Friday, May 18, 2012

Butterfly of the Week

Hayhurst's Scallopwing

Staphylus hayhurstii (Edwards 1870)
Status: Infrequent to rare breeding resident.
Flight: Double brooded, with adults flying from late May to mid June and from mid July to early August. Rarely a partial third brood will occur in early September.
Distinguishing features: This small dark brown skipper has scalloped wing edges in fresh specimens. The fore wing below appears to have a checkered fringe. Unlike its close look-alike the Common Sootywing, Pholisora catyllus, S. hayhurstii rests with wings outspread against the surface of the substrate, which is reminiscent of some moths and metalmarks. It is also a lighter brown than P. catullus. Wingspan: 2.3-2.5 cm.
Distribution and habitat: Map 70. The Hayhurst's Scallopwing appears limited to the southern half of the state. It is most often encountered in sandy floodplain forests of river birch. It has also been sighted in Loess Hills forests and wooded groves adjacent to sand prairies.
Natural history: Most recent sightings of this species are of single individuals. Although its larvae have been reported to eat various members of the goosefoot family, including lamb's quarters, the actual host plants in Iowa remain undocumented. The Scallopwing's scattered occurrence and relatively high level of habitat fidelity suggest that it consumes a related species, which is less ubiquitous in the modern landscape.
Questions: What adaptive benefits are provided by resting with wings open and flat? What host plans are actually utilized by this species in the state? Do populations reside in floodplain forests or simple use these habitats as migrational corridors?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rain Garden Update

Update from the Kuhl House gardens

Plants in our rain garden and prairie garden are making themselves visible above ground right now, thanks to Iowa’s unusually early spring. Everything seems to have survived the mild winter conditions. In fact, the cup plants seedlings runneth over, and we have had to be merciless about digging them up; we also thinned the many new brown-eyed Susan seedlings. Wild geranium and golden Alexander are blooming and the Indigo bush is getting ready to bloom. University Facilities Management staff added fresh compost to the rain garden’s berm, and we weeded and trimmed both gardens while making plans to add a few new grasses and wildflowers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Plant of the Week

Buffalo grass
Buchloe dactyloides (Nutt.) Engelm.
other common names: early mesquite
Buchloe: from Greek bous, meaning “cow,” and cloe, meaning “grass,” a Greek rendition of buffalo grass
Dactyloides: from Greek dactylos, meaning “finger,” and oid, meaning “like,” perhaps for the appearance of the leaves or for a resemblance to Dactylis, the genus of orchardgrass. (This is the only species in the genus.)
Grass family: Poaceae (Gramineae)

Photograph by Thomas Rosburg, Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie: The Upper Midwest, Second Edition