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, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

%d bloggers like this: