Habitats of the Llano Estacado
Photoessay – Shinoak-Covered Sanddunes (September, 2009)
Nathan Taylor’s family farms cotton west of Lamesa. In 2009 Nathan was 15 years old. He is homeschooled, and before or after lessons, or while he is working on the farm (hoeing or driving the tractor) he explores his homestead. His family’s house sits in the middle of shinoak covered sanddunes. His photography records the changing seasons, and through the year he discovered a number of organisms (both plants and animals) that had not been recorded in western Dawson County before his observations. In November 2009 he was elected Vice-President of the Llano Estacado Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.
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Broomrape is a parasitical plant. In gyppy soils it parasitizes Haploesthes greggi, or bluff daisy, but Sibley staff is not aware of what species it parasitizes in sandy soil. It has no chlorophyll.
A small caterpillar climbed on devil’s claw, but it is unknown if the hairs on the caterpillar are as sticky as the hairs on the plant.
Cochineal scale insects live on prickly pear and tasajillo cactus. The insects, when crushed in your fingers, stain them red. Aztecs grew prickly pear plantations that the Spanish took over, and after 100 years, the English developed their own plantations, which led to the English Army being known as redcoats.
A “puddle club” of sleepy orange butterflies gathered moisture from damp soil. Many species of butterflies exhibit this behavior.
Taxonomists keep switching these types of flowers back forth between the genera of dalea and petalostemum. This one is usually in the daleas...
...while this one is usually in the petalostemum, but without an up-to-the-minute list of the Latin names of plants, the Sibley staff remains confused.
Devil’s claws have beautiful blooms, and are kin to sesame.
This appears to be an amaranth that has been fasciated by bacteria. Fasciation occurs in many species of plants.
Frogfruit is usually found in clay soils.
A grasshopper showed up with an aberrant orange color. The rate of mutations in grasshopper coloration is probably quite low.
A small ground mantid scurried on the sand. These rarely get more than an inch and a half long. It is unknown how many species of the form are found on the Llano Estacado.
Tiny plant bugs hatched out of eggs on the tall species of wild four-o-clock.
A species of hornworm is found on shinoak. With more time, we may be able to list the species of hornworms (sphinx moths) found on the Llano Estacado, and what their preferred food plants are.
The gray spot on the horny toad is the parietal eye. It helps regulate hormones in the lizard.
A bright blue beetle, possibly a click beetle, was found in the shinoaks.
One shinoak, out of all of the ones on Nathan’s property was covered with white fuzz, that appeared to be a mixture of aphids and mealybugs. Malcolm McElvaney found the same phenomen in the Monahans Sand dunes, too.
Tiny crematogaster ants investigated a mesquite gall. Does it exude liquid while it is actively growing? Crematogaster ants harvest aphid and leafhopper honeydew and other plant saps.
Mimosa catclaw has sharp thorns on its seedpods.
Notice the hairy sepals on this morning glory.
A crab spider chowed down on a green-eyed moth.
Small brown puffball mushrooms formed a cluster.
Why is this beetle pupa partially eaten? Had a whiptail lizard been interrupted by Nathan as it fed on it? Or had a parasite emerged?
Queen’s delight is a member of the spurge family. One seedpod is still present, but another is gone. Had it fallen off, or been eaten, and if so, what by?
Sand rabbitbrush is easy to recognize by the fishscale appearance below the bloom.
Is this the endemic sand dune sedge? Someday we hope to find a sedge expert to help us identify it!
A box turtle exhibited a considerable amount of scarring on its plastron. Had Nathan’s dog chewed on it, or a coyote?
Sepulgids are common predators, but are harmless to humans.
Is this the sphinx moth from the caterpillar mentioned above?
What formed the tiny webbing on a bristlegrass seed stalk. Is it the work of “Microspiders” that never get big, or hatchling spiders beginning to grow?
What is this a feather to?
One of the climbing snapdragons exhibited two aberrant (mutated) blooms, but the rest of its blooms were normal.
This species of portulaca had not been noticed before in the region. It takes the keen eye of Nathan to spot such things. It is known as Portulaca halimoides.
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