This August has been something of a slog. And now we're already in the 3rd week of September! Medical procedures, mounds of paperwork, and heat indices into the 'teens have combined to keep me inside. Outside, things are occurring in the yard at a frantic pace. While spring ushers in a flurry of new growth in anticipation of rain, late summer shows a mad rush to grow and reproduce before the dry season begins.
There have been several waves of polydamas swallowtails after I blogged about them in July. In fact, a new adult was flying around last week. Predatory yellow jackets have been in evidence most, but not all, of the time. I don't know whether the butterflies hatched here or flew in from elsewhere. I've looked for chrysalids, but our badly overgrown yard offers a vast number of places to hide one.
Our yard is home to many native plants. While they may struggle in their actual habitat, put them into a garden where they receive a modicum of care in somewhat amended soil, and they can run rampant. Mother Nature doesn't know a lot about sharing, and just about any plant that grows reasonably well here will try to take all the space. I try to scan all the bushels of vegetation I pull out or prune back for evidence of caterpillars, cocoons or chrysalids, and baby tillandsias, but I'm sure I miss some.
I keep several water garden pots though I don't have any native waterlilies or lotus. The waterlilies bloom most of the time, which reminds me that I haven't even gotten around to fertilizing these heavy feeders yet. The lotus are mostly bloomed out by the end of July, and even beginning to go dormant by this time, but I had a few isolated late bloomers much to my delight.
Coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, blooms most of the year here. It was in full flower in the middle of March. It may not make as impressive a show now, but the flowers haven't stopped. I couldn't get it established in Georgia, where it is native, but it flourishes here in sw Florida, which is south of its normal range. It is a favorite of hummingbirds during their migrations to and from more southern climes, as well as many species of butterflies. Problem is, I've got it planted along a fence on the side of the house, so we miss most of what goes on with it. It is another proverbial "trouble-free" and "drought-tolerant" plant, and it also tolerates our flooding rains.
I finally got the bird pepper (Capsicum annuum, var. glabriusculum) that I bought way back in March into a bigger pot. It was beginning to decline seriously before I did anything, but has responded beautifully to better circumstances. The birds weren't finding it where I put it, so I moved the pot to under a Simpson's Stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans), which is a favorite perching and foraging space for mockingbirds. Some of the fruits have disappeared, so something is eating them.
This tiny pepper is a form of the ancestor of all our peppers. It has a real bite, but the sting doesn't continue to linger and burn like many hot peppers. It's a great addition to all sorts of dishes, especially Tex-Mex and stir-fry. It's a diminutive plant for starters, and its structure is so dense and compressed that it's hard for me to figure out just how things are arranged.
An invasion of Eurasian collared doves was an unwelcome event. Sadly, they discovered the Jamaica Caper, and literally shook the small tree with their clumsy weight as they stripped its fruits. The mockingbirds got some, but these aliens, imported years ago for hunting, probably got most. Our native mourning doves are delightful and coo melodically, but these boors have a call like "Raaaalf!" I always think of somebody barfing when the Eurasian collared doves are around.
The starry rosinweed (Silphium astericus) which I bought at the same time as the bird pepper, but planted right away, has outdone itself and already formed a second flowering clump. It has dark green, coarse leaves that can get 6 inches long or more, and the basal rosette is persistent. The erect, branched flowering stalks grow at least 18 inches tall. It has been blooming nonstop since late April/early May. I think I have the variety simpsonii, which occurs naturally along Florida's coastal plain, and is more tolerant of heat than some other forms. It will be interesting to see what it does once the rains stop. The butterflies and other pollinators were quick to discover it.
Elliott's aster (Aster elliotii) has produced its usual weedy-looking mass of skinny stems. I keep it because it is so stunning in full flower. Otherwise it is something of an eyesore, and since it spreads by rhizomes it will colonize any area that is even slightly moist. No illustration here - it is surprisingly difficult to draw or photograph a mess!
Last, but not least, one of my ponytail palms, Beaucarnia recurvata, bloomed. This one was a sort of gift from my late next door neighbor who didn't want it and suggested I take it. I have a problem letting things die ( one reason the yard is so overgrown - I don't pull out all the volunteers) so I took it. It was humming with honeybees and perhaps some other smaller pollinators.
This stem succulent has a very swollen base, and is not closely related to palms at all. It eventually will grow too large for this yard, but by then I will be long gone. Given the way old houses here are scraped away and replaced with narrow, 3-story mansionettes built all the way out to the setbacks, my tiny piece of semi-natural habitat will vanish too. It's a melancholy thought.