Thursday, July 28, 2011

Three Milkweeds

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) This species is found throughout most of the Eastern United States and in Oregon and Montana. It is a hardy plant.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) This is another widespread milkweed. It is not found in Oregon and Montana but  is found in California and the southwestern states as well as in the eastern states. Even though it is widespread, it is threatened or endangered in five states, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Sullivant's Milkweed or Prairie Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii).This is a milkweed of the Midwest and of the prairies.  It has a much smaller range than the other two milkweeds. It is threatened in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

All three have similar distinctive flowers. Milkweeds also generally have a milky juice which gives them their common name. There are over 140 species.

I have always been interested in milkweeds because they attract butterflies and and a wide variety of other insects.  Most people know that Monarch butterflies nectar on milkweeds and their caterpillars eat the leaves.  Many other butterflies are also attracted to milkweeds.  So are many species of bees, wasps, beetles, and bugs.  All of these six-legged animals have interesting life cycles and rarely are any of them a pest to anything we humans hold dear.  I am happy I have all three of these milkweeds in my yard.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Plein Air Painting...Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary Vista

Tom and I drove to Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary on Monday morning. The day was hazy with come and go sunshine. Tom set up his camera mount on his scooter and filmed a treadmill tape for the park district to distribute to various exercise facilities. Treadmill users say the time passes quicker if they are watching a walk through a park. Tom films them in such a way that the exercisers can feel like they are actually walking somewhere.

While he did this, I painted the sketch. I wasn't interested in walking behind him because the mosquitoes are thick in the wet woods. Tom put on a lot of mosquito repellant before he went in. He still was bitten twice.

I sat on the base of the park sign which was very comfortable with plenty of room for my painting supplies and looked out across the fields.

Before we left, I took a photo of the scene.

I cropped the original photo several different ways this morning. Perhaps, I will paint this scene as a larger painting sometime. I used Jasc Paint Shop Pro to brighten the photo.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Children's Musical Theater...Oz

The third Children's Musical Theater production this summer was Oz. Twenty-nine actors and actresses participated. They varied in grade level from first grade through high school. As usual, the bigger parts were split among several people.  There were four Dorothys, three Lions, three Scarecrows and three Tinmen. Each had about the same amount of stage time.

Here are the four different Dorothys and the three different Lions, two different Tinmen and two different Scarecrows.

Below are the other Scarecrow and the other Tinman as well as the China Princess.

Sonja told me Grady Hoellrich did the choreography. The dances were delightful, varied and energetic. Below are photos of some of them.

The Wicked Witch below is gloating. The singing popppies are behind her.

But Glinda saves the friends.

The monkeys have a sad story, too.

But Dorothy saves the day melting the witch away.

And back they go to see the wizard.

And this is, unfortunately where my camera battery died so I didn't get any pictures of the last scenes, Aunt Em wondering where Dorothy is and Glinda telling Dorothy how to get home.

Many of the students had solos which they sang beautifully. Gretchen Weber, the accompanist on the piano, kept the piano at a level so the students with the softer voices could be heard as well as those who sang with stronger voices.

Sonja Hyer, aided by associate director, Becca O'Brien, did a nice job of helping the students put on a memorable musical.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Our Prairie Patch

Twenty-five years ago, soon after I had  begun volunteering at Brukner Nature Center the volunteers went on a prairie tour with Ralph Ramey, who was then working for Glen Helen in Yellow Springs.  He took us on a tour of area prairies, Bigelow Prairie Cemetery, Smith Cemetery and others.  Since then, Tom and I have had a deep interest in Ohio prairies, the prairie plants, and the many butterflies which are found there. 

We in southwestern Ohio were not happy with the excessive amount of rain this spring and now we are not happy about the heat wave.  The actual temperature is expected to be 98 degrees today and with the humidity is expected to feel like 104 degrees.  But the weather this year has been ideal for prairie plants.  The tall ones are over eight feet tall.  And all of them have lush foliage and promises of even more blooms than what we are seeing today.

Here you see me standing on a ladder and I am still shorter than the Compass-plant with its yellow flower at the very top. I've been told that the Compass-plant was named by the pioneers traveling west because the plant aligns the edge of its leaves toward the sun which would have made them pointing westward in the afternoons. This adaptation helps the plant conserve moisture within the leaves.  Tom took this photo about a week ago.

I took this photo this morning. More of the Compass-plant flowers are open.

If you look again at the first photo you will notice a bushy plant behind the Compass-plant. This is a Cup Plant or Indian Cup(Silphium perfoliatum).

I saw the first blooms on it this morning. The leaves, in sets of two, opposite one another, are united at the base and form a cup that holds water when it rains.

Back to the first photo. In front of the Cup Plant is one of the Big Bluestem(Andropogon gerardii) clumps. This is the predominent grass of the Eastern prairies. The plant is named for the blue color at the joints of its stems which becomes more pronounced as the grass matures. Here is its flowering head. It is sometimes called Turkeyfoot because the flowering heads remind some people of turkey feet.

Other prairie flowers which you can see in the first photo are the Purple Coneflower to the left and the yellow Oxeye to the right. We've had to pamper the Compass-plant a bit to give it a good start but the Purple Coneflower(Echinacea purpurea)...

and the Oxeye or False Sunflower(Heliopsis helianthoides)

grow "like weeds". In fact, one of our former neighbors was enchanted with our prairie flowers until he found out what they were prairie plants. Then he dismissed them with the comment, "Oh, they're just weeds." He didn't like them anymore.

