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Schaus' Swallowtail

June 18th, 2018

Schaus


A very wet native plant field trip this May resulted in my seeing two butterflies that were new to me, including the rare Schaus' swallowtail. This trip to Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park was one of many activities during the Florida Native Plant Society annual state conference.
Myself and two other attendees braved the early start of this year's rainy season to visit an area not open to the public. Our leader was Janice Duquesnei, Florida State Parks keys biologist.




Schaus' swallowtail is a rare and endangered butterfly is now only found on a couple of the upper Florida keys and in a few small sites nearby on the mainland. It has the distinction of being one of the first insects given federal protection, being listed as threatened in 1976, then as endangered in 1984.
Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus is a butterfly of tropical hardwood hammocks, historically from the greater Miami area to Lower Matecumbe Key and is one of the subspecies of the Island Swallowtail found throughout the West Indies.




These rare butterflies are similar to the closely related giant swallowtail, but the 'tails' of the Schaus' swallowtail have a yellow margin instead of a yellow spot. Sexes are similar to each other except that the males have yellow-tipped antennae and the females dark-tipped antennae. This species' common name is in honor of US entomologist & botanist William Schaus (1858-1942) who is known primarily for his contributions to the knowledge of Neotropical Lepidoptera (butterflies & moths).




The primary larval host plants of the Schaus' swallowtail are two members of the citrus family, sea torchwood and wild lime. For the past several years there have been habitat restoration projects in Biscayne National Park to remove invasive plants and replace them with torchwood and wild lime. In conjunction with these mostly volunteer projects, classroom curriculum has been created for Miami area schools to educate about Schaus' swallowtail and some of the other rare and endangered species and the importance of habitat in their survival. This curriculum included the creation of school gardens with host plants. You can read more about these projects at The Schaus Swallowtail Habitat Enhancement Project.




Sea torchwood is an occasional shrub or small tree of hammocks along the Florida east coast from Flagler County into the Keys. The range extends through the Caribbean including the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It is also found in Mexico and Belize.
Amyris elemifera is an evergreen with light brown bark growing up to about sixteen feet tall. The drooping leaves are opposite and compound with three to five leaflets. Leaflets are petiolate, ovate-lanceolate, one to three inches long with glandular dots on the top surface and pointed tips. The tiny white flowers are in branching clusters and the fruit is a small purple to black ovoid drupe with glandular dots that is less than a half inch long.
The species name is derived from the term elemi, referring to a fragrant resin used in essential oils and varnishes. The Mexican variety of elemi is made from torchwood, other parts of the world use different trees to make their elemi. Amyris elemifera is also the larval host plant for the Bahamian swallowtail.




Wild lime is a frequent evergreen shrub or small tree of hammocks in the central and south Florida peninsula and the Keys. The range includes Texas, the West Indies and Mexico.
One of the most distinguishing traits of wild lime is the winged rachis on the alternate compound leaves. There are seven to nine small leaflets that are each less than one and a quarter inches long and less than three-quarters inches wide with crenate margins on at least the upper half of the leaflet. The yellow-green flowers are very small and appear in the spring. The fruit is a shiny black seed in a brownish husk. Zanthoxylum fagara is also a larval host plant for the giant swallowtail.




The other butterfly seen on that field trip new to me was the Julia butterfly. Dryas iulia var. largo is one of Florida's longwing butterlfies along with the gulf fritillary and the state butterfly, zebra longwing.




Paul Rebmann
June 18, 2018

Sweet Acacia

May 2nd, 2018

Sweet Acacia


Sweet acacia is a native shrub to small tree of the southern-most band of states from Florida and Georgia west into California. It is closely related to the iconic trees of the African savanna landscapes, including the umbrella thorn acacia.


For a while we had an acacia tree in our yard that after a very slow start had grown from a seedling to about ten feet tall. However it did not survive being relocated to make way for a new septic system.


Until recent reclassifications Acacia was the largest genera in the pea family with about 1500 species worldwide. The greatest number of species – roughly 900 - occur in Australia, and those native to that continent are the ones that retained the genus name Acacia. Most of the Florida natives were moved to the genus Vachellia, including sweet acacia, which changed from Acacia farnesiana to Vachellia farnesiana farnesiana. Many of the African native acacias are now Vachellia or Sengalia.


In Florida sweet acacias are mostly found on shell middens, coastal hammocks, pinelands and disturbed sites, more frequently in the southern peninsula. They are usually eight to 20 feet tall and the many branching trunks can make them six to ten feet wide.


