Friday, September 18, 2009

Walkingsticks and My Coffee

“There, done!” I thought, wiping the sweat from my face on my dingy t-shirt.

It was time for a pruning and cleanup in one small corner of the property, next to the plumeria. All that was left to do was put the pruned palm fronds in trash barrels for the garbage man. I can chip up any branches and prunings but the little chipper/shredder just can’t handle palm fronds. (Yes, I’ve found out the hard way, as the frond turns into a ball of fibers, stuck in the shredder. This event is accompanied by squeal of the shredder drive belt and the stench of burning rubber, usually followed by mumbled cursing as I try to get the fiber ball dislodged from the shredder drum.)

The Dachshund was sniffing around(as usual) happily rooting away in the debris pile I had just masterfully created when she let out an ear-splitting, gut wrenching squeal followed by a series of little dog yips…turned tail and came flying out of the pile heading for house.

“Now what did that stupid dog get into… centipede, scorpion…” I wondered as I peeled apart the formerly masterfully created pile. My sympathy level was a bit low for the dog being as she had just finished drinking all my iced coffee that I had set down, apparently at a convenient dachshund level. Getting near the bottom of the pile, on the outside edge I found the culprit…or should I say culprits.
An amorous pair of Two-Striped Walkingsticks (Anisomopha buprestoides) were sorta hiding atop a palm frond. A smaller male was as is common, perched atop the much larger female.These “devil’s darning needles” have the ability to squirt a strong- smelling defensive spray with awesome accuracy. As Twinkles the Dachshund (I didn’t name her, I’d have picked a manly dog name like Spike or Rex) found out, this is a painful irritating substance to mucous membranes (such as Dachshund noses).

I ran upstairs to check on the dog (snuffleing a bit but apparently unharmed), grabbed my camera and a new cup of iced coffee. Back out I went. Putting my coffee down, playing with camera adjustments, I set about making like a nature photographer and started snapping a few pix while muttering “That’s it, work it kids. The camera loves you…HEY… TWINKLES, GET OUT OF MY COFFEE!!!...stupid dog…sigh.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garden Blog Bloom Day - Sept.09

Hmmm... Bloom Day... I can do that.

This is a kind of new Plumeria to the area. The first Bridal Bouquet(Plumeria pudica) I recall seeing was planted about 5 or 6 years ago.
Variety names of Bougainvilla are suspect  but if I'm correct this is "Lady Mary Baring".
This single pink hibiscus is one of the old standards around the islands.
Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis) is considered a native to the Keys but honestly I have only found it in cultivated areas. Good salt tolerant ground cover.
Golden Thyrallis(Galphimia glauca) is a great shrub but a bit brittle. This 4'-6' plant is suprisingly Key Deer resisant but the iguanas tend to break the brittle branches.
Finally my Adenium obesum plants are a favorite. No critters mess with these guys. Perfect.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Butterfly Bounty Hunter

Glancing to my left through my dirt streaked truck window I spotted a black swallowtail butterfly cavorting about an orange pagoda flower.

“Aha, this is my chance.” I thought. I am notoriously bad at getting butterfly pix. Quickly pulling over, I stalked my winged prey, only to watch it fly gaily away in a westerly breeze as a diminishing looping silhouette against the blue sky.

“Sheesh, this is getting ridiculous”. My eye locked on the altitude gaining swallowtail, I took a few quick strides around the corner, emulating Dog the Bounty Hunter pursuing the stoned fugitive and crashed headlong into a brilliant yellow small tree. All thoughts of the swallowtail vanished as my trusty Canon instantly sprang up to my eye (well, sort of hovered in front of my face, LCD screen, ya know).

Tecoma stans , better known as Yellow Elder or Yellowbells or Trumpetbush or Ginger-thomas (this is why as a nurseryman I HATED common names) is a favorite plant of Liz’s.

This small tree, large shrub (take your pick but good luck trying to keep it to a single trunk) can reach 25’ and has sharply pointed, toothed , oval leaves with clusters of bell shaped yellow flowers. Boy that last description sure shows my botanical description is rusty. I promise I’ll work on that.

Spitting out a mouthful leaves I snapped a few pix and then strode purposefully back to my truck hoping knowone observed my little dance as I tried to disengage myself from this arborial attacker. Flash forward to editing my pix when I notice lo and behold I did indeed capture a long sought after butterfly image,sort of brown and plain, wings closed, kind of in focus and I of course have no earthly idea of what species it is, skipper, duskywing, hairstreak… who knows but the Bounty Hunter has his first apprehension. Butterflies…BE FOREWARNED…I’m comin’ after you.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stupid critters

What’s Bloomin’ – up high

The day started out calm enough. First I planned stopping at the Key West library which offered a pleasant surprise other than the usual good read…across the street is a pair of White Geiger (Cordia boissieri) trees also known as Texas Wild Olive.
This rather small tree attains a height of 15 to 20 feet. It bears clusters of white blooms hidden amongst the large heart shaped fuzzy leaves. Blooming is from early summer through late fall, not fussy about soil ph and grows from Zone 9a -11 Nice little tree. Now to get to reading that book.
What’s Bloomin’ – Native.

Back home on Big Pine Key I wandered the gardens when an explosion of flapping wings caused a ruckus in the Orange Geiger (Cordia sebestena) tree.

This unseemly behavior that nearly gave me heart failure this morning was a White-crowned pigeon leaving abruptly after getting a final snack before heading back to Cuba. Stupid bird.
The Geiger tree is named after Captain John H. Geiger of Key West, former owner of what is now known as the Audubon House. Very similar to the White Geiger tree it is far more common in the Keys and is consider a native.
What’s Crawlin’- crabs

The day settled back down along with my heart rate as I went about chores. I came around the corner by the pool when the Dachshund went ballistic nearly tripping me in her haste to engage the evil creature from “the hole”.
Again I’m startled and have to start yelling at the dog to “shutup and get back here”, all with absolutely no affect, for the creature from “the hole” is a side scuttleing, claw snappin’ Blue Land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi).

The recent heavy rains have flooded their burrows causing then to skitter across the roads waving their massive claws in a vain attempt to ward off the speeding black tire of death. Stupid crabs…Stupid dog.

That's it, see ya