Some oddballs…

I got a late start in the park this morning, and it was plenty hot and muggy by the time I arrived. The closest thing to excitement was watching a young-looking great blue heron fly in low from the west, headed for the pond. By the time I caught up, it was already settled in and busy fishing.

Huh. I didn’t even realize it had caught a fish, visible in the third image, until I got home and could look at the pictures on the big screen.

Meanwhile, by the river, a bunch more purple giant hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia), which may occasionally have white blossoms, has come up since I first tried to identify it back at the start of August. This morning it caught my I again because there were several silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus), who we’ve seen plenty of times before, busily feeding on it.

Nearby was yet another daisey-shaped yellow flower, but this one was a little unusual. The long stalk to the flower had no leaves, as most sunflower looking plants do. Instead, the leaves were huge, almost a foot long and grew straight out of the ground on their own short stems instead. This turns out to be prairie dock or prairie rosinweed (Silphium terebinthinaceum), a native “member of the Asteraceae family that includes sunflowers” and asters. 

The Pedia of Wik gives more details about this interesting variety: “The leaves are … oriented vertically and in a north-south direction, providing special adaptations for survival in the prairie climate. The combination of north-south and vertical arrangement seems to provide a mechanism for maintaining lower leaf temperatures at midday, thus conserving water. Additionally, this unique trait grants the plant better access to sunlight for photosynthesis.” Fancy! Furthermore, “this dicot also has a characteristically large taproot able to penetrate to depths of at least 14 feet (4 m) in search of the water table.” Holy Moly! A 14 foot tap root!

On the dirt pile in the middle parking lot, of all places, I finally found another flower-of-an-hour or bladder hibiscus (Hibiscus trionum), “an annual plant native to the Old World tropics and subtropics”, which we first saw a couple of weeks ago across the road from the pond, where it got clipped by the lawn more. Sadly, I still have not managed to catch one when it is fully open, even though I stopped by three times this morning. Instead, all I got were these tantalizing looks.

Finally, also growing from the same dirt pile is this curiosity: velvetleaf, Chinese jute, buttonweed, or Indian mallow (Abutilon theophrasti), which “has been grown in China since around 2000 BCE for its strong, jute-like bast fibre,” and “is considered a damaging weed to agricultural crops, especially corn and soybeans.”

And that’s a slow, late-August day in the park for ya.

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic

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