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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Jeffersonia diphylla seeds with elaiosomes

Seeds with elaiosomes

In my previous post, on twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), I discussed that twinleaf’s seeds have appendages called elaiosomes that are attractive to ants. Ants carry the seeds back to their nests, remove the elaiosomes to feed to their larvae, and deposit the unharmed seeds in a waste area of the nest. The seeds are in an ideal, protected location which helps them to germinate. This dispersal of seeds by ants is called myrmecochory, from the Greek for ant (myrmex) and dispersal (kore).

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Jeffersonia diphylla or twinleaf

Twinleaf in bloom

Twinleaf is a wildflower that blooms in early spring and is native to many parts of eastern North America. It’s found in rich, moist woods, usually in limy soils. It often grows near bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), which has similar looking flowers.

 

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Comptonia peregrina or sweet fern

Sweet fern clump

Sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) is a common plant of northeastern North America that, despite its name, isn’t a fern. Rather, it’s a shrub that has leaves that look fern-like. Sweet fern also has a pleasant, spicy fragrance which is why “sweet” is part of its name. Whenever I come across sweet fern, I can’t resist pinching off a small piece of a leaf to enjoy the fragrance for the rest of the day.

Comptonia peregrina or sweet fern in winter

Rusty brown leaves persist in winter

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If you like bugs and want to learn more about their natural histories and behaviors, I recommend Broadsides from the Other Orders, A Book of Bugs by Sue Hubbell. It was published in 1993, and both new and used copies are available from used booksellers on Amazon. Some used copies sell for less than $5.

Dragonfly (Order Odonata) and daddy longlegs (Order Opiliones)

Dragonfly and daddy longlegs – two bugs in Broadsides from the Other Orders

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Wood frog male

First wood frog of 2012

As I posted in February, the return of the wood frogs to breed in my small garden pond is one of my favorite events of spring (or, late winter, often).

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Mourning cloak adult large

Mourning cloak butterfly (photo by Jerry A. Payne, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org)

The first mourning cloak butterfly I’ve seen this year glided through my backyard yesterday. The weather was sunny, with temperatures in the mid 60s—a perfect day for the mourning cloak to stretch its wings after being hunkered down all winter.

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Lindera benzoin mature fruit

Mature fruit (copyright Steve Baskauf http://www.discoverlife.org)

The previous post in this series explored spicebush and its faunal visitors in summer. This post will continue into the autumn and winter of a spicebush year and conclude with information on growing spicebush in the home garden.

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