Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Thing Weekly Challenge

West Odessa, Texas

My entry for this week's Two Things Weekly Challenge "Solid / Pattern"

KUDOS and THANKS to Janet for keeping us challenged.

September 2008


Monday, September 29, 2008

Dream shapes

Sand Lily seed pods
Down the street from me
West Odessa, Texas

I think sometimes that there is nothing that mankind has ever invented or dreamed that hasn't already been done in the universe.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Two Thing Weekly Challenge

Three views of new Autumn
Odessa, Texas

I sincerely hope Janet at DC Confidential doesn't fall out of her computer chair, but at long last I'm submitting some entries again for this week's Two Things Weekly Photo Challenge:
Blue, Green, and even -- gasp -- a third, Blue & Green.

I liked the beautiful simplicity of the challenge, and it inspired me to submit simple compositions.

Oh, how funny! I'm suddenly reminded of one of my all time favorite songs, "Simplicity is Beautiful" by electric-guitar-jammin' Juliana Hatfield.
Blues...soul...rock... country

Simple feeling...simple feeling
And that's it. That's the song. I can't find a good recording on the net for you to listen to, except this hour long dj mix that includes a nice selection of slow tempo songs, Hatfield's being the second to the last song. (I can't figure how to play just that song with Windows Media Player. Can you?)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wonderful Weekend

Donna stayed here for three days this past weekend. We went on five separate local photo hunts. Sometimes it's very true that there's no place like home.

Everything is confused at the moment. It is fall (Happy First Day of Fall, y'all), but with the recent rains we've had a lot of plants and critters taking another stab at spring-like behavior, blooming and mating and being very busy.

Here are my favorite compositions from the outings. All look happy, don't they?

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Four O'clock Somewhere

Transplant of Mom's Four O'clocks
First Bloom!

Mirabilis jalapa. The name mirabilis is from the Latin "wonderful." They are also commonly called "Marvel of Peru."

I'm so excited. A couple of months ago Mom shipped a box to Antigone and me full of four o'clocks that she thinned from her own garden.

Let me confess. I'm not always so good about taking care of plants, even as much as I love them. I do ok the first couple of weeks. After that, well, they are on their own.

Thank heaven the rains came at just the right time this year. They picked up where I left off. And this evening (actually about five o'clock) I got my first flower. And a lovely one, at that. Thank you, Mom.

When I was a little girl, living on a farm in New Mexico, I used to pick the different colors of four o'clock blooms from our yard. I'd slip one tube into the other and go on like that until I had a pleasing combination of ruffles. Turned with their ruffles down, I would pretend they were Flamenco dancers or Southern bells at a ball like Scarlet O'Hara.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A new friend

A pretty little visitor

I had a busy day and evening and didn't get a chance to do much wildflower homework as I had planned.

So instead here's a visitor that flew into the window while I was brushing my teeth. Is it a dragon fly? A damsel fly? Or how about a hybrid bunny that can fly? (Tell me I'm not the only that sees a resemblance.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The I20 Amateur Count (Part IV, Wildflowers, Honeysweet)

Honeysweet, Tidestromia lanuginosa
Member of the Pigweed family (Amaranthacea)

How sad is this? I could find very little information on this plant. While its picture isn't uncommon on the 'net, details -- fascinating or otherwise -- are missing.

Thank heaven for the Sibley Nature Center. They have a couple of photo essays featuring it. And indeed, it was Mr. Burr Williams who identified this plant for me. He wrote "It is an annual that prefers disturbed soil" and that in Spanish it is called "espantes vaqueros, or ghost cowboys." (I wonder why that is?) He went on to say, "This produces one of the most sweet smells of the fall wildflowers -- amazing, because the bloom is the size of a pin head."

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower site had only two example photographs. There was one mention, among other plants, that recommended it as being a suitable ground cover.

Wikipedia had only a single image of it -- nice image -- but no articles linking to that image. And my three trusty Texas wildflower books were unified in being completely silent on the subject.

I'll tell you what I know, which also isn't much.

I didn't notice its scent, even though it was blooming, likely because I have a poor sense of smell. Besides the yellow flowers in this field, these were the second eye-grabbers. They grew in nice stands that shimmered, looking in the distance as if they were white flowers. Their diminutive flower head is yellow. It was the pretty gray leaves that shone like that. In certain stands of it, I noticed, the stems were dark pink and made it all that more attractive.


If any reader, now or in the future, knows more about this plant, or has experience growing it, I would love to hear from you.