Sweet Acacia zig-zags and thorns


The zig-zag branches have whitish thorns that are actually spinescent stipules. Stipules are pairs of appendages that are at the base of many leaf stems, but are more frequently very small and leaf-like.


Sweet Acacia leaves


The alternate leaves are bipinnately compound with each leaf divided into two to six pairs of pinnae, each of which has ten to 25 pairs of tiny linear leaflets. This gives the plant an appearance similar to a mimosa and in fact Carl Linnaeus first classified sweet acacia as Mimosa farnesiana in 1753.


Sweet Acacia inflorescence


Flowers are a globular cluster of yellow stamens 3/8 - 1/2 inch in diameter appearing at the end of not quite inch long stalks.


Sweet Acacia stamens close-up


Acacia is derived from the Greek word akis, meaning a point or barb. Vachellia is named in honor of George Harvey Vachell (1789-1839) who collected plants in China while there serving as a chaplain to the British East India Company. The specific name farnesiana is in honor of Italian Odoardo Farnese (1573–1626) whose family maintained a private botanical garden in Rome and imported these trees from the Caribbean. Sweet acacia was used to make perfume and is still grown in southern France for that purpose.


Sweet acacia is a larval host plant for the Ammon blue (Cyclargus ammon) and nickerbean blue - also known as the acacia blue - (Hemiargus ammon) butterflies, the latter now only known to occur on Big Pine Key. It is also a nectar food plant for red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) butterfly.


Paul Rebmann
May 2, 2018


Appalachian Trail Photography

April 3rd, 2018

Appalachian Trail Photography

Last fall as an important project at my day job was coming to a close, I mentioned to my friend Daniel that I had some vacation time I needed to take before the end of the year and we began discussing possible outdoor trips. Considering various kayaking and/or backpacking locations for what was looking like a mid-December trip, I sent an e-mail that included "I did have what is probably a crazy idea that we might want to hike the first stretch of the Appalachian Trail...". Daniel did not think that was so crazy and we proceeded our planning from there.

We both have done many backpacking trips, from overnight to a week, but had never been on the Appalachian Trail for more than a few miles. Having just turned 60 I thought it was about time that I did an AT section hike. Since it had been a number of years since either of us had been backpacking in the mountains and with the time of the year creating the possibility of seriously cold weather, snow and ice, gear and clothing selection took into consideration weight and likely cold hiking and camping conditions.

Following almost two months of planning, gear selection and stepped up physical training, we met at one of the campsites in the Three Forks area near where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Noontootla River. Noontootla Creek #1 was one of the photographs I made near camp the next morning before we headed off to drop off a cache of food along the trail and then to Neel Gap to start the hike.

It was very late in the day as we reached the highest peak of our hike, where we were treated to a beautiful View from Blood Mountain of the Blue Ridge. This is also the greatest elevation in the Apalachicola River watershed making Blood Mountain the highest source of water that reaches Florida. Amazing to think that rain falling on this remote north Georgia peak could be part of the fresh water essential to the oysters in Apalachicola Bay.

Purchase a 20.00" x 16.00" stretched canvas print of Paul Rebmann's View from Blood Mountain for the promotional price of $75
Sale ends at 5 pm Monday, Feb. 23.

Art Prints

After passing the historic rebuilt stone AT shelter, we descended down to a group of campsites where we stopped for the night just as the sun was setting.
Photography Prints
At the nearby water source, we met the first of several groups of through hikers nearing the end of their long journey on the AT.

A surprise to both of us was how many other hikers were also on the trail at this time of year. Of the several dozen people we saw during our trek, almost ten were finishing up hikes from Maine. Most of the times that I have been backpacking, I seldom see other people, and if I do it is usually only 1 or 2, or a single group. Hiking the AT is much more social than either Daniel or myself were used to.

The second day of hiking was a long one and included the View from Big Cedar Mountain along the way. That night was the only rain of the trip while we were snug in the bivies and mostly dry under the tarp.

A short day of hiking brought us to Gooch Gap were we camped on a long unused roadbed on the side of a hill near where we stashed supplies. The next morning was the only one where I got up before the sun � just barely - and captured Appalachian Sunrise.

Sell Art Online

Also that morning I photographed the small nearby streams making End of the Road Falls and Walden Creek Cascade.

Taking a break and refilling water bottles at Justus Creek also provided a photographic opportunity. This was the last water source until Hawk Mountain shelter, which we reached right around dusk, ending one of the longer days on the trail.

A short day of hiking allowed a side trek to Long Creek Falls and retrieval of my car at Neel Gap after selecting a campsite for our last two nights. Long Creek Falls Swoosh is a perspective looking down from a midpoint of the several cascades.

This final camp was several miles downstream from our first Three Forks camp. Here I made Noontootla Creek #2, Noontootla Creek #3 and Noontootla Flow and Swirl.

We drove up to the approach parking lot and hiked up to Springer Mountain then back down to Three Forks to finish our section hike. The View from Springer Mountain was particularly nice as we enjoyed our accomplishment at reaching the summit of the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. See the image at the head of this post, that is Daniel on the left and I am on the right.

On the last morning I made Noontootla Creek #4 before heading back home to Florida.

Paul Rebmann
Feb. 17, 2015

Soras, Rails, Coots and Gallinules

March 15th, 2018

Soras, Rails, Coots and Gallinules

One of the more frequently seen rails is the sora. These small, thin, chicken-like birds inhabit both freshwater and brackish marshes and other wet places throughout Florida in the winter. The winter range also extends along the coast of the southern half of the United States, the Caribbean and all of Mexico. Soras migrate at night to breeding areas in the northern half of the United States and much of Canada.

Sora

Soras have a thick, somewhat conical, stubby yellow bill and are mostly gray and brown with white edged feathers and greenish-yellow legs. The adults have a black face mask, that is paler in females and absent in juveniles. Soras (Porzana carolina) are also called Carolina Rails.

You have probably heard the phase 'thin as a rail', that comes from the shape of rails as can be seen in the photo of the sora below. This slenderness facilitates their movement between the marsh vegetation, such as reeds, mangrove trunks and pneumatophores, or other plants.

Sora

Another rail found in mangrove swamps and saltwater marshes of Florida, but more likely to be heard than seen is the clapper rail. They are larger than most other rails with a long slightly curved bill. Most of the body is mottled with the throat and belly smooth and drab. Birds along the Gulf Coast have some cinnamon coloring, especially on the belly while along the Atlantic coast birds tend to be grayer. They range along the east coast of the United States, Mexico and Central America plus the Caribbean.

Clapper Rail

The clapper rail is one of two large rails found in Florida, the other being the king rail of freshwater marshes, although these species may sometimes overlap in brackish marshes. Until 2014 clapper rails were considered to be a subspecies of Rallus longirostris but now named as a separate secies Rallus crepitans. Rallus longirostris is now the mangrove rail of South America. The western subspecies of California, Arizona, Nevada and the western coast of Mexico is now Ridgeway's rail, Rallus obsoletus. This new species is named for ornithologist and artist Robert Ridgeway who first described the California rail subspecies. Ridgeway worked at the United States National Museum (Smithsonian) where he served as Curator of Birds from 1869 to 1929.

Coot

Other members of the Rallidae family include coots and galliules, or moorhens. Coots are a small, dark duck-like bird lacking webbed feet with a conical bill similar to the gallinules and moorhens. The bills are white with a black band near the tip. They have red eyes and a deep red patch on the forehead, usually only noticeable at close range and/or good light. Coots (Fulica_americana) have a white stripe near their tail.

Coot

Coots are a common bird of freshwater wetlands year-round throughout much of the Florida peninsula and the panhandle in the winter. The range includes most of the United States, year-round or winter in the southern states, extending into the midwest and Canada during the summer.

Common Gallinules

Very similar to coots are the common gallinules. Also known as the Florida gallinule and until recently was more frequently called the common moorhen. Differentiated from coots by the white side body stripe, bright red faceplate and the 'candy corn' red beak with a light tip.

Common Gallinule

Gallinules have large feet for their size which allows them to walk on top of floating vegetation. Gallinula chloropus is a common bird of freshwater and brackish marshes, ponds, lakes and canals year-round throughout all of Florida. The year-round range includes much of Mexico and the southeastern gulf coast up into North Carolina. Also isolated areas of the southwestern United States. Migration and breeding in much of the eastern United States up to the southern Great Lakes.

Purple Gallinule

Less frequently seen is the purple gallinule. Porphyrio martinica is a tropical marsh bird that is a year-round resident of peninsular Florida, Brazil, northern areas of South America, and parts of Mexico. The summer range expands along the southeast United States coast from South Carolina to Mississippi, most of Louisiana and eastern Texas. Purple gallinules winter throughout much of Central America.

