Mystery Flower Revealed

By Carolyn Henderson

The mystery flower at the El Camino Real Texas Master Naturalist Wildscape that we shared a picture of a few days ago revealed itself one week later at the second weekend of club members working very hard to spread native Texas wildflowers. It is a Purple Coneflower

The flower in its mystery state

This particular Purple Coneflower is somewhat unique in that it is a very late bloomer, its bloom is unusually large, and no one knows how it got there. It has several other buds that I hope get to open up before a hard freeze. 

Now it looks familiar!

If you’d like to see the mystery (now revealed) flower, the ERCTMN members will be holding one more weekend of giving free native Texas Wildflowers to anyone who’d like some. Pots to put them in when they are dug up ran out last weekend, so bring something to put them in to take home. The Wildscape is on County Road 334 at the Bird and Bee Farm

Echinacea purpurea

The only plant that doesn’t have extras is the Purple Coneflower. Cultivator Catherine Johnson hopes to collect seeds from it to share next spring. 

What’s Blooming at the Wildscape?

by Carolyn Henderson

The Bird and Bee Farm Wildscape continues to produce butterfly- and bee-attracting blooms this November and people to take a look at what our chapter does there.

Monarch on white butterfly bush

The purple and white Butterfly Bushes are still in bloom as is the Tropical Sage. Those two seem to be the favorites of the pollinating crowd right now. Tropical Milkweed is also in bloom, but it’s not desired by either butterflies or bees of the three varieties there last Saturday. Indian Blankets, roses, Turks Cap of two colors, lantana, and a mystery bloom are also putting out lots of flowers. See the picture of the mystery bloom and take a guess.

Catherine Johnson, main manager of the Wildscape, has organized plant give-aways to anyone who wants to prep their own butterfly flower bed for next spring. It started last Saturday and will continue through Saturday, November 13, and Saturday, November 20. Hours are 9 to 12. Several people from out of town went home with Texas native plants for their gardens last Saturday. The Wildscape is on FM 334 between Milano and Rockdale.

If you don’t want to plant them, you can help dig them up and distribute them to patrons for service hours.

Rio Grande turkeys, guinea fowl, and a hen or two.

Enjoy the flowers while helping the pollinators spring through fall next year.

Report from the 2021 Annual Meeting

by Carolyn Henderson

Linda Jo Conn received special recognition Saturday night at the annual meeting of Texas Master Naturalists in Dallas/Ft Worth. She has reached a milestone of 4,000 service hours. She was in very tight company. Only one other statewide member qualified. 

Congratulations to Linda Jo

The award included a dragonfly pin of brushed gold with a ruby in the center and a special pin and certificate from the office of the President of the United States. 

The Presidential pin

In other categories, Eric Neubauer received recognition for reaching 250 service hours. All who received initial certification from the class of 2020 were also recognized (there were many statewide).

Eric stands as his name is called.

Larry Kocian was recognized for “109!” hours of service in the Texas Water Specialist program with TPWD. Kocian and Sandra Dworaczyk were both given recertification this year. 

Good job!

I attended a 3-hour session on this program, and it looks particularly interesting. If we can get a group of three interested, they can take the class and gain certification. I have a connection to it if anyone is interested. If you’d like to find out more information, contact Melissa Felty, conservation education manager for TPWD, at Conservation Edu@tpwd.gov or go to the web site. The class counts as advanced training hours (8) and the service, which can be education, water testing, CoCoRaHs precipitation measuring, and other things, count as service hours for Texas Master Naturalist. 

Yay for our folks!

The meeting had some very educational sessions. I went from water conservation, to wildscaping in the shade, to Chronic Wasting Disease, to iNaturalist advanced training, to Tarantula sex with live tarantulas in one day. That last one was particularly amusing to me, Eric, and the rest of the packed class. A few members gave play-by-play commentary. My favorite occurred on Saturday. It was an excellent program given by a fellow iNaturalist from the Blackland Prairie chapter on identifying trees. I now have a brochure to carry with me. 

