A photo essay starting at the end and evolving backwards.

Clusters of berries that have been partially eaten, perhaps by birds that will spread the seeds to new areas:

Partially eaten jack-in-the-pulpit berries, with white spots where the berries were.

Beautiful ripe berries:

Ripe jack-in-the-pulpit berries.

Because there are berries, these two plants were female.

Mostly green berries that are just starting to turn red.

But get this: next year, both of these same plants will probably be male! Jack-in-the-pulpits change sex depending on how much energy they have stored. Producing berries takes a lot of energy, so usually the next year they’re male.

Dark green jack-in-the-pulpit berries.

Family photo of four blooming jacks under their tall, umbrella-like leaves. I assume the two plants on the right are male, though I didn’t know to check while they were blooming. Next year I will look more closely!

Four jack-in-the-pulpits under their tall leaves.

Stretching their leaves open:

Two jack-in-the-pulpit plants with their leaves still unfurling.

Unfurling:

Three jack-in-the-pulpit plants that are just beginning to open.

Just getting started:

Two short pointed shoots coming out of the ground.

About this flower

Right now, so many of the garden blooms are purple.

10-foot-wide section of a pollinator garden with purple coneflowers at top left, blazingstar at bottom left, bee balm in the center, and phlox at the right.

 
Allium:

Two purple globe-shaped flowers.

Bee balm:

Two dozen spiky light-purple flowers.

Blazingstar:

Five spikes with lots of purple flowers blooming at the tops.

Phlox:

Three clusters of dark pink flowers.

(I’m choosing not to include the invasive creeping bellflower, though it is purple.)

But is this joe-pye weed pink or purple?

Large cluster of small, spiky flowers. A bumblebee is on the right side.
 
Color is indeed subjective. I would say these flowers are pink, but they’re called purple coneflowers:

Two dozen pink flowers with large, cone-shaped centers.

I would definitely call this one purple, but its name is blue vervain:

Tall spikes, each with tiny purple flowers in a ring.

And this is purple giant hyssop, but it looks less and less purple every year:

Flower spike with tiny white flowers.

Milkweed is such an important plant. Its leaves are the only thing monarch caterpillars will eat, and its flowers attract all kinds of pollinators. So it’s exciting to see several kinds of milkweeds taking off in my yard this year.

The whorled milkweed is the big winner. For several years I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t grow, even though I bought six-packs of plugs in two different years. And then we put up a rabbit fence, which has made all the difference. There are so many individual plants now that I lose track when counting.

I could tell, right when it first started coming up, that there would be more this year — notice the old stems next to the new shoots.

Closeup of several small green plants next to three tall brown stems.

Now it seems like there are more and more whorled stems every day.

Dozens of plants with narrow leaves, in varying heights.

Poke milkweed is such a fun variety. This year it nearly quadrupled.

Three brown stems, each with multiple one-inch plants nearby.
Bright-green hairless plant with large leaves and many green bud clusters.

Swamp milkweed doubled…

Two old stems in the background, four short new shoots in front.

…and it’s looking really good.

Three tall green plants with wet leaves. The fourth plant is not visible.

The common milkweed always shows up by the dozens, so I can’t honestly say that there are more than ever. But there are a lot, and that is good enough.

The edge of a garden, with a half dozen one-foot milkweeds in front of other types of native plants.

The prairie milkweed has never done much, but the two plants are back, so I’m happy.

One milkweed plant with leaves standing nearly straight up.

So far, I’ve seen less butterfly weed than before. But it is always a late bloomer compared to the others, so maybe there’s still time for more to pop up.

Four short, light-green, hairy plants.

Added together, there are hundreds of milkweeds in the front and back garden, which makes for great habitat for monarchs.

Now it’s caterpillar season. My garden has been fortunate to host possibly two dozen (or more) from this first generation of 2019. Even the whorled milkweed, with its skinny leaves, has four residents.

These four jack-in-the-pulpits seem to have just had an argument and none of them can stand to even look at each other.

four green flowers, each facing in slightly a different direction, including two backwards

(Or should it be jacks-in-the-pulpit? jacks-in-the-pulpits? There are multiple jacks and multiple pulpits.)

The one on the far left even looks like he’s just exclaimed “Humph!” and is scowling like Sam Eagle of the Muppets.

two green flowers, one with its spathe perfectly in position to appear like a face with a sneer

Less than a week ago, the third one looked like this cool guy:

closeup of a green flower with its spathe swooshing out in front

Now, he’s so upset he’s off-kilter:

a green flower facing backwards, its right side lower than its left

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:

3 jack-in-the-pulpits blooming.

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!

Blurry image of small white flowers.

The teeny-tiny whorled milkweed flowers turned into teeny-tiny seedpods:

A hand holding 3 long, thin pods that are starting to open.

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.

Closeup of a cluster of white flowers that hang down.

Common milkweed covered in ants (this was the only time I saw this behavior, and it was only on this one flower cluster):

Cluster of pink flowers with dozens of tiny ants.

A candy-stripe spider with its prey, a Japanese beetle, in a shelter created from a milkweed leaf:

View through the end of a curved leaf, with an upside-down spider in front of an upside-down beetle.

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.

One plant with orange flowers, light on the top and dark on the bottom.

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:

Zoomed in on a dark-purple spike of flowers.

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.

One bright-orange flower in the middle of tall green plants.

New critters

Long-horned bees sleeping under a black-eyed susan:

4 black bees with thin white stripes, hanging upside-down on the underside of orange petals.

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.

A long, thin greenish-yellow caterpillar. It has hairs sticking out of black-and-white spots along both sides of the length of its body.

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.

Caterpillar on a chewed leaf that is tied to two other leaves with dozens of thin silk strands.

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.

Small, light-green caterpillar resting on a leaf, with a larger leaf nearby with many large holes.

“Yellow woolly bear” caterpillar, larva of the Virginia tiger moth:

A short caterpillar with segments that look like bubbles, and lots of hairs that look sharp.

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:

Closeup of a large, green globe shape growing out of a stem, with small leaves growing out the top.

A well-camouflaged leafhopper:

A semicircle shape on the stem of a hyssop plant. Its body appears to have veins like a leaf.

A beautiful wasp:

A black insect with a long, thin body hanging below a goldenrod.

A red-belted bumble bee (Bombus rufocinctus):

A been on a joe-pye weed bloom, facing away from the camera, with bright-orange bottom segments.

A tiny snail:

A black body poking out of a small, round brown shell.

A spider camped out on the poke milkweed:

A large brown spider with white bands on its legs, appearing to hover in front of a milkweed plant.

A hummingbird moth:

A large insect at the edge of a monarda blossom.

But wait — did you notice something else in that photo? The hummingbird moth had been caught by an ambush bug:

Same image as the previous one, but with most blurred to focus on a round, flat, green insect with a brown stripe, at the top of the hummingbird moth.

And this surprise, sitting at my eye level on a joe-pye weed leaf, not acknowledging my existence but letting me take its photo:

Side view of a green-and-gray frog.

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