Thursday, September 27, 2012

My little baby is all grown up


A post or so ago I mentioned the caterpillars that had invaded my parsley for the second year in a row. My friend Kit let me know that I had swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on my hands and that is what sparked the great caterpillar exploration of 2012.  I would check out the parsley plant every morning while I sipped my coffee.  One morning I noticed  another smaller type of caterpillar on the plant and I wondered what sort of butterfly it would make.  Naturally I googled it.  That is when the whole wonderful world of butterfly metamorphosis exposed itself to me.  I was stunned to learn that the little spiny black and gray caterpillars who looked nothing like the big beautiful fleshy green mutli- colored ones were actually the same species!  As it turns out the last metamorphosis in a butterfly's life is just the most spectacular in a series of metamorphoses.  Each little caterpillar molts five times into a new phase called an instar.  At the end of the fifth instar the caterpillar molts its skin for the last time revealing the chrysalis within that will harden to form a  shell that will protect the butterfly while it undergoes its final changes.  All of my caterpillars went off to parts unknown to finish their transformations save one.  This little bugger just took a short walk from the parsley plant to the day lily next door.  I spotted him there and watched him for the next several days waiting to see him emerge as a beautiful butterfly.  It happened yesterday morning.  When I came out with my coffee there was my little caterpillar, all grown up, freshly hatched and still drying his wings.   I was there when he took flight and I watched him catch an air current and sail away. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

What is it with me and mushrooms

I remember my first encounter with a mushroom, it was one of the white ones that crop up in lawns every now and then.  It fascinated me way back then when I was 4 maybe 5 years old.  First of all, it was astonishing to me how one day there was nothing but lawn and then overnight there was this thing that had clearly not been there the day before.  So there I stood thinking to my little self "What the What?, how did that get there and what on earth is it?"  I asked of course and was told it was a toad stool, and was highly poisonous and that I must not fool with one "DON'T EVEN TOUCH IT!"   I was no fool, I was not about to touch it, but poke it with a stick? Sure, why not and with my fertile imagination I had a field day with the name alone... A Toad Stool huh?  I had no trouble at all imagining a toad popping a squat on top of one and in fact hold out hope even to this day of actually catching a toad doing just that.  It was right about that time I saw Willy Wonka for the first time with the giant mushrooms that had cream for spots in the factory garden where the flowers were made of candy and there was a chocolate river... That certainly fed the fascination,  Then came along the caterpillar in Alice in Wonder land sitting on his mushroom cap, and all the shenanigans that followed when Alice actually ate pieces of said mushroom.  No wonder I was told to leave the things alone.   All of that, coupled with the fact that they are a bit of a rarity in the dryer climate I grew up in was enough to foster a life long fascination with them. 
    I saw real honest to goodness red mushrooms with white spots  in Germany and again here in SC at the Sesquicentennial State park and got to cook and eat Morels harvested by my friend in Nebraska, But it has been right here in my own back yard that I have had the most fun.   We have puff balls, big and small, little flimsy fairy looking mushrooms that are here and gone in a day, I have seen jelly looking things that grow in the shape and color of a translucent orange cup, and thick stemmed sturdy looking things that  stick around for days and days.  Spotting mushrooms is not unlike spotting sea glass.  You do enough of it and your eye learns what to look for.  Here I have discovered that a bulging spot in the underbrush today will very likely mean a mushroom tomorrow, especially after  a rainy spell.  So I go out every morning with the dog, he looks for squirrels and lizards and I look for bulging underbrush or that rare flash of color in  the leaf litter that means I need to head in and get the camera and snap a few pictures before I start poking it with a stick.