Thursday, August 27, 2009

Partridge Pea

Partridge Pea (Chamaechrista fasciculata), a legume found throughout Missouri and much of the eastern United States. It is very common along road banks, ditches, and abandoned fields. Occasionally partridge pea is planted on purpose to aid in road bank erosion, as it grows rapidly and spreads profusely. This plant is insect pollinated by long tongued bees such as minor bees, bumble bees, honey bees, and large leaf-cutting bees.
Sometimes leaf-cutting bees will portion off parts of the petals to provision their brood nest with. Three sulphur butterflies use this plant for their host. You will likely find Little Sulphur, Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur caterpillars feasting on the foliage. Bobwhite quail and greater prairie chickens feed on the seed of this plant, the seeds are viable throughout the winter, so therefore they are an important part of these birds diet. Partridge Pea begins blooming in mid to late summer and blooms until the first frost. With sufficient moisture it will retain flowers throughout this entire time. The blooms are somewhat sensitive and will partially close when touched or disturbed.
If you raise cattle, be careful, this plant is toxic to cattle. The plant contains a cathartic substance that when consumed in substantial quantities can be stressful to cows and ultimately cause death. They like the flavor of this plant and they will readily consume it. It would be best to not grow this plant near livestock. Many Native American tribes recognized the benefit of this species of plant and used it in natural healing, the Seminoles used it to treat nausea. The Cherokee used it as a stimulant to ward off fainting spells as well as to keep sports players from tiring out.
Those of us who like to "grow native" utilize this beautiful plant within our gardens. It is easy to grow, attracts bees and butterflies and is pleasing to the eye.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another Shelf Mushroom

This gorgeous orange shelf mushroom was found at Happy Holler Conservation Area. It is the first time I've ever seen an orange variety.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinches are in the middle of their nesting season and I am noticing an increase in their numbers. It seems they are attracted to all the coneflowers that have gone to seed. This one here was busy plucking seeds and eating them as fast as he could pick them. Greedy little sucker, I say.

They are certainly one of my backyard favorites. In the summer their bright sunny color brightens up the landscape. Their antics at the feeders, as they chase other finches away from their cache is fun to watch. They readily scold each other and mock fight. Then in the winter as their colorful plumage gives way to their more drab winter coloration they begin to flock together in huge numbers. I counted over a 100 at one time in my yard a few years back. They are a joy year round!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shelf Mushrooms

Shelf Mushrooms always fascinate me. These appeared on a rotting stump in our backyard after a recent rain. I think they are so pretty.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Black Bears, Barns, and the Beautiful Smoky Mountains

Waterfall in the Little River, Townsend, TN

Little River

Old barn at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

View of the Smoky Mountains.

Cabin with a view.

Black Tail were very common in the Cades Cove area of the Smoky Mountain National Forest. They were very tame and easy to approach. These two pictured here were running towards a couple of other deer near the roadway.

Odd moss and fern-like growths on the sides of trees throughout the area.

One thing we hoped to see, but really didn't feel we stood much chance were the Black Bears. My daughter asked me if I thought we would see a bear and I answered by saying that the chances were probably pretty slim. We rounded a corner, and there was a large mama bear reaching up and pulling berries out of a tree. A few minutes later our daughter spotted one crossing a creek. Several miles down the road people were standing around looking up in a tree. We stopped and looked, and found two baby black bears and a mama. They were eating cherries out of the tree tops. One little baby was precariously hanging from a tree limb, several times he almost fell. Mama lost sight of them a couple of times and would jump from limb to limb until she could see them again. The tree would shake under her weight, and those little babies would hold on for dear life. They were so cute. All told we saw 6 black bears and got far closer than we thought possible.
Baby Black bear climbing a limb trying to reach his mama.

Gorgeous orange mushrooms in the timber.

Update: I finally got an ID on this mushroom--- it is Caesar's Mushroom (Amanita caesarea). They are named from being the favored mushroom of Roman emperors. This mushroom is found within oak woodlands, sometimes mixed with conifers. This mushroom is highly prized for its flavor, although best to be careful as it can be easily confused with other mushrooms within this genus that are highly poisonous.

Black Tail Deer in the woodlands.

Joey, Joel and Shaylyn touring an old mill settlement. We tried to figure out why this barn was built the way that it is. Does anyone have any ideas why it is elevated?

Update: Joey did some research and discovered the reason these barns were built this way was to provide shelter during inclement weather for livestock. It also provided and area for the farmer to shelf corn.

Tree tops--Smoky Mountains

Water chute at the grist mill.

Paddle Wheel at the grist mill.

Paddle Wheel House and Paddle wheel at Cades Cove.

Old Barn within the Smoky Mountain National Forest.

And you know you are in the South when you drive down Interstate 40 and as you enter Tennessee you spot a Rebel Flag!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nashville Tennessee

Cumberland River

We are in Tennessee this week. This is our last day in Nashville, and tomorrow we leave for Townsend Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains. We will be staying in a cabin near the mountains. I thought I would share some of the scenery of Nashville. Even though this is a blog about Missouri, I thought we could depart for a bit and visit our neighbor to the east, and enjoy the beauty they have to offer.

Coal Barge Moving against the current on the Cumberland River

The Andrew Jackson Showboat seen in the distance, docked on the Cumberland River

The Two-Rivers Park walking bridge. This is a great walking and biking trail and gives beautiful views of the river.

Gray Squirrel came to visit.