Purple Gallinule

Purple gallinules have a dark purple head, neck and underside and a green back. The relatively large feet and long toes allow this bird to walk on top of lily pads and other water vegetation. They have a mostly red beak with a light tip and a blue face shield above the beak.

These five birds are half of the Rallidae family occurring in North America, the other five all rails. Those are the yellow rail, black rail, Ridgeway's rail, king rail and Virginia rail.

Paul Rebmann
March 15, 2018

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

January 31st, 2018

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

One of the more common butterflies seen in Florida is the gulf fritillary. This is one of the longwing butterflies (Heliconiini tribe), a subgroup of the brush-footed butterfly family (Nymphalidae). Other longwings found in Florida include the state butterfly the zebra longwing and the Julia butterfly, found only in the southern part of the state.

View online purchase options for Gulf Fritillary on Elephantsfoot #2 by Paul Rebmann

The adult butterfly is mostly brownish-orange with black markings on the upperside. There are three white spots surrounded by black near the leading edge of the forewing from about the midpoint towards the base.

View online purchase options for Gulf Fritillary on Elephantsfoot by Paul Rebmann

The undersides of the wings are lighter, with the hindwings and tips of the forewings covered with silvery spots. Females are larger and paler than the males.

View online purchase options for Purple Passionflower #2 by Paul Rebmann

All of the longwings utilize passionflower vines exclusively for caterpillar host plants. There are about a dozen species of Passiflora found in Florida, half of them native. One of the most common is the Purple Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata.

View online purchase options for Gulf Fritillary on White Passionflower by Paul Rebmann

This gulf fritillary butterfly is nectaring on a white passionflower, a naturally occurring white form of Passiflora incarnata. The adult butterflies will feed on a variety of wildflowers, such as the tall elephantsfoot (Elephantopus elatus) in the photos above, the pollinator popular Spanish needles (Bidens alba), and many others.



The caterpillar is orange with rows of black spines. A patch of corkystem passionflower in our yard has become a little gulf fritillary nursery the past few years.
At the end of the larval stage, the caterpillar will attach the tail end somewhere, typically the stem of a passionflower vine, and begin the metamorphosis into the pupal stage forming a chrysalis.





The series of photos above shows: (1) the caterpillar just forming into the chrysalis, (2) a typical chrysalis during most of the about 11 day pupal stage and (3) about an hour before the butterfly emerged.



This video clip made from a series of photographs shows the newly emerged butterfly hanging on the exuvia (empty shell of the chrysalis) and performing the necessary unrolling and rolling of the proboscis to form the two halves together.



A gulf fritillary butterfly nectaring on Feay's Prairieclover. Note that it appears that the butterfly only has four legs. The two front legs are greatly reduced and held up against the body. They are covered with hairs, giving them the family name brush-footed butterflies, that act as sensory organs.

For more information about and photographs of gulf fritillaries, visit Wild Florida Photo.

Paul Rebmann
January 31, 2018

Mushrooms

December 5th, 2017

Mushrooms

Exploring nature can be fun and full of surprises, such as discovering one of the many varieties of mushrooms that are often found in the woods. The huge mushroom pictured at the top of this post was about a foot and a half across. and is called a Berkeley's Polypore. Virginia & I spotted it a couple of years ago along a May Prairie State Natural Area trail less than two miles from where I grew up in Manchester, Tennessee. This species is also called Stump Blossoms as they are often found at or near the base of hardwood trees.



The Mushroom in the Woods above was photographed near the trail on the lower portion of Jackrabbit Mountain in the Nantahala National Forest of North Carolina. This is possibly a Two-colored Bolete mushroom - Boletus bicolor - or more likely the similar Boletus pseudosensibilis. These are usually found from late June through October on the ground in oak woods throughout much of eastern North America.



This Goldstalk mushroom was photographed in the woods along the shore of Lake Chatuge in the Jackrabbit Mountain campground. Goldstalk mushrooms are found in eastern North America from Quebec to Florida, under oaks and other hardwoods. They are also called ornate-stalked bolete for the reticulate stem.



Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi that grow mostly underground. When the time is right, often after rains, the fungi send up the structure that develops and eventually releases the tiny spores that will spread and grow new fungi. These spore dispersal devices can take many forms, the more familiar being the typical 'toadstools' with gills or pores in the undersides of the caps. Another form includes puffballs like the Barometer Earthstar pictured above that release their spores when disturbed by animals or raindrops. There are other various shapes that exude odors that attract insects to spread their spores, such as in the stinkhorn family.



These aromatic mushrooms are often smelled before being seen. I have come across the Columned Stinkhorn on a number of occasions. These fungi have two to five reddish sponge-like columns growing from a white egg in the ground, the remnants of which can often be seen still attached around the base of the columns. These columns are fused at the top, forming a roof over the dark glebra, or spore mass, the source of the insect-attracting fetid odor.



Some of the smallest fungi I have come across are the Fluted Bird's Nests that I saw for the first time this year. They were growing out of the mulch in a residential yard in Lake Helen near where we evacuated during hurricane Irma. And last year as I was leaving town for the hurricane Matthew evacuation, was the first time that I ever saw a fairy ring.



A Fairy ring forms when a fungus growing underground sends up the fruiting bodies along its perimeter creating a circle of mushrooms. The particular species that I probably saw is frequently found in lawns or on golf courses, and the grass above the fungus is often a different shade than the surrounding vegetation. At least one of these common fairy rings is highly toxic and known as the vomiting mushroom.



These orange mushrooms grow in clusters on dead wood, either exposed or in the ground, appearing mostly in the fall in wooded areas east of the Rocky Mountains. The gills attach down the stem. Jack O'lantern mushrooms are reported to glow in the dark, with a faint greenish-blue light emanating from the gills beneath the cap.

For more information and images of these fungi and see all of the mushrooms posted at Wild Florida Photo, visit http://www.wildflphoto.com/fungi.

Paul Rebmann
December 5, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

October 9th, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

On August 21, 2017 a unique opportunity occurred for a vast number of North Americans to witness a total solar eclipse. The last total solar eclipse visible in North America was in 1991 when the path of totality passed over Mexico and before that in 1979 when the path traversed the northwestern United States and central Canada. The last time a total eclipse came through the southeastern US was in 1970. I had seen a partial solar eclipse shortly after I moved to Florida, probably the annular eclipse of May 30, 1984. Earlier this year Virginia said that we should go somewhere to see totality since Florida would only witness a partial eclipse and we made plans to do so.

Once we had decided to go, I knew that I would regret it if I did not at least try and get some photographs of this infrequent celestial event. In addition to our viewing glasses I obtained some solar filters for both my longest telephoto camera lens and small telescope. After originally intending to just go to South Carolina - the closest the path of totality came to Florida - we ended up in Clarksville, Tennessee.

View online purchase options for 2017 Solar Eclipse Series by Paul Rebmann

This image is a compilation of photographs made during the progress of the eclipse. Starting with the full sun about 25 minutes before the eclipse began, the series progresses through the increased occultation of the sun by the moon until finally reaching totality. The first image - showing the eclipse just starting with a tiny sliver missing from the sun - was taken an hour and 26 minutes before the last image which shows the corona during totality. Where we were totality lasted almost two and a half minutes, which was very nearly the maximum length of the eclipse anywhere along the path.

View online purchase options for Totality 2017 by Paul Rebmann

During totality we could see Venus, and several of my photographs showed Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, to the left of the sun.

View online purchase options for Eclipse Totality And Regulus by Paul Rebmann

One of the surprises in my photographs, and something that we did not notice during the event, were the solar flares that could be seen during totality.

View online purchase options for Total Eclipse Solar Flares by Paul Rebmann

Yes, the temperatures did drop, from miserably hot before the eclipse started to a much cooler fairly comfortable from a bit before to a little while after totality. As the eclipse progressed the light in the sky took on an odd cast reminiscent of the yellow sky after a severe late afternoon thunderstorm, having a similar visage although not the same color.

For those that did not experience totality, the next opportunity in North America will be in April of 2024. Parts of South America will be in the path of totality during eclipses coming up in 2019 & 2020 and in December 2021 a total eclipse with be visible along some of the coast of Antarctica.

Paul Rebmann
October 8, 2017

Life Cycle of the Spiderling Plume Moth

October 7th, 2017

Life Cycle of the Spiderling Plume Moth

The last week of July found me on most mornings observing and photographing the many spiderling plume moths that were flying around and perching on a patch of red spiderling plants in our yard. It was a fitting coincidence that this was also National Moth Week.

