The invasion of the Japanese Beetles continues in full flow this week and the cumulative totals already exceed those for the same date from last year – and last year we ended up with a final tally of well over 2000 of the shiny little fellows. Hard to think what might happen this summer when it’s over … anyway, being good bean (and beetle) counters we have kept a running tally again as the following chart shows. You will be seeing this again as we update it over coming weeks:
While beetle-killing early in the week, J encountered a juvenile Hermit Thrush in the garden. It would be interesting to know where it fledged, but birds are very good – and rightly so – at hiding their nests so we probably never will know.
The lily collection this week is replacing the earlier red flowers with glorious golden-yellow ones that have come into full flower in recent days. These are quite splendid and always evoke “wows” from visitors. Talking of lilies, while we have had red lily beetles this year they have not visited us with the same enthusiasm as most years … this is not a disappointment as the only way to control them is to pick them off and squash them.
Last year we planted both common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and A. tuberosa (butterfly weed), collected seeds from them and sowed then this spring … only the A. tuberosa germinated however but we have a lot of pots of small milkweeds to find homes for now. Anyone in need should get in touch as there is a limit to the area we can devote to them. Those planted last year have come into full and vigorous growth this summer (first year milkweed are small and scrawny things without flowers) but have not – at least until Friday when the common milkweed flowers were checked out by a Monarch butterfly – attracted expected numbers of insects other than some bees and hoverflies. The Monarch arrived mid afternoon in full sun and checked out just about all the flowers it could … the initial landing spot was on the common milkweed but it then moved on to the Hydrangea, had a sip, checked the blackcurrant bushes, far too late for flowers, tried a bit of this and a bit of that until finally discovering the Pontaderia flowers in the pond which were a gourmet feast it seems. It stayed on them for quite some time sipping away. Whether we will get any eggs on the milkweed remains to be seen but not from this afternoon’s visit.
On the other hand, the tall and beautiful “Speedwell” (Veronica longifolia) has had insects almost lining up to take their turn on the flowers and this has been continuing for several weeks. Another plant that is highly attractive to pollinators seems to be the P.G. Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora).
Going back to the “Speedwell” – hard to get used to calling this very tall plant a speedwell as the common speedwell (Veronica persica) that we grew up with in England is a sprawling, low plant with small, individual sky-blue flowers … the tall plant we now have looks nothing like it, hence some nomenclaturial confusion in earlier editions of this journal.
Quite a gang of junior birds messing about in the garden this week – in particular a couple of Woodpeckers and four or five Song Sparrows eagerly following their parents hoping for a meal … though they seem to be able to forage for themselves well enough. There are three of the Song Sparrows at the top of the page checking a flower pot for insects and other good things.
Nerds’ Corner … tell me what you think. As we all know, it is standard practice to capitalise the common names of birds (because not all blue birds are Bluebirds) but not to do so for plants. If using Latin names then the genus is capitalised and the full name is italicised. So far so good … but what to do when writing about plants when some common names are also the Latin genus names? For example, in the preceding paragraphs we have milkweed (lower case ‘m’) and Hydrangea (capital ‘H’) as that is also the scientific name for the genus … in which case, it really ought to he Hydrangea. Isn’t life confusng … what naming protocol do you follow?
A selection of photographs from the past seven days – please click any one of the thumbnails to open them at full size.
Will you be giving away small Milkweed plants if you have too many?
There may be a small number, will know later in the week – where are you?
As far as nerds go, you can join the extreme holophyletic fringe and capitalize the English names of all monophyletic taxa as the proper nouns they are – http://pinicola.ca/m1999b.htm – the philosophical innovation that the capitalization of English names embodies is that taxa are individuals rather than classes – this was a traditional practice among taxonomists, but it was philosophically formalized by Michael Ghiselin – Ghiselin, M. 1974. A radical solution to the species problem. Systematic Zoology 23:536-544; Ghiselin, M. 1987. Species concepts, individuality, and objectivity. Biology and Philosophy 2:127-143; Hull, D. L. 1978. A matter of individuality. Philosphy of Science 45:335-360.
Of course, Fred, species are an artificial construct that we use for convenience but there are few, if any, hard boundaries between related species and several often competing definitions of what a species actually is. Are Common and Hoary Redpolls one or two species, for example. Today’s access to DNA analyses is upending many “traditional” species definitions and rewriting the text books. This is fascinating stuff. As for capitalising all common names …. I would happily do that were it not for the confounding “style guides” used by many publishing sources – and I would do it for simple convenience; if it works for birds it works for all creatures and plants.