another beautiful gift from Madeline

another beautiful gift from Madeline

My friend Madeline is a nature lover, floral designer, and experienced forager. In other words, she is a kindred spirit. I met her for lunch today to talk about doing a book related event together later this spring. As were were leaving, she offered me this astonishing gift: A black swallowtail chrysalis! A chrysalis is the pupa stage of a butterfly. When a caterpillar is fully grown, it makes a button of silk which it uses to fasten its body to a leaf or a twig. Then the caterpillar’s skin comes off for the final time. Under this old skin is a hard skin called a chrysalis. This swallowtail chrysalis is attached to the branch by cremastral hooks protruding from the rear of the chrysalis and the head is held up by a silk girdle. When the butterfly finds is pupation spot, it will attach its hind legs to a plant with silk and then put a strand of silk around its head. That silk sling will keep attached to the twig all winter long, through howling winds and heavy wet snows. Amazing.

black swallowtail chrysalis ( Papilio polyxenes)

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February, really?

February, really?

These lilac buds are still pretty tight, but they are definitely swelling–which is about a whole month earlier than usual. For Minnesotans this crazy mild winter is like the best possible gift ever. And yet, as a human Earthling I have to believe it is anything but.

lilac buds in very early spring (Syringa)

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take two

take two

Another take on yesterday’s ruffed grouse foot. Mostly because I was on a tight deadline all afternoon. But also because the extraordinary details in this grouse foot were worthy of closer look.

ruffed grouse foot (Bonasa umbellus)

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interesting and beautiful

interesting and beautiful

When people ask me how I choose my STILL subjects, I tell them I have two criteria: it has the be either beautiful or interesting, and ideally both. These ruffed grouse feet* are certainly interesting. You will have to tell me if you think they are also beautiful.

*For the nerds: Those comb-like pectinations growing laterally from the scales of the feet act to significantly increase the surface area so they function like snowshoes.

ruffed grouse feet (Bonasa umbellus)

  • Jackie says:

    They are not just beautiful, they are gorgeous!

    reply
  • Old Lady Gardener says:

    I suppose it depends on whether you are another ruffled grouse with a foot fetish or not, heh heh. Kidding aside, the design and function is indeed beautiful… look at that detail!!

    reply

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frisky squirrels and budding maples

frisky squirrels and budding maples

I couldn’t decide what was more interesting: that fact that the maples are starting to blossom (in February!) or that the bark of this silver maple looks like elephant skin. Typically, most of the buds on a given tree usually all flower within days of each other. But this year with our unusually warm temps, interspersed with below freezing temps, anything could happen. Silver maple flowers are wind-pollinated and lack petals (which would hinder dissemination).  Therefore, the flowers are not large and flashy, and often escape notice. So look up! Things are happening.

silver maple blossoms (Acer saccharinum)

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