View online purchase options for Spiderling Plume Moth on Wineflower by Paul Rebmann

I had first seen and identified one of these moths four summers ago while photographing red spiderling plants, which are also called wineflower. The odd-looking thin sprawling plants that periodically appeared in the yard around the house are Boerhavia diffusa, a fact that I learned reading a Treasure Coast Natives blog post. Red spiderling is a member of the four o'clock family (Nyctaginaceae) of plants and closely related to bougainvillea, which has similar-looking but much larger flowers.

View online purchase options for Bougainvillea by Paul Rebmann

My moth week observations of these tiny plume moths – they have a wingspan of about a half inch – included all four main life cycle stages: eggs, larvae (caterpillar), pupa and adult.

Spiderling plume moths are tiny, with a wingspan of from an half to three-quarters of an inch. In flight they look like little tufts of down floating around in the air. At rest, they exhibit the classic plume moth 'T' shape of each wing bunched together and held perpendicular to the body. The wings are deeply divided, the forewings into two lobes and the hindwings three. A fringe of threadlike scales give the appearance of the wings being feathered, hence the name 'plume'. The legs have perpendicular thorns, most apparent on the long hind legs held along each side of the abdomen when at rest.



Published observations of these and related species recorded that eggs are laid on the tips of branches near the fruit. I saw eggs in this location and also on the bottom of one leaf. The caterpillars feed mostly on the unripe fruit of spiderling, but also on many plants in the four o'clock plant family. In south Florida the larvae will feed on the leaves of the rare Okenia hypogaea known as beach peanut.



Megalorhipida leucodactylus do not build cocoons, they simply pupate attached to the host plant and leave the cast skin of the larval stage (the exuvia) attached along the stem at the base of the pupa, which is about a third of an inch long.



In Florida spiderling plume moths have multiple broods throughout the year, but are mostly seen July though January.



Paul Rebmann
August 28, 2017

Sources of information about spiderling plume moths include :

bugguide.net

The Spiderling Plume Moth Megalorphida Leucodactylus (Fabricius) (Pterophoridae) in Florida and Texas by D. L. Matthews published in the Southern Lepidopterists' News Vol. 30 No. 4 (2008)

Observations of plume moths on North Andros Island, Bahamas, and notes on new records and species previously recorded from the Bahamas (Lepidoperta: Pterophoridae) Deborah L. Matthews, Jacqueline Y. Miller, Mark J. Simon, Gary Goss published in Insecta Mundi (6-15-2012)

Wildflowers and Pollinators

June 11th, 2017

Wildflowers and Pollinators

Recent declines in monarch butterfly migrations and problems with honey bee populations, particularly colony collapse disorder, have raised awareness about the importance of these and other pollinators. One week each June is designated National Pollinator Week, and this year it is June 19-25. National Pollinator Week was initiated and is managed by the Pollinator Partnership, which promotes events around the country. During one of these events I will be presenting a visual program of 'Wildflowers and Pollinators' at Tomoka State Park in Ormond Beach on Sat. June 17. Here are just a few of the images and subjects that will be included in that program.

View online purchase options fro Bee Fly on Roseling by Paul Rebmann

Many pollinators visit wildflowers to feed on the nectar, and indirectly spread the pollen from flower to flower and assisting in the plant's reproductive cycle. Some insects actually feed on pollen, as in the case of the female Poecilognathus Bee Fly seen here in the photo above and the video below on Florida Scrub Roseling, a member of the Spiderwort family of plants that these bee imitators favor.




View online purchase options for Green Metallic Bee by Paul Rebmann

Green metallic bees are very common in Florida and their opalescent green bodies can often be seen on and around many wildflowers. Here one is seen flying in front of some Coreopsis flowers, which are the official Florida state wildflower.

View online purchase options for Monarch on Asters by Paul Rebmann

Monarch butterflies make a remarkable multi-generational migration from much of the United States and southern Canada to Mexico and back. Some of these migrants pass through Florida, and some of those stay, particularly in South Florida to breed year-round. Monarchs require native milkweeds as host plants for the larval stage caterpillars, but the adults feed on the nectar of many wildlfowers. Above a monarch butterfly is seen on asters and below on another favorite of many pollinators, spotted beebalm, or horsemint.