Links referenced in this post:
Sibley Nature Center site
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower page recommending this plant for ground cover
Wikipedia image

My trusty Texas wildflower books are:

Wildflowers of Texas
by Geyata Ajilvsgi, 1991
Roadside Flowers of Texas by Howard S. Irwin, 1983
Texas Wildflowers, A Field Guide by Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller, 1992

The I20 Amateur Count (Part IV, Wildflowers, Plains Blackfoot Daisy)

I thought I would dig a little deeper with the flowers because, of course, they are my favorite. I'd like to do a series of posts to take each one of the I20 Amateur Count flowers, learn what I can about them, and share that here. By Saturday I hope to have them all posted and then give the grand total of our living thing photo challenge.

Click to enlarge the thumbnails.

Plains Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum
Member of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)

This has always been one of my favorite wildflowers. It's common, a perennial, very tough, blooms from spring up until winter, and grows in a nice round mound looking like a ready-made bouquet. What more could I want? Well, it is native to several southwestern states, including Texas. Even better.

One of the interesting things about all flowers belonging to the sunflower family -- which comprise 20% of the wildflowers in Texas -- is what we call the "flower" is really a bunch of flowers, and typically two different kinds at that.

The outer part, the so-called petals, are each really a perfect flower, having both a stamen and a pistil as well as a petal. This kind of flower is called a ray flower and in the plains blackfoot it is white with yellow stamens and pistils. In the yellow center is another group of perfect flowers, all yellow, called disc flowers. If you enlarge the picture on the right, you'll see for yourself. In that "one flower," I counted actually 16 flowers. Isn't nature inventive?

But why is it called Blackfoot? Before this post I thought it might have to do with naming it after some tribe of Native Americans.

Not so.

It's named that after another interesting part of its structure. From the University of Texas page on Melampodium leucanthum, I am duplicating their picture that shows the "black foot." They are actually the aged stigmas and developing achene. ("Achene is the small, dry, indehiscent one-seeded fruit with a thin wall, as in sunflower seeds." Sheeze. These biologists, I tell ya, have a special name for everything.)

And not surprisingly, not only does the common name refer to this tiny structure, so does the scientific name. From Greek melas "black" and podos "foot."

Another interesting thing about the Blackfoot is, unlike other plants in the Sunflower family, their inner disc flowers are not fertile. It is only the outer ray flowers that produce seed. Something to remember when collecting your own. Thanks to the folks at Dave's garden website for that valuable tidbit.


Well, I think I found out quite a lot this go round and that was fun. Was it fun for you? Ha, I know. This may not interest every one, but this is a new passion of mine: to get serious about understanding the flowers I'm so fond of taking pictures of.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The I20 Amateur Count (Part III, Debi's non-flowering plants)

Update: 2008-09-17
I found the names of the spurges that were missing. It took some digging (Euphorbia is a big family!) but I did and am so happy. Guess where I ended up finding it? Yep, at one of Sibley Center's Photo Essays from September of last year.

I'm calling this "non-flowering plants," but really I should say merely these are plants that were not in bloom at the time I took the picture. I believe I'm not using the term "non-flowering"properly. But one step at a time.

I sent these in to Mr. Burr Williams and he was able to identify most. I've included his comments on them here.

Click on any to see larger image.

First we'll start with a photo of a plant and a mushroom. It's the only fungus I saw, or knew that I saw, if you know what I mean. The big one is about the size of a half dollar. I wondered if the mushroom had a relationship with the plant since that is the only place I saw it growing..

Burr wrote, "The mushroom probably does not have a relationship with it, but with buried rotten wood underneath it."

The plant is spurge, or Euphorbia albomarginata, but that's not a 100% identifcation as per the Sibley site. Mr. Williams said that some of the spurges require investigation under a microscope to confidently identify them.

I mentioned how much I liked this plant.

Burr replied this plant "is Tiquilia canescens. I call it pygmy sand bells, for it does have a tiny turquoise bloom. It is a perennial, and I have seen it used as a ground cover by serious xeriscape gardeners -- and have even seen it for sale."

About this plant and the first one under the mushrooms, Burr writes they are spurges, "but there are 15 plus species in west Texas and all of them need microscopes to see their 'parts'." So for now it's simply one of the spurges.

Hoary Sandmat. Euphorbia lata, but further research indicates it has gone through a name change; it is now renamed as Chamaesyce lata

I figured grasses would be hard to identify. And I don't think I provided enough for him to look at in this picture. See? I'm getting smarter through my mistakes.

"I am not going to hazard a guess. It appears to have awns on the seeds, but I don't know the habitat, nor the leaves near the bottom."

