe they have been here before and I just didn’t notice them. I always wondered how could so few very small cabbage worms do so much damage now I know… 


Cuerna costalis (Lateral-Lined Sharpshooter).

Cuerna costalis (Lateral-Lined Sharpshooter)

This strange little critter is a member of the leafhopper family Cicadellidae with 26 species in the genus and is a North American native. I have seen a few of these on the kale although it is not necessarily on their menu. Although kale is not on the list, turnips, another member of the Brassicaceae family, is. I did see more on the okra today but I can’t tell what they are doing. They are odd critters for sure… They normally produce two generations per year and adults overwinter in grass and other dead plant material. 

In numbers, leafhoppers can cause serious damage in a variety of ways. Several species of this genus are believed to be vectors of a few plant diseases. C. costalis is thought to be a vector of Pierce’s Disease Virus of grapes (in Georgia).


Conocephalus strictus (Straight-Lanced Meadow Katydid).

Conocephalus strictus (Straight-Lanced Meadow Katydid)

I always thought this critter was some kind of grasshopper, but when I uploaded the image on iNaturalist it said it was a Straight-Lanced Meadow Katydid (Conocephalus strictus). Information says this species normally feeds on grass but here it is on the kale… I couldn’t get a good photo because this guy, or gal, was a bit photo shy and was about ready to jump. I wonder if it made that hole?

I see a lot of BIG katydids here that I haven’t photographed to get a positive ID. I thought a katydid was a katydid but apparently not… There are several species found worldwide that look a lot alike. 


Pieris rapae (Cabbage White Butterfly).

When I work in the garden in the early evening the butterflies and worms seem to be hiding. I was working in the watermelons when I spotted this Cabbage White Butterfly flying around the kale. SO, I ran to where it was to get a photo. It landed under a kale leaf then flew around a bit more but went back to the same spot. It did this several times before it finally decided to stay put. I guess this is where it will spend the night…


Crioceris duodecimpunctata (Spotted Asparagus Beetle) larvae.

Crioceris duodecimpunctata (Spotted Asparagus Beetle)

I have been noticing these strange varmints on the Asparagus. One day I stopped briefly to look at one and it appeared almost slug-like. I was busy so I went on about my business and it was happy about that. I couldn’t see where it was doing any damage. Then later when I had the camera and magnifying glass I had a closer look. I touched it and then it did something strange… It pooped. I took the best photo I could, but these guys are VERY SMALL. I uploaded the photo on iNaturalist and it suggested Crioceris duodecimpunctata commonly known as the Spotted Asparagus Beetle. I have no idea how to pronounce the scientific name because Dave’s Garden didn’t have a pronunciation for it. Maybe cry-OH-ser-is DOO-dec-im punct-ata. 🙂 I think I will call it Cryogenus dudepooper. I didn’t see any adults on the Asparagus, but Sunday afternoon I was walking in the yard and this small reddish-orange beetle with black spots landed on my hand. It said, “Are you looking for me?” I told him I wasn’t at the moment because I didn’t have the camera. I asked him if he was lost then he flew off. It was a male because the females are a different color.

According to what I read, the larvae of the Spotted Asparagus Beetle only feeds on the berries. Well, they are going to get hungry because there are no berries on the asparagus at the moment… A few plants are just now beginning to flower… Apparently, most are males that were too small to harvest. I have been getting a few nice spears all summer…


Jade wanted outside but I was a little reluctant to just let her out of the house when I was going to be in the garden. Jade is my son’s cat and he left her behind (and his tomcat) when he and Chris moved out. Jade has no claws so she stays in the house. So, since she wanted out, I carried her all the way to the garden (second time). She had loads of fun exploring and never ventured out of the garden. She seemed to like chasing the Cabbage White Butterflies so they couldn’t land…

I have some catching up to do. I seem to take photos every day but do nothing with them. I have to post about the watermelons and how and why I prune them. Then, today, which is not today by the time I get this post published, I found the tomatoes are under attack by THREE preditors… I noticed a few plants with whiteflies a couple of days ago which need to be sprayed with the neem oil. I hadn’t noticed any hornworms or any damage from them and I check pretty much every day.  I did notice a few tomatoes with small holes but I couldn’t find the culprit. THEN, this afternoon (Tuesday) I found a worm I had not seen before. Next thing I knew, I found several. Some were quite large and they were boring holes in the tomatoes and climbing inside… GEEZ! I did have my camera so I have photos. Then, a few hours later, I went back and found a few more as well as SEVERAL hornworms. That time I didn’t have the camera… What I want to know is how can there be no hornworms then they just suddenly appear? SO, I will be posting about the tomatoes as well.

SO, until next time, be safe and well, stay positive, be thankful, and GET DIRTY!