Purchase Monarch on Spotted Beebalm by Paul Rebmann

The palamedes swallowtail is another butterfly with some interesting relationships. The palamedes is a primary pollinator of the Pine Lily, also known as Catesby's Lily. The primary host plants of this butterfly are red bay and swamp bay, trees that are currently threatened by Laurel wilt, a deadly disease spread by the invasive redbay ambrosia beetle. There is concern that the massive bay die-offs as a result of Laurel Wilt will affect the palamedes butterfly populations, and in turn, pine lily reproduction.

View online purchase options for Palamedes Swallowtail and Friends by Paul Rebmann

Thistle is another wildflower that is popular with many insects that serve as pollinators, as can be seen in these photographs. Above a palamedes swallowtail is seen on thistle with various other insects. Below a female black swallowtail butterfly feeds on purple thistle flowers with a gulf fritillary butterfly in the background and a pollen-laden blue metallic bee approaching.

View online purchase options for Thistle Pollinators - Large and Small by Paul Rebmann

Another wildflower visited by many pollinators, and an excellent landscaping choice for people wanting to attract this kind of wildlife, is Bidens alba, commonly called beggarticks or Spanish needles. Here we see a couple of the Florida state butterflies – Zebra longwings – with a Bidens alba flower.

View online purchase options for Zebra Longwings by Paul Rebmann

For more images like these and links to more information on these wildflowers and pollinators, visit the pollinators page at Wild Florida Photo.

Paul Rebmann
June 9, 2017

Life on the Dunes

May 2nd, 2017

Life on the Dunes

For the past several years Virginia and I have had marsh rabbits living in our 'front yard'. I was surprised to learn that they will inhabit the beach dunes since I had usually seen them in proximity to the intercoastal waterway.

View online purchase options for Marsh Rabbit on Dune by Paul Rebmann

Marsh rabbits can be found near freshwater marshes and estuarine areas throughout much of Florida with the range extending from the panhandle up the coastal plain into Virginia. Primarily nocturnal, they can often be seen foraging in the morning or early evening. The tails are smaller than cottontails and dark on the bottom. Also the ears are shorter and rounder on marsh rabbits.

Just the other day I discovered that they apparently like seaside goldenrod sprouts, as one of the patches in the yard was neatly trimmed at about two inches tall. A few days after hurricane Matthew passed by, we were pleased to see bunny tracks on the now flattened dune area proving that the marsh rabbits had survived the storm surge that had inundated the area were they are usually seen.

View online purchase options for Marsh Rabbit and Sea Grape by Paul Rebmann

Spring has brought a resurgence on the dunes, which through the winter mostly only had vegetation that I planted since the hurricane. The searocket has sprouted in dense patches from seeds buried in the sand or caught in the storm wrack that I had placed on the beach to catch the blowing sand in an attempt at beach rebuilding. The seaweed in the wrack also makes an excellent fertilizer for the searocket, a plant uniquely adapted to living in a dynamic environment.

View online purchase options for Searocket by Paul Rebmann

The name refers to the rocket-shaped fruits on this plant of beaches and dunes with various species found throughout the world. These rockets are two staged, each containing at least one seed. The lower stage remains on the plant to repopulate the same area, while the upper stage breaks off to be dispersed, often by water, to seed new areas. The name might also refer to this being a coastal member of the mustard family - Brassicaceae - that includes arugula or roquette.

View online purchase options for Searocket Two by Paul Rebmann

Searocket has small four-petaled white to lavender flowers. The plants are typically sprawling, with fleshy leaves that may be wavy edged or deeply lobed. There are two species in Florida, Cakile lanceolata occurring on both coasts, and Cakile edentula subspecies harperi on the east coast and up to the outer banks of North Carolina.

View online purchase options for Sea Rosemary by Paul Rebmann

Another plant of beach dunes and coastal thickets is Sea Rosemary, Heliotropium gnaphalodes. It is also known as Sea Lavender, a name it shares with a completely different plant, Limonium carolinianum of brackish marshes, salt flats, mangrove swamps and coastal strands.

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I purchased this sea rosemary at a native plant sale a week after hurricane Matthew and it is growing nicely.

View online purchase options for Sea Rosemary Flowers by Paul Rebmann

It is a Florida endangered plant that naturally occurs just south of Volusia County, from Brevard County down into the keys. The genus name refers to the form of the flowers that grow in an arc and appear to be arching towards the sun, like its relatives including scorpionstail.

View online purchase options for Scorpionstail by Paul Rebmann


Paul Rebmann
April 30, 2017

 

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