Spring is right around the corner, so I’d better quickly document what happened in the garden last year.
The jack-in-the-pulpit is becoming established! Many are growing now:
Whorled milkweed wasn’t new to my garden this year, but it really took off after we put up chicken-wire fence to keep out the snacking rabbits. A few of the dozens of plants even bloomed!
The teeny-tiny whorled milkweed flowers turned into teeny-tiny seedpods:
Similarly, poke milkweed isn’t new, but this was the first year it flowered. Such interesting, claw-like blooms! This flower didn’t produce any seeds.
Common milkweed covered in ants (this was the only time I saw this behavior, and it was only on this one flower cluster):
A candy-stripe spider with its prey, a Japanese beetle, in a shelter created from a milkweed leaf:
Our two-toned butterfly weed changed this year, due to street maintenance that dug a big hole in the front yard. When the soil was returned, the plant came back, but rotated! Previously, the dark orange half was on the left, and the light orange half was on the right.
I didn’t know that native false indigo is a shrub until I added one to my yard in 2017. The plant is several feet across and has woody stems. One flower spike appeared in 2018:
This tiger lily was a surprise. I didn’t even know the plant was there until it looked like this. I must have planted bulbs, but that would have been years ago.
Long-horned bees sleeping under a black-eyed susan:
This little hitchhiker ended up on my capris after I strolled through the garden one evening. I decided to upload it to iNaturalist to see if anyone could help identify it — and I didn’t even have to wait for a live person because iNaturalist automagically suggested a name, genista broom moth. Sure enough, a host plant is baptisia, which I would have passed on my walk through the flowers.
That was the only one I saw for awhile, but soon there were dozens, spinning webs and eating the leaves and, well, pooping a lot, as caterpillars do.
Later I found these two cocoons — one on the plant (I accidentally snapped off this leaf but then carefully tucked it back in) and one in a towel that was drying after wiping condensation from car windows. Not sure if either is from these caterpillars.
It took awhile to find what was eating the joe-pye weed leaves, since the culprit blends in so well. It’s a plume moth caterpillar, and the joe-pye weed bloomed just fine despite the holey leaves.
“Yellow woolly bear” caterpillar, larva of the Virginia tiger moth:
We’ve had goldenrods for a few years, but this was the first time I noticed a gall where an insect, cleverly named a goldenrod gall fly, created shelter. There were about a dozen of these in our garden:
A well-camouflaged leafhopper:
A beautiful wasp:
A red-belted bumble bee (Bombus rufocinctus):
A tiny snail:
A spider camped out on the poke milkweed:
A hummingbird moth:
But wait — did you notice something else in that photo? The hummingbird moth had been caught by an ambush bug:
And this surprise, sitting at my eye level on a joe-pye weed leaf, not acknowledging my existence but letting me take its photo: