we found this guy in a puddle in the middle of an asphalt parking lot in downtown minneapolis. i can only guess where he came from. probably the mississippi river, but that would have made for an awfully long flight for an insect that flies only rarely during warm weather. he looked half drowned, but was probably happier in his puddle than in our car, as we drove him home to get his portrait taken. we only found out later that he was a water scorpion, and that the long needle at his back end is neither a stinger nor an ovipositor, but a breathing tube. and that he grabs his prey with those mantid-like front legs, then eats them by sucking their fluids out. despite this somewhat antisocial behavior, i find him rather handsome, in a gangly, awkward, lyle lovett kind of way.
brown water scorpion (Ranatra fusca)
every year in september
something about the evolution of lily of the valley leaves draws me to them at this time of the year. something about how the summer heat turns them green, and the coming of autumn turns them brown. as if they were cooled by the sun and burned by the cold.
lily of the valley leaves
turtle lake, shoreview, minnesota
queen anne has hairy legs
a good skill to have if you are a plant picker like me is to know the difference between queen anne’s lace and poison hemlock. they are cousins in the parsley family, but, as in many families, one cousin is an angel and the other is a devil. in this case, one is edible, and the other will kill you in about an hour. fortunately if you remember that “queen anne has hairy legs” (in other words, the stems of the benign queen anne’s lace are hairy and the stems of the poison hemlock are smooth with purple blotches), you should mostly be safe. regardless, i don’t know if i will ever be able to bring myself to eat any part of a queen anne’s lace. i just can’t imagine that the pleasure could equal the worst case scenario risk.
wild carrot, queen anne’s lace
red stem bluestem
in the hierarchy of things, there are artists and there is michelangelo. there are dancers and there is nureyev. there are lakes and there is lake superior. there is grass and there is big bluestem.
big bluestem prairie grass in fall
i love how plants of a single species grow in an almost infinite variety, and yet always look like themselves. you simply can’t mistake a basil plant, or a curly dock, or a thistle, or a maple tree, and yet every individual is unlike every other. it’s like style, whether a sense of fashion style, or a style of making art, or a style of writing. every combination of words is different, but you always know it’s iris apfel, or it’s mondrian, or it’s updike. who knows. someday there may be a thing that’s known in certain circles as “a mary jo.” wouldn’t that be wonderful?
unidentified wetland weed
sucker lake regional trial, saint paul, minnesota