Friday, June 12, 2009

Fun-in-the-Field Friday

"The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity."
— George Carlin (via Rambling Woods)

Yes, it's another mish-mash post, but things are somewhat related. Sort of.

First, here's a cute photo I meant to include last time: a tiny cosmos, maybe 2 inches tall and the flower is well under an inch in diameter, that self-sowed itself in my front veggie bed. I liked how the rain collected in it and I left it, despite thoroughly weeding and planting the bed.

As you may recall, my friend Peter and I are doing a frog and toad survey for the city of Ann Arbor. We did our last run the other night and Peter managed to get an excellent recording of gray tree frogs (Hyla versicolor or Hyla chrysoscelis; you'd have to do DNA testing to tell them apart!), which we nicknamed stepped-on-monkey frogs due to their call.

We also got a recording of northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens) earlier in the season, but they sound like background noise to the very loud spring peepers in our recording. Their call is often described as "a low croaking snore," but to me it sounds more like those metal Chinese relaxation balls rubbing together. You can get a better feel for their call in this recording from National Geographic.

Again, we do the survey after dark so we never actually see the frogs (and they're pretty elusive, anyway), but, man! I have to say the northern leopard frog is one cute amphibian! And check out the cool "suction cup" toes of the tree frogs.

Flora Field Survey
Last week I volunteered in a survey of plants in a natural area on private property in far western Ann Arbor as part of the Huron River Watershed Council's Bioreserve Project. A year or so ago, I took part in the first part of the project, which was taking photos of areas and answering a questionnaire about the plants growing there, as seen from the road. From this info, the HRWC decided which sites might be worth exploring more in depth. That's what this second phase in about: actually getting into the site and filling out a more detailed description of the plants. (Official name: rapid ecological assessment of natural areas.)

We parked at the Stokes Nature Reserve and walked into the site. Unfortunately, we were greeted with a stand of invasive dame's rocket (Hesperis matronalis) in the lot.

I know it's cute and looks like phlox, but it's not. Note it has four petals, not five. It's very invasive and squelches spring ephemeral wildflowers. Boo!

As we entered the site, we also noticed a carpet of invasive garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Also boo!

The site was in a low-lying area near the Huron River, meaning it was a floodplain forest/wetland. You can probably make out the skunk cabbage and irises on the riverbank...

...and check out the moss on this rock.

There were also a lot of grasses and sedges. I liked that the trees were not dense and there were few invasive shrubs, giving the area a broad, open feel.

We saw some meadow-rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) with buds but no blooms...

...and some Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). I'm purposefully showing the leaves here because post bloom, trillium and Jacks can look similar. But notice how Jacks have a ring or border all around the edges of their leaves. ID'ing made easy!

By and large, the area was very undisturbed by humans, but something had happened here... Eep!

Other plants we noted included burdock, cattails, cottonwood, creeping Charlie, ferns, forget-me-nots, honeysuckle, hop hornbeam, motherwort, multiflora roses, red maple, shagbark hickory, silver maple, spotted jewelweed, stick-tights, viburnum, Virginia creeper, walnut, wild raspberries, and willow.

Wholesale Nursery Trip
Last night, in a light rain, I joined the Wayne County Master Gardeners (for locals, I'm in Washtenaw County but got a special invite) for a behind-the-scenes tour of Christensen's, a wholesale nursery not normally open to individuals.

They had quite a few perennials, but many many more shrubs.

I really love shrubs and was happily touring row after row under my umbrella.

I was a little bummed they carried landscape varieties of invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle, but was glad to see this cultivar of a native sumac. (And another mini rant: Once we create a cultivar from a native plant, that new cultivar is no longer native, so let's not pretend it is! I don't care what you plant, but let's get the terminology straight. Ahem.)

You probably won't be surprised to learn I didn't purchase anything. My garden is pretty set and I'm pretty cheap. A trollius and 'Marmalade' coral bells caught my eye, but they cost more than I wanted them. I was also sorely tempted by tree peonies, but I really don't have enough areas with full sun left.

I'll be going on the Ann Arbor Garden Walk tomorrow--report to follow. Happy weekend, y'all!


  1. That cosmos is so cute with all the water in it. Love it. Boo on both the invasives and all the invasives for sure. I will remember the Jack id method. I just picked up some last night and need to get them planted. It is cool how to look for that rim!

  2. Okay, that is the job that I would like. Checking out flora and fauna and walking in the woods.

  3. What a lovely excursion you had...all those invasives are frustrating to see; it's unfortunate some of them are so temptingly gorgeous!!!
    You took wonderful photos and I enjoyed the photo-tour! I don't know many people in garden blogville who would have been able to control their impulsive urge to buy a plant or two;-) Jan

  4. Monica you have a lot going on! I always enjoy your mish mash posts.

  5. First, love George Carlin's quote! Nothing mish-mash about this great post, Monica, filled with great photos and info (Cypress Dwarf Golden Threadleaf is a fav shrub ... have 3 and love them) ... you are a treasure!

  6. Lovely post, Monica! The photo of the flower with rainwater in is amazing!

  7. Monica, where DO you get all your energy??! all kidding aside, I am so glad you participate in such a variety of projects as we get the benefit of you doing so. The frog counting has been very interesting to learn about and to hear. I love the nursery photos. Everything looks so pretty and I am proud of you for not being tempted.

  8. A friend and I did a frog survey one year. I hated thatwe couldn't continue. I am a big chicken to get out in the county where we had our areas and do it by myself at night.

    I always like touring nurseries even if I don't purchase anything. You showed great restraint by not buying. I always think I can find a place for something if I like it.

    I wish I was on that garden tour with you. I will be looking forward to seeing some pictures.

  9. What a cute little Cosmos, I would of let it stay too since it was so determined to bloom! :) What a cool trek into the woods to check out the local fauna. Those bones gave me the shivers! You are more in control in a nursery than I am, lol. I would of been sorely tempted by all that greenery! lol

  10. All in a busy day! :-) I love tree frogs' little toes, too. You never have to purchase something, but it is fun to see what's "out there!" Thanks for taking us along on all your excursions. :-)

  11. Loved the sweet little Cosmos holding onto the rain like a little cup. Such a pretty color. I love frogs. I'm not quite sure what the attraction is, but I love them--real or otherwise! :-)

    I have always wondered why nurseries would sell invasives. It seems so irresponsible to me. Your pics of the rows of beautiful plants were great--nice eye candy! I don't know that I could have shown your restraint!

  12. Monica, You have so many fun adventures! I would love to have you take a walk in the woods around here with me so you could identify all the weeds and native plants for me. I remember your frog project and wondered how it was going. Last week there was an article in our local paper about this project and how people could get involved. It was very informative, explaining how the frog populations could indicate the health of that particular environment.

    I'm impressed you were able to leave the nursery without buying a single plant; I doubt I could have been quite so strong:)

  13. Hi Monica.....I am pleased to report I have tadpoles in my pond....also have diving beetles, which eat tadpoles....

    The photograph of the cosmos is lovely.......their petals are so delicate I am surprised it held the water.....

    You are more disciplined than me....I would have not been able to leave the nursery without buying something. I have made many mistakes that way......

  14. I really enjoyed your post, a great variety. The photo of the little cosmos is so pretty, the water makes it very special.

    Have a wonderful day,

  15. Oooh, frogs! I haven't seen our (alas) bullfrogs from last year yet, or heard any frogs here. I think we're too far from the forest preserve and too darn urban.

  16. I didn't know the terminology so thank you..I am trying to learn and to plant native...
    Michelle From Rambling Woods