Nature Trail Tour - June, 2007
Take a virtual tour of the Sibley Nature Tour!
[Additional Tours: February, 2006 | April, 2006 | May, 2006 | July, 2006 | August, 2006 | October, 2006 | January, 2007 | February, 2007 | April, 2007 | May, 2007]
Chris Cherry, Sibley Nature Center volunteer, retired Midland Police Department officer and tracker extraordinaire, turned his incredible eye for detail to the Sibley Nature trail again. Many of his photographs tell a story - he captures insects at a crucial moment, or records the moment seed releases from a plant, for example. He often reveals a unique perspective of a common plant, and he always amazes!
June is a time for seeds.
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Around the pond are black willows and coyote willows. In June the trees release seed. Chris first examined the seedpods and found one that had opened and the seed had dispersed, with a tiny bit of fluff left behind.
The abundant rain of 2007 kept flowers blooming well into June. Chris took a very close look at some!
Cowpen daisy often grows in disturbed soil. Some people hang it from the eaves of their house as a lightning deterrent - type in cowpen daisy in the website search engine to find out who does so, and why.
Hierba de hormiga - the herb of the ants, is a member of the four-o-clock family, but it blooms in the morning. Its sticky leaves often have sand particles on it - but Sibley staff have yet to learn how it got its name.
The bud of a tasajillo appears to wait for ideal conditions before it opens - a perfect combination of temperature and humidity. Sibley director Burr Williams has found the cactus covered with blossoms at different times of day, and then returned several hours later to find the blossoms closed. What is its pollinator?
Salt cedar, another exotic, spread across West Texas in the 1980s. It was brought to the United States as an ornamental tree but escaped to infest thousands of miles of riparian habitat. Now the government and landowners spend millions to eradicate the pest. But - it is pretty when it blooms! (And it is often a wonderful insect attractant when blooming!)
Chris realized that the wet year had allowed a tremendous insect and arthropod diversity to occur. Do the eggs of some species of insects only hatch after repeated wettings by rain - only emerging if wetted 5 or 10 times? His careful observations have inspired the Sibley staff to embark on a long term project of recording the pollinators of the region.
The underneath side of a purple thistle blossom is also a detailed filagree. An ant has come to search for extra-floral nectaries ( places where plants ooze a sweet sap to attract ants for protection from parasitical insects that endanger the seeds of the species.) To the left is a tiny parasitic wasp, also awaiting its target - which may be the larvae of a seed beetle, or a caterpillar that specializes in thistle leaves.
So much is unknown to science! And even if someone has observed the wasp and its actions, the retrieval of that scientific data is difficult - it is hidden away in a journal that only specialists read.
Trompillo berries are used to make asadero cheese. Gardeners hate the species because it is impossible to kill. This lady bug wandered all over the bloom and the adjoining buds, but never became aware of the strange little orangish triangle shaped bug.
Aphids can become plentiful in the rainy times. Aphids reproduce rapidly, sometimes faster than their predators and parasites do. Despite the barbs and toxicity of a thistle leaf, these red aphids seem fat and sassy!
Doveweed's gray mounds are a common site along the trail. Pygmy blue butterflies lay eggs on plants of other families, but will nectar on anything. Pygmy blues are the smallest butterfly species in North America - this one would fit on the fingernail of your pinkie finger.
A number of species of caterpillars can emit a "silkline" to lower itself from its food plant to the ground where it will pupate. Do they also use a silkline to travel from one plant to another, or one part of a plant to another?
Two harvester ants carried a third. Many species of ants have a "graveyard" near their nest - but this ant might not have been going there! Sometimes one ant will carry another as if to give it a rest!