Award recipients

The meeting was educational, entertaining, and a great place to meet other TMNs. I came away with some good ideas for our chapter. 

Oh, and by the way, the new TMN pin for recertification in 2022 is the Lightning Whelk.

Shades of Purple

by Carolyn Henderson

Colorful blooms are bursting out all over at the Bird and Bee Farm Wildscape. Whatever your favorite color might be, it’s in there. 

Passionflower

Shades of purple are particularly abundant. They range from the bright Mock Vervain purple to the pale bluish-lavender of  Palmleaf Mists. There is a specimen of just about everything in between. I’ve included seven different flowers that are classified as “purple”. And all of them are native to Texas. They can grow in sand and blackland and most of them don’t need much rain. 

Garden cosmos

If purple is not your shade, reds, oranges, yellows, and whites are also broadly represented.  I encourage you to come and see all the colors. There are plenty of butterflies and bees to watch, too. They are particularly fond of most of these flowers. 

You can plot next year’s garden from here. And often times there are free samples to take home. Our chapter will be hosting Girl Scouts on July 17 in the morning, at the Wildscape. It’s a good time to go check out the place for yourself. 

Ten Minutes with a Tree

by Carolyn Henderson

On a hot, humid day this week, I ventured out in the early evening to see what I could find to post on iNaturalist. Because of the aforementioned humid heat, I didn’t go far. I decided to peruse a Texas Ash tree in my backyard. This tree took a hard hit from the freeze earlier this year, and I am doubtful it will survive, but nature seems to think otherwise. I spent 10 minutes looking over the tree and found nine species on it. 

Butterflies, spiders and bugs were all over it. I first happened upon a live Superb Dog-day Cicada before it molted from those prehistoric looking shells they leave attached to everything. There were two shells and a live one that I think was trying to get out of it’s shell. It succeeded. I checked back the next day, and the shell was attached to a leaf with out the Cicada in it. It had a little white thing attached to it pre-shedding (molting?) and post-shedding that the other two shells didn’t have on them. These are the cicadas we get every year in Central Texas. I haven’t seen one of the 17 year versions. 

Cicada

Next, I found two types of beetles and an ant hanging out together. I took a picture of the small, brown stink bug and got a larger Green Beetle and ant with it. The smaller brown beetle was identified as a Southern Green Stink Bug on iNat. I didn’t attempt to identify the type of ant. I thought the Green Beetle was a leaf when I took the picture. I also found a Dock Bug (per the closest thing I could find that looked like in on iNat). It could be a juvenile leaf-legged beetle. These look very prehistoric. The armor clad look makes me think of ancient Samurai warriors. Another type of beetle-looking bug was also abundant. It is identified as a Acanthocephala terminalis on iNat.

On that same tree, were several Seven-spotted Lady Beetles, Hackberry Emperors, and Garden Orbweavers. The Hackberry Emperors camouflage well when on the bark of the tree with their wings up. That’s nine different species cohabitating on one tree in close proximity to each other. 

In a nearby bush, I found a Mealybug Destroyer with it’s children?. The “destroyer” name seems inappropriate for the small, fluffy white insect.  Note in the picture that there is a much larger one (compared to the others) and three very small ones. The three small ones are in a straight line behind the large one. There was a Texas Ironclad Beetle, a Flesh Fly, and a Condylostylus. The last one, a very colorful and small flying insect, is numerous and difficult to take a clear shot of because of it’s size. A better camera than I have is needed. 

A quick walk in my backyard produced a large array of nature to observe. And, I had more than one thing to post on iNat. If you are interested in joining iNaturalist, go to www.inaturalist.org  to get started. Linda Jo Conn is the go-to person for our club on anything iNat.

Hint: If you want your post verified quickly to get research grade status, post it of a bird, butterfly or bee/wasp. I’ve had my bird posts verified before I finish the post.