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Fred's photos from Wheaton Labs

 
gardener
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Location: St Paul, MN/Tularosa, NM and now a gapper at Wheaton Labs
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More tracks!

A couple of tracks from the dusty road, then one from edge of a puddle by the wofati since it rained.

First looks like a coyote. James left with his dogs, so their tracks aren't covering the road anymore.

I have no idea about the second. Paul guessed a bug dragging something and covering its own foot tracks. Any other guesses?

The third looks like chipmunk to me. We've got plenty of them eating all kind of weed seeds by the wofati.
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coyote
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?
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chipmunk
 
steward
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Location: Montana
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ahh this is such an amazing thread fred. I love learning about all these plants and insects from you!
 
Fred Tyler
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Thanks Cassie! I'll keep trying to make interesting posts about the stuff around here.

The first photo is Canada Milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis). This is a taprooted nitrogen fixer. This vetch doesn't sprawl like others, and grows rather upright. The ones i've seen at the Lab have been about one or two feet tall, but it can grow to twice that. This milkvetch doesn't seem to be poisonous to herbivores like most in the genus, and is eaten by many animals.

The second photo is common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). It has very fuzzy petals inside that bell. I'm sure that helps with pollination, as insects squeeze in to get the nectar. It makes white fruit that is mildly toxic, but is eaten by a wide variety of animals. The plant has been used for medicine, soap, arrow shafts, and even as a lotion in Russia.

Third is Pineapple Weed (Matricaria matricariodes). Sometimes this plant is called wild camomile, but has a pineapple scent when crushed. This plant can withstand lots of abuse and is commonly found along walkways and roads, where compacted. The young flower buds and leaves are edible in salads and the flowers can be used fresh or dried in tea. Most of it here has gone to seed, but this one was still looking fresh.
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Canada Milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis)
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Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
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Pineapple Weed (Matricaria matricariodes)
 
pollinator
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I love photos of wild flowers! We don't have all of these you show here (in the Netherlands, western Europe) too. But I know that 'pineapple weed', or wild camomille.
 
Fred Tyler
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Yesterday i posted some photos to a plant ID thread over in the plant forum for a low growing weed we have here at Wheaton Labs. Maybe you know what it is?

I've been pulling knapweed by the road so the county doesn't come by and hose us down with toxic gick. I noticed a couple of biological control insects on them. The county won't wait for these to be effective. I captured a few to be transplanted to the area across from ant village (since i was removing the food source for their offspring).

The first is the Knapweed Root Weevil (Cyphocleonus achates). They like to hang out at the bottom of big knapweeds and lay eggs so the next generation will bore out the big taproot. This will usually kill the knapweed within two years.

The second is Blunt Knapweed Flower Weevil (Larinus obtusus). It could also be the almost indistinguishable L. minutus, but they prefer the diffuse knapweed while L. obtusus prefers the spotted, so i'm betting it's the first. The larvae of these will eat the maturing seed resulting in a drastic reduction in viable seed.

The root and flower weevils together can result in as much as 95% reduction in the amount of knapweed within a few years.

Growies! The third photo is some melons i planted around the shower water heater compost when that was being rebuilt last month. With the recent rains they are growing fast! A couple of them are blooming too!
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Knapweed Root Weevil (Cyphocleonus achates)
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Blunt Knapweed Flower Weevil (Larinus obtusus)
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blooming melon!
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Do I understand well the 'county' sprays with pesticides along the roads, to kill such beautiful wild flowers? Why?
Isn't that 'knapweed' a flower attracting nice butterflies? Or at least nice bugs, the ones you show here ...
 
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Location: Burleson, TX
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I like your photos. Keep 'em coming. Have you started any type of house yet?
 
Fred Tyler
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Inge, the knapweed has been deemed a noxious weed. That means it is an opportunistic exotic and isn't very good animal forage and gets in the way of monoculture crops. The county will spray it because there is a chance its seeds will spread and have some economic impact on a farmer. The two beetles i posted were introduced as a way reduce the knapweed population and come from its home territory. But you are right, the bees love knapweed.

Thanks Leslie! I'm here as a gapper, not an ant. That means i won't be building a house for myself here (unless i become an ant). While i've been here i've mostly been working on a small part of Paul's massive to do list. I've been planting seeds and trying to build soil. We were short on rain, so lots of the growies are getting a late start. For two weeks, i was also taking the PDC. I'm currently staying in the first wofati - Allerton Abbey.

The first photo is a Rubber Boa (Charina bottae). These are passive, slow, and extremely smooth snakes. They are most active at night and so are rarely seen. They feed mostly on the young of small rodents. The females give live birth to between two and nine snakes every four years. They have a small territory and i found this one near the wofati, so maybe i'll see it again.

The second and third photos are of a female Ponderous Borer (Trichocnemis spiculatus). Their larvae feed on the sapwood and heartwood dead ponderosa pine and occasionally douglas fir, which are the two main trees around here. They leave large tunnels through the wood as they grow to three inches over several years. This beetle was about 2.5 inches!
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Rubber Boa (Charina bottae)
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Female Ponderous Borer (Trichocnemis spiculatus)
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Female Ponderous Borer (Trichocnemis spiculatus) - closeup
 
Fred Tyler
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The bees and butterflies like the thistles even though Evan's bare feet don't. The first photo is some kind of fritillary butterfly in the genus Speyeria. Montana has about a dozen species in that genus and i can't really tell some of them apart. It is sipping some nectar on a bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Thistle likes compacted areas and this one will send a taproot down over two feet. The peeled stems and first year roots (before it blooms) can be eaten, but i haven't tried it yet. It might be a little too painful to prepare with all the spikes. I guess that could be an added incentive to clear it from an area.

The second photo is an aster. I couldn't find a match. The leaves have a toothed margin. The bees sure like it.

The third photo is one of the potatoes that was planted in a mini hugle down at basecamp. It seems to be doing great. Time to pile some mulch around those.
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Speyeria butterfly on Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)
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Aster
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Potato blossom
 
steward
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I was listening to an interview with a woman who wrote a book about the wild wisdom of weeds, and she said that all parts of the thistle were edible. So, I cut down a tall, blooming thistle and (with gloves on) pulled off all the younger leaves, filling my Vita-Prep blender with them. Then I added a few cups of water, and blended the whole thing into green juice. I filtered out the fibers and that caught all the spines. The green juice was very mild in flavor, like I had done the same thing with spinach.

So, if you have access to a blender, you can enjoy thistle! It's supposed to be really good for your liver.

Another thing she recommended was eating the flower petals. I needed a glove on my left hand and then with my right hand pulled the purple and white petals out. They are a little sweet and pleasantly chewy.
 
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