While this isn’t something found in my yard, the tests on the left hand side are helpful in learning to identify what you see. One is for estimating flock size, the other is for identifying bird species.
The Tussock Moths come in a variety of colors which is reflected in the caterpillars. Some are all white. Some prefer certain plants, such as a Douglas Fir.
Today’s topic is the Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar (aka Milkweed Tiger Moth) Euchaetes egle.
The life cycle is pretty usual for a moths. Eggs are laid, caterpillars feed and grow, overwinter in a cocoon and emerge the following year as a moth to start the cycle again. What I found interesting is that first, they feed on Milkweed plants. So do Monarchs. The milkweed adds a chemical defense to both the caterpillar and the moth which deters predators from eating it.
Second, is their appetite. In a day, about 15 of the caterpillars turned a three foot tall milkweed plant into a skeleton!
One recent morning I was walking around the yard. It had rained the night before and the air was still somewhat misty feeling. The various droplets on the plants around me caught my eye and soon afterwards I went and got the camera…
I spent a substantial number of evenings in 2015 attending the various “Wild Edibles” classes put on at the Resiliency Institute. It was an eye opening experience to find out just how much, growing in our yards, parks, fields and forests is edible.
Granted you can’t just grab a plant and start chewing on it, well some you can, but the majority are only partially edible or need to be prepared a certain way first. While this may be concerning to some, keep in mind, you don’t eat the entire tomato plant, just a part of it. You don’t eat rhubarb without preparing only a specific part of it first.
After each class I’d wander our yard and discover a handful of new edibles each time. Creeping Charlie? Yep. Chickweed? Yep. Dandelion? Yep. Plantain? Yep. Even plants grown as ornamentals, like Bee Balm, are edible or perhaps more accurately can be used to make a very tasty tea.
It was even more of a surprise to find out things like Giant Ragweed are edible too. Specifically just the seeds are edible and contain 47% crude protein. If you want to know more see the write up on it at Eat the Weeds.
Two years ago I was wondering what these towering 15′ tall plants were in the small back part of our yard that we don’t mow. A bit over a year ago I learned what they were and with conventional thinking of “Ragweed, bad” chopped them down. Four months ago I learned they’re actually edible and now look at them in a new light.
Fall colors are an amazing sight to behold. Common green changes into all ranges of yellows, oranges, browns and reds. However to say that it changes is somewhat incorrect.
For the most part, the colors in leaves are already there however the chlorophyll dominates and masks out the actual color of the leaf. In fall when the tree seals off the leaf and stops feeding it the chlorophyll dies off and the true colors of the leaves are finally revealed.
Scientifically speaking, it’s a bit more complicated than that and some colors, like reds, aren’t actually developed until the chlorophyll starts to fade. If you want to read all about these processes, take a look at How leaves change colors.
For me, I’m just happy to enjoy the colors and patterns. Presented as today’s entry is sampling of what was found in our yard this past week.
Chicago area, November 4th and 70+ degrees today… although in the last few weeks we’ve had at least a few nights where the temperature got down to the upper twenties and water dishes froze over. Still, many flowers made it through the frost and are still alive and providing for the late season pollen collectors.
Today’s entry include all I could find in our yard.
A quick posting today. What bi-annual has giant leaves and is a widespread common plant? Although most people don’t know, it’s actually edible with younger leaves and the stalks eaten in the spring and the root can be sliced pickled resulting in something very similar to traditional pickles.
To give a sense of size of the leaves, here’s my hand and forearm.