Tales From The Ditch…

Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well. We had more rain, up to 3 3/4″ through Thursday with more in the forecast. A few days ago I was trimming the ditch in front of what I always call the “other yard.” It is where my grandparent’s house was and where the garden is. Well, I didn’t plant the garden this year but that is beside the point. The part of the ditch in front of where the garden normally is can get a little wild. I can’t mow it with the riding mower because the ditch was cut too deep. I have mowed the front part with the riding mower in the past but it keeps getting hung up. Then I have to turn it off and pick it up and move it over. I can mow with the push mower, but my son finally moved out and he needed it for his yard. He hasn’t brought it back yet so I have to use the trimmer… Anyway, when I got to the mailbox I stopped dead in my tracks because of what showed up… Then I found more behind the mailbox. I continued trimming until the battery ran out of power then I went to the house to get the camera…

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-17.

I was pretty excited I found what I “thought” was Euphorbia dentata (Green Poinsetta) right in the ditch!

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-18.

Then I saw more behind the mailbox! Look how tall they are! It had been a while since I trimmed this part of the ditch, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised.

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-19.

There was fruit and what was left of the flowers. NICE!!!  I took quite a few photos and noticed something weird…

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-20.

A lot of the leaves are SPOTTED! Hmmm… It is normal for there to be some maroon tinting on the leaves, but SPOTS?!?!?! I thought only Euphorbia davidii has spots plus the leaves are shaped more like E. dentata… After uploading the photos on the computer and giving them a good look, I realized some of the leaves looked a little iffy… Then I did the drag and drop thing on iNaturalist and the top suggestion, actually the only suggestion, was Euphorbia davidii. GEEZ! That made me scratch my bald head! I wondered how in the heck could it figure that out from the first photo or even the second one? You can’t see spots. Honestly, I was wanting them to be Euphorbia dentata so I was trying to argue to prove my point. I have learned not to label the photos before I use iNaturalist because I think the algorithm can read… But, the more I wanted them to be E. dentata, the more I was beginning to see I was “possibly” mistaken. The leaves are somewhat more pointed than E. dentata, which are more bluntly pointed. Plus, the leaves of E. davidii are somewhat variable, more so than E. dentata.

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-21.

Look at this photo… I know I am new when it comes to Euphorbia davidii and E. dentata, but this is weird among plants… What was a cluster of flowers and fruit with a short pedicel separated into three and grew longer peduncles (flower stems). The flowers and fruit are on one side and the leaves are on the other. That is weird…

Apparently, Euphorbia dentata is a native of Argentina, northern Mexico, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. The species has moved all the way up to Idaho and all the way to the east coast and up into Canada. It normally is found hit and miss in a few counties, but it seems once it gets started… I have been trimming the ditch since 2013 (when I moved back here) and never saw it until now. Well, if I disregard the plant I found in the basement of the old foundation last year I identified as E. dentata. Now there is the huge colony along the park which I wrote about a couple of posts ago…

It was found in a couple of places in Europe 15 or so years ago and is considered an invasive weed in several countries there.

For now, Euphorbia davidii and E. dentata are neat plants to photograph and write about. Time will tell what happens in the future. Sometimes plants show up and then all of a sudden disappear. You just never know…

Apocynum cannabinum (Hemp Dogbane) in the ditch on 7-26-22, #901-7.

Here we go again! Of all the species on the farm, the Apocynum cannabinum (Hemp Dogbane) has definitely spread the quickest since I found the first plant in the hayfield in 2020. Oh, there are plenty of other plants with much larger numbers but they have been here forever. When the conditions are just right for several years in a row, they spread. Remember the Persicaria a few years ago when I identified seven species? They are still here but the colonies aren’t near as large. You never know what will come and go…

Honestly, I think I need to stop mentioning this species and taking their photos. I think it thinks I like it but too much of a good thing…

Ampelamus laevis (right) and Convolvulus arvensis (left) on 7-26-22

I remember many years ago when I was a kid morning glories would come up in the garden. They would twine up the sweet corn and anything else if allowed. I always liked their flowers. Here in the garden, they are always the first plants to come up within a day or so of tilling. One came up and climbed on the asparagus a few years ago, so I left it so I could get photos. Then I noticed a few climbing on the sweet corn, which I left as well. But, then they started blooming they were NOT morning glories… They turned out to be Ampelamus laevis commonly known as the Honey-Vine Climbing Milkweed. I could never get good photos of the flowers until now. I can now write a page for this species since I have more photos. 🙂

Ampelamus laevis (Honey-Vine Climbing Milkweed) on 7-26-22, #901-1.

They definitely have morning glory-looking leaves…

Ampelamus laevis (Honey-Vine Climbing Milkweed) on 7-26-22, #901-6.

But their flowers tell a different story…

Many websites are using the scientific name Cynanchum laeve, including iNaturalist with Ampelamus laevis as a synonym. I am sticking with what Plants of the World Online says for now.

Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) on 7-26-22, #901-9.

The other morning glory-looking vine is Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed). I first identified this species on a friend’s pasture in 2019. It has been growing in the ditch for a few years but I didn’t give it much thought. The flowers are either white to mostly pink…

Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) on 7-26-22, #901-13.

The underside of the flowers is somewhat strange. When I first saw their flowers on Kevin’s farm, they appeared to have pink stripes on the petals. I haven’t found a website that mentions this feature, but from the underside, the center of the petals seems to have a “thicker” stripe that are sometimes pink. In bright light, the pink color shines through to the upper surface. With this species, mostly single flowers appear on long peduncles produced from the leaf bracts. Another look-alike produces mostly doubles…

Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) on 7-26-22, #901-14.

From the above photo, you can see the calyx with five short sepals, the outer 3 being slightly shorter and narrower. Farther down the peduncle (flower stem) are a couple of bracts… These bracts fall off during the fruiting stage. In most species of plants, the bracts are part of the calyx…

I seem to be missing something…

Lathyrus latifolius (Bread-Leaved Pea/Everlasting Pea) on 7-26-22, #901-26.

Oh yeah! The sweet peas! Well, that’s what we always called them when I was a kid. The Lathyrus latifolius has been growing here since I was a kid, and even on the fence where I grew up. There is quite a patch of them growing in the area north of the chicken house in varying shaded or pink and white. This species is actually a European native that was imported as an ornamental. Other common names include Broad-Leaved Sweet Pea, Everlasting Pea, Wild Sweet Pea, Perennial Pea, Perennial Peavine, Everlasting Vetchling, and probably more.

The ditch is where a few of the daylilies also grow. They don’t normally produce many flowers, but like I mentioned in an earlier post, this has been a day lily year… Another patch in the shade and they rarely flower. There are A LOT of other species of “weeds” and grass in the ditch like the trumpet vine, Horse Nettle, etc. The ditch in front of the house has its own species, including Ruellia humilis (Wild Petunia).

I am not going to talk about the ditch in front of the pasture. It is a complete disaster. Well, there are some interesting plants there, too. For the most part, the sumac has gone mad with threats of a complete takeover. I guess it is doing that because of my threats…

Well, that’s it for now. I am still waiting for the Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) and the two asters to flower in the back of the farm to flower… It’s almost August, for crying out loud, and they haven’t a single bud yet! I think possibly the New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) I found by the front pond last year may have come back. It is another late bloomer. I have been looking for it all summer, but it appeared they didn’t come up. Last week, I think I finally spotted it. I didn’t notice it until the end of September last summer when it was blooming… Keep your fingers crossed!

Until next time, be safe, stay positive, and always be thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.