Readers’ wildlife photos

May 8, 2023 • 8:15 am

We have a few new contributors, whom I think for sending in photos. Today’s photos come from Rik Gern of Austin, Texas.  Rik’s comments are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

I’m starting to catch up on some plant identification, so here are some more pictures to submit for your reader’s wildlife feature. Thank you for recommending iNaturalist’s “seek” application; it has already saved me hours of cross-referencing pictures with online images based on hunches and guesses. It doesn’t always work when I ask it to identify plants based on pictures I’ve already taken, and I have a number of those left in my computer, but it’s been helpful with live pictures.

There are two species here; both are native plants growing on my lawn in central Texas. The first pictures are of False garlic, also known as Crow poison (Nothoscordum bivalve). You’ll never see this little beauty if you keep your lawn mowed short and close to the ground, but if you’re a lazy bum like me you just might get lucky and see a blanket of these on the lawn

The presence of pollinators (first photo) allows us lazy folks to feel good about letting the grass grow! I read that most False garlic plants have three to six flowers atop the stalks, but this one has eight (second photo).

It was hard to get a picture of the stalk, but I hope this gives an impression of what it looks like when the plants cover the lawn.

Finally, here’s another closeup of the flowers:

The second species is a follow-through on pictures I sent you in January. These are the same Velcro plants (Galium aparine), just a little older. I usually pull them as soon as they start to spread, but I’d never seen them flower, so I let one patch grow until tiny white flowers started to blossom:

There’s a caterpillar that seems to find the plant tasty, though it appears that it never heard the vernacular expression about not treating the kitchen like a bathroom, which would explain the droppings in the upper left part of the picture!

The lower leaves in this picture show evidence of more caterpillar activity:

Don’t be fooled by the spiked leaves; they are not painful to the touch. I believe they help the plant attach to animals for transport, though they probably also discourage some animals from eating them:

7 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Very nice and interesting weeds! I too would like to just let the lawn grow out. The caterpillar is also interesting in that it is actually a vegetarian larva of a small stingless wasp called a sawfly. The larvae of these two insect orders are good examples of convergent evolution, right down to abdominal prolegs that are used to grip onto plants.

    1. Interesting information about the wasp larva. I especially like the “stingless” part!

      My lawn maintenance philosophy is pretty much, if it looks like it’s a blossoming plant, let it flower before you mow. The back yard looks a little more feral, but I try to keep a more civilized front for the neighbors.

  2. I usually hear Galium aparine called bedstraw or cleavers. The barbs on the stem allow bunched up plants to cleave together (hence “cleavers”) and these bunches were once used to stuff mattresses (hence “bedstraw”). Even the specific epithet, aparine, comes from the Greek apairo meaning to seize.

    There are many Galium species, but they can be easily overlooked, as they grow small and their flowers aren’t particularly showy. Galium aparine is the most noticeable, as it is by far the largest of them, at least among the species of eastern North America, where I live. Galium species have leaves in whorls usually of four, six, or eight. White flowers are most common, but there are species with yellow, green, and red flowers as well.

  3. Nice endemics you got there, thanks for sharing. I’ll usually allow patches of clover to grow since the bees love it. During the Summer I’ll have five or six round clover-beds scattered around the yard. 🙂

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