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Archive for June, 2011

Pink Lady’s Slippers Blooming

The mere sight of a lady’s slipper takes your breath away, but when you become aware of their germination process, and what it takes to produce a plant, they become even more of a wonder. According to Jack Sanders, in The Secrets of Wildflowers, the seed of a lady’s slipper is extremely small, and has no food to provide it with sustenance. However, there is a certain fungus (Rhizoctonia sp.) that can digest the outer cells of a lady’s slipper’s seeds. If this fungus and a lady’s slipper seed come in contact with each other, and if the fungus digests the outer cells of the seed but not the inner cells, and if the inner cells absorb some of the fungus’s nutrients that it obtained from the soil, then germination may take place. Given all these conditions, it’s a wonder that there are as many of these beauties in our woodlands as there are!

Dragonflies Emerging

At the end of the dragonfly’s aquatic larval stage it climbs out of the water onto a rock or vegetation and emerges from its split skin as a winged adult. At first its wings have an iridescent sheen, which is quickly lost. As this is happening, the dragonfly’s soft exoskeleton hardens. Newly emerged dragonflies are often found far from water, where they go while their reproductive organs mature, and then return to the water to mate and lay eggs. Adult dragonflies typically live for about a month.

Red-tailed Hawk Nest

It took two red-tailed hawks about a week to construct a nest in a tree near my home this spring. Mating took place, eggs were laid, and roughly three weeks ago the eggs hatched. Two white, downy chicks are rapidly increasing in size. Today one of the parents returned to the nest with a branch of a sugar maple in its talons; apparently, red-tailed hawks periodically spruce up their nest with a touch of greenery throughout the nesting period.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies

Lilacs and eastern tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) seem to blossom and emerge at the same time every year. This makes sense, as these butterflies have a preference for the nectar of pink, purple and red flowers. Male swallowtails (pictured) are yellow, with four black stripes on the front margin of their forewings, while females may be yellow or black, with much more blue on their hind wings. Males emit perfume-like pheromones to attract females as they patrol habitats containing larval host plants (species of Rose and Magnolia families). Prior to landing and mating, male and female swallowtails flutter about each other and are hard to miss at this time of year.