The Grand Old Opry

Cooter's Museum-

where you can see everything Dukes of Hazzard. I can remember as a child watching Dukes of Hazzar-d each week. It was no miss television night. My brothers were huge fans. Touring this museum brought back a lot of fond memories. Our son is a huge fan of the reruns, and even painted his first 4X4 truck General Lee orange.

Ryman Auditorium--the birth place of the Opry.

Music Row downtown Nashville.

Very scary at night, lots of homeless vagrants, begging for handouts. I would be scared to death at night down there alone. Well on second thought I wouldn't be down there at night alone! It was a happening place. Lots and lots of bars, all booming with country music. People roaming the streets, and sightseers everywhere. One old homeless man, missing an arm followed us for several blocks begging for money. He reeked of alcohol and was incapable of any kind of normal communcations skills. To see people actually living like that, sure makes you grateful for the life you have. One of security and full of human comforts.

Nashville Military Cemetery

Tranquil and beautiful, the Nashville Military Cemetery is well worth visiting. Thousands and thousands of soldiers and their families find their final resting place here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lovely Nature Poem

Nature’s beauty is divine.
Nature is serene.
Sunflower loves sun’s glare.

Flowers’ fragrance fills the air.
Colors being vibgyor and more;
Eyes sparkle and ask for more.

Leaves are green and green.
Autumn sheds all this green.
Between winter and summer swings the spring;

Plants are back in full swing.
Green environment looks awesome.
Flowers bloom and blossom.

Colorful butterfly flirts with flower;
Sprinkling pollens all over.
Swaying leaves look graceful.

Brushing wind sounds peaceful.
Dew drops on leaves and petals glisten and shine.
Oh! Nature, you are divine!

Poem By: Srimathi Raman

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Purple Thistle

Purple Thistle (Cirsium horridulum) is a common sight throughout the summer months. This plant is considered invasive by many, in fact in Iowa and Arkansas it is illegal to grow this plant. Believe it or not there are gardeners out there that prize this plant for it's beautiful purple flower and unusual foliage. These cultivated plants easily escape the confines of gardens and spread with great vigor throughout the landscape. It takes no time at all before the area looks like something out of a horror film that could be aptly titled "invasion of the thistles". I can certainly appreciate the gorgeous bloom that this plant produces, but it does not off-set the horrors of the prickly leaves or the invasive quality of the plant itself. Anyone having come in contact with this plant can attest to the horror of being stuck by these bristles. Their species name of horridulum means "somewhat bristly" boy is that an understatement. I think the name hints at how horrible this plant is! We fight a battle with these plants each season, my husband is constantly spraying them, only to realize he missed some and has to spray yet again. There are always a few that get by us each year and they end up going to seed and we are faced with them again the following summer.
All is not bad though, the plant is interesting in a few respects, one being its ability to move towards anything that disturbs it. For example if you were to brush against a leaf, the leaf would turn towards you in a protective manner. Insects traveling on the plant may find themselves inadvertently curled up in a leaf, as the plant tries to protect itself. This movement is called thigmonastic motion. This plant is also the host plant for a few butterfly's including the Painted Lady which has the nickname of Thistle Butterfly and the Little Metalmark. Dozens of other butterflies are attracted to the nectar of the bloom, such as the Black Swallowtail, Palamedes Swallowtail, Palmetto Skipper, Delaware Skipper,Three-Spotted Skipper and others.
Thistles are quite large, reaching heights up to three feet with another foot added when the bloom shoots upward. The leaves can range in length from 8 inches to 2 feet. So these plants are very impressive. The bristles are so sharp that even grazing cattle know to leave them alone. I'm sure wrapping your lip around one these leaves is an experience you wouldn't soon forget.
This plant will grow in a wide variety of habitats, including waste ground, roadside ditches, open fields, and pastures. They can tolerate moist or dry soils, in fact not much will deter them. If you choose to plant them in your garden to try and attract butterflies or because you find the plant to be interesting, please be aware of their tendency to be aggressive and keep them in check. Do not let them go to seed. If they aren't controlled, you will have nothing but a garden of thistle in short order, and the neighbors may not like it when these plants suddenly show up in their yards from seeds born on the wind straight from your garden.

Monday, August 3, 2009

American Elder

American Elder (Sambucus canadensis), or Elderberry as it is referred to in Missouri is a common shrub found throughout the Eastern Portion of the United States. This shrub is native to North America and can be found in a wide variety of habitats, from wet to dry soils. They seem to prefer full sun. They spread by underground suckers. They reach heights from 10-15 feet, the leave are made up of 5 to 9 thin leaflets. Late in the spring or early summer there are large clusters of blooms made up of tiny white flowers. These flowers give way to berries late in the summer or early fall. The berries are edible and used for many things, from jam, to wine to juice. All other parts of the plant or shrub are poisonous. The leaves and inner bark can be used as a dye or an insecticide. Studies on this native shrub are currently going on at The University of Missouri's southwest center in Mount Vernon as well as at the Missouri State Fruit Experimentation Center in Fountain Grove. Songbirds are responsible in large part for the spread of Elderberries, they eat the delicious berries and leave their berry laden droppings in other areas. These shrubs can spread rapidly and in no time can form dense curtains of thick berry filled shrubs. They have a tendency to outgrow the area where they are growing, so plan accordingly if you choose to plant them in your yard. They respond well to pruning, which will keep them under control. I have one in my yard that needs serious pruning. The birds use it for nesting as well as for food so I am happy to have it in the yard. I keep saying I am going to pick the berries before the birds get to them and make jam, maybe this will be the year.