Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kansas Monarchs in September

Kansas Monarchs in September 

Monarch butterfly, Lake El Dorado, Butler County, Kansas

September in Kansas, the harsh summer sun is gone and cooler temperatures bring the annual migration of Monarch butterflies south to Mexico. The Monarchs fill the fields and gardens, feasting on a multitude of Golden Rod and Thistle. 

What is amazing is that this is a fourth generation of Monarchs that has progressed from egg to caterpillar, then chrysalis, and finally adult butterfly within a short life cycle of 6 to 8 weeks. 

But our Kansas Monarchs do not die so quickly, this specialized group makes its way to Mexico and lay dormant until the following February and March when they will awaken and lay their eggs to begin the marvelous cycle of migration again. 

A month or two, think about that. An entire life encompassed in 30 to 60 days. That is the life of most Monarch butterflies from egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and finally butterfly. The egg grows about 4 days. It hatches as a caterpillar (larvae) and then munches milkweed, for about 2 weeks. The caterpillar's life inside the chrysalis (pupa) lasts 10 days, and its life as a butterfly floating and flittering on its journey north and south from 2 - 6 weeks. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Compass Plant and Silvery Checkerspot

On the Flint Hills of Kansas, there is no flower so bright and sunny in September as the Compass Plant. The name comes from the plant's tendency to face north. 

Resting for a moment on the flower is the Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis) butterfly.

Compass Plant and Silvery Checkerspot butterfly

Compass Plant and Silvery Checkerspot butterfly

Compass Plant and Silvery Checkerspot butterfly

Compass Plant and Silvery Checkerspot butterfly

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ths Scottish Thistle

O, the Thistle o’ Scotland was famous of auld,
Wi’ its toorie sae snod and its bristles sae bauld;
’Tis the badge o’ my country – it’s aye dear to me;
And the thocht o’ them baith brings the licht to my e’e

Scotland has been in the news lately, so I thought it appropriate to post an image of the national flower of Scotland, the Thistle.

I am glad, for old times sake, that Scotland will remain part of the United Kigndom.

The translation of the first stanza of the Scottish national anthum goes like this:

O, the Thistle o’ Scotland was famous of old,
Wi’ its craggy hills so trim and its bristles so bold;
’Tis the badge o’ my country – it’s yes dear to me;
And the thought o’ them both brings a light to my eye

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Indian Blanket

I came across these flowers while driving along the Kansas Scenic Highway near Marfield Green.  They are the Oklahoma state flower, the Gaillardia pulchella, commonly referred to as the Indian Blanket or Firewheel.  They grow as both a perennial and annual  plant and are a popular bedding plant because of their distinctive red and yellow color.

Indian Painted Flower

Indian Painted Flower

Indian Painted Flower

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kansas Buffalo Gourd

This is Labor Day weekend and I am driving along Scenic Highway 177 from Cassoday to Strong City. At Matfield Green I detour off the highway and into town. Then across Sharp's Creek to where the gravel roads lead into the Flint Hills.

Chase County gravel road

I am still in the rich bottom land. There to the left side of the road, next to a field of soy beans lie some uncut native grasses. 

Kansas Buffallo Gourd flower

Within the matted grass are several Buffalo Gourds. It is also known by the name Stinking Gourd because of the foul smell the rotting fruit gives off. The stems of the plant are trailing, in one case wrapped within a fallen gate, radiating a dozen and more feet from the center where a taproot borrows into the ground. The smooth leaves are large, pointed, and velvety.

Kansaswildflowers.org reports that the carrot-like taproot of buffalo gourd can reach 4-6 feet long and weigh more than 100 pounds. Like the native Osage Indians, I believe in the plant's mystical powers; it should not be disturbed. 

The Indians used the gourds for ceremonial rattles ad children's play toys.

A few round gourds, the size of a tennis ball, now yellow with age, but once green with light stripes like a cucumber, hang from the rails of the gate or lay on the ground. It is the end of the flowering period, but a few remain. The flowers are large and yellow like the squash blossom, and, therefore, presumably edible.

fruit of the Kansas Buffalo Gourd