Anything that is as beautiful as a prairie plant is a flower to me. I admire their many adapations, one of which is long, long roots. There is often more plant mass below the ground than above the ground. It's no surprise they grow like weeds and no surprise they thrive when other plants shrivel up and die.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Watercolors of Trilliium

I decided to paint a notecard of a Large-flowered trillium for each of the two friends who walked with me at Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary the day the woods was white with trillium.

These are the photos I am using for reference. The first is a a more distant photo, useful for general shadows and light areas.  The second is useful for seeing details.

Below are the paintings on the cards. I think the first painting is close to finished. I am using somewhat different colors on the second painting. The shadows on the first trillium are painted with Ultramarine deep. The shadows on the second trillium are painted with Antwerp blue. I am also experimenting with the background on the second one. As you can see by looking at the photographs, neither painting has a background like that in the photos.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Milkweeds...part 1...the perilous first days of my Sullivant's Milkweed

I bought one spindly Sulllivant's Milkweed at least seven years ago at the Darke County Parks prairie plant sale.  The sale is one of their annual  fund raisers. The plant had  five leaves.

Every day when I went out to get the mail from the mailbox, I stopped and inspected it. One afternoon when I did my inspection, all of the leaves had been chewed off except one. A caterpillar like this one was the culprit.

I love butterflies and this was the caterpillar of a Monarch. What a dilemma. I solved it nicely after a moment's thought. I carefully picked up the caterpillar, carried it up to the flowerbed beside our driveway turn-around, and put it down on a Butterfly Weed leaf.  Butterfly Weed is another milkweed, one that was abundant that year. 

No other caterpillar munched on the Sullivant's Milkweed that year and the next year it was a healthy plant with a dozen leaves.  The third year I had two plants.  The milkweed has continued to settle into the flowerbed until now there are seven stalks.  There would have been more if I hadn't weeded out a few since I want a variety of plants in the bed.

After a day or so, I put the caterpillar in a rinsed out peanut butter jar with a perforated lid, added some Butterfly Weed leaves and brought it into the house. Tom took photos every day as the caterpillar ate and then developed into a chrysalis. More about that episode on another day. The butterfly had the last laugh.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Charlie Brown...Children's Musical Theater...June 24

On Friday afternoon, I went to the older children's production of Charlie Brown. The children were in sixth grade or above. The play was the children's own version, not an official version.

You will notice that there are two boys dressed as Charlie Brown. Since the children have a lot of lines and songs to memorize in less than two weeks of afternoon rehearsals, usually the parts with the most lines are split between at least two actors. There were two Lucies as well. Each of the eight actors and actresses had about 70 lines of dialogue to memorize as well as learning the words to the songs sung as a group. They also learned dances and acting skills such as blocking. Here are more photos from the performance.

This play was also directed by Sonja Hyer, Rebecca O'Brian, Gretchen Weber, and Grady Hoellrich.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Walk at Charleston Falls...July1

On Friday, Sarah stopped by in the afternoon and we went walking at Charleston Falls. The temperatures were in the eighties but we were comfortable as long as we were on the woodland portions of the trail. The open area at Cedar Pond was hot. I felt sweat tripping down my neck but there were redeeming sights making a little sweat a minor discomfort.

Come with us down the trail to the falls. This part is shaded. We spotted these two Jack-in-the-pulpits with seedpods developing. Later the seedpods will be a beautiful bright red. These two plants could be more accurately be named "Jills" since only the female plants bear seeds. Jack-in-the-pulpits plants can be male, female or neither depending on the quality of the soil in which they are growing and the nourishment they take in.

Here is a closer view of the developing pod.

There was very little water tumbling over the rocky cliff of the falls. We have not had much rain for a couple weeks. Usually we have a bit more rain this time of year.

We hiked down the only somewhat steep trail in the park, Redbud Valley Trail, crossed the creek on the bridge and headed up to Cedar Pond.

On that section of the trail, we saw a lot of Ebony Jewelwing Damselflies. This is the female. The male has entirely black wings. The bodies on both have a metallic sheen.

We passed a small planted prairie on the way. The prairie plants are beginning to bloom. The prairie will be full of flowers in a few weeks.

We saw a few Oxeye Daisies...

and a few Gray-headed coneflowers. They are also called Prairie coneflowers.

At the meadow around the pond we found Common Milkweed. They have a lovely delicate fragrance.

And on the milkweed we found...

a Black Swallowtail. I knew immediately that the butterfly was a swallowtail because of the swallow-like tails on the rear wings. I checked in my Butterflies of Ohio field guide to decide positively that it was the Black Swallowtail since we have three similar species. All are swallowtails, have mostly black wings and red-orange spots on the underside of the rear wings.

We saw only one Black Swallowtail and none of two similar species but we saw many Great Spangled Fritillaries. They are often as large as the Monarch butterflies, another of the large butterflies in our area. They are called Spangled because they have big silver spots on the underside of their rear wings. In this photo, you can see the silver spots on one of the butterflies and the topside of the other butterfly.

I am sure that Tom has taken a beautiful close-up of a Black swallowtail but I can't find it. He has been taking photos for a very long time. Some are slides, some were taken with predigital still cameras, and some are digital camera. I did find these two photos of Great Spangled Fritillaries. He printed them for me so I could paint from them. I have one of the paintings started but I want to buy silver watercolor to use on the rear wing so it is still incomplete.