I see this all the time. It's especially beautiful when backlit in the bar ditch on a weary drive home around sunset. I'm glad to learn from Mr. Williams its name.

"This is cane bluestem. The grass belly deep to a horse and the mythical height of grass at the time of settlement (which occurred in good years). Bothriochloa barbinodis is its Latin name."

This photo adventure has taught me tons already. And tomorrow I'll show you the flowers, which were the reason I picked that spot to start with. =)

Monday, September 15, 2008

The I20 Amateur Count (Part II, Debi's Bugs)

As I was going through pictures to prepare the next group of living things to post, I discovered I had missed three four bugs! That last one looks darn mad about being overlooked.

So that brings my personal bug tally to 13 14.

Nelda commented that I miscounted before, but there were two pictures of the same butterfly. It's amazing how butterflies can be marked so different with their wings open and their wings closed. Also I don't mind her calling that moth a Hummingbird Moth at all -- other people do too. That's why the scientists came up with unique Latin names for everything. But Hyles lineata doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easy as either Sphinx or Hummingbird moth, does it?

Irene commented that she could imagine the lengths to which I must have went to photograph such tiny creatures. It's true. I did contort myself and my camera in unlady-like ways. I only wish I hadn't been wearing white that day, else I would have really got down on their level. And I definitely like Irene's idea of seeing how many critters are in a field in her part of the world. We bloggers should start a World Amateur Count Day.

Mom, I'm so glad your electricty and Internet are back. And that site you sent, The Bug Guide, is awesome. You always find the best resources.

Frances suggested that I could include names as well if I can. I will mention to Mr. Williams at the Sibley Nature Center the posts I'm doing here and see if he can identify any. But upon reading this statement, "There are 1,017,018 species of insects in the world with some experts estimating that there just might be as many as 10 million species out there" I feel a little -- just a little -- overwhelmed.

Bev noted how the bugs have such clever ways of working within their environment. Which makes you wonder about some, like the bigger red one above. He was conspicuous as he could be. But fast! And oddly very aware of me. I thought I had garnered only a dozen blurry pictures of him for all my hard work. I was pleased when I looked closer at a picture I took of something else, after giving up on him, and there he was.

I haven't made it back to commenting on your blogs quite yet, but I did drop by today and see what everyone is up to. I love it that this group is still here, still blogging, still sharing, and kindly still visiting me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The I20 Amateur Count (Part I, Debi's Bugs)

The hurricane didn't effect us much here in West Texas (although my mom in East Texas has been without electricity for 2 days!). We have had lots of rain, though. We count on the precipitation this time of year to give us the one of our two rainy seasons. We didn't do so good in the spring, but never mind. The rains have caused almost a second spring. Better than the real one, even.

Wildflowers and buzzing are everywhere.

After being inspired and encouraged by Mr. Burr Williams (read yesterday's post here), Donna and I came up with the idea for a little friendly competition. The challenge would be to see who could photograph the most living species in a given area in a given time. The timing of our new game works in perfectly with the unexpected flurry of life right now.

I found a spot off of Interstate 20 in an industrial area. The advantage is it's near to us and doesn't have much human activity on the weekend or evenings. It's about an acre of open field that was just bursting with nodding yellow flower heads that I could see easily from the highway. Donna, Casey, and I made that our challenge spot on 4:30 pm Saturday.

We gave ourselves one hour to photograph as many species of flowers, plants, bugs, or any living thing.

We had a blast and have decided we like this game. Although it's not always conducive to good photography, it does make you appreciate things you've seen a hundred times (they add to your count), and make you look harder for things you haven't cared to look for before.

Like bugs, for example.

So, this post is my first installment of the I20 Amateur Count, I'm calling it. This is a complete inventory of the bugs I saw -- well, saw and was able to get an identifiable picture, that is.

Here are my bugs, 10 of them. Click any to enlarge.


I can only identify the moth at the end -- it's a Sphinx moth (Hyles lineata, I think). And no wonder I had such a hard time getting its picture: I read where it has been clocked flying at 30 miles per hour! And do click on it so you can see its long tongue, a hollow tube, sucking up nectar.

In another picture you can see the wide hole of an army ant hole which Donna and I had just learned about on Friday from Mr. Williams. Their hole is large to accommodate a special guest, a millipede who keeps their maze of nest clean by munching on the rotting old food and mold. The millipede also helps defend the nest by exuding a noxious chemical. Or at least that's how I understood it.

You can also see a pair of beetles making more beetles. We decided that in our counts to give an extra five points to photos of anything mating. =)

I'll share more of my Saturday's pictures with you in the coming days and then ultimately our living thing tally. I wonder who "won?"