I found this recently in my yard. iNat was stumped. I call it Plantus Drivewae. It is a low growing plant that is heat tolerant, tire tolerant and needs little water. Anyone know what it really is? Send your answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org
September 6–12, 2020
The first DFW Fall Socially Distant BioBlitz was a huge success! During these seven days, over 1100 people participated in the greater DFW 11-county area. Many of these people were Master Naturalists, but many more were not. Between all of us, we made over 35,000 observations, of over 2700 species. What a great way to kick the end-of-summer doldrums!
The competition between Master Naturalist chapters was friendly, but enthusiastic. Elm Fork’s service area had the most observations, with over 10,000, but Cross Timbers Chapter and our own Blackland Prairie Chapter were not far behind, with over 8000 observations each. (Note that Elm Fork had THREE counties, while we only had two. Just saying….) Overall, the Blackland Prairie Chapter made a terrific contribution. We had 45 members contribute over 7000 observations during that seven-day period. We observed 931 different species! To put that in proper perspective, over the comparable week in 2019, our members made only 379 observations. According to my calculations, we made around 19 times as many observations this year as last!!
We held ten small group outings during the BioBlitz, and all the participants enjoyed getting a chance to explore with fellow Master Naturalists. Twenty-five members attended at least one outing, with some hardy souls attending five, six, or seven! We kicked off the week with an outing to Hunt County, an area that has had very little iNaturalist activity. Manju Ruikar (Class of 2020) kindly invited the group out to explore her family’s Hunt county property. There were 384 observations made in Hunt county during the BioBlitz, so we still have lots of room for improvement out there. Still, compared to the 15 observations made last year during this time period, we’ve come a long way! We made other outings to places new and old, from the Heard Sanctuary and Erwin Park, to Parkhill Prairie and Breckenridge Park. On Friday, we had perfect weather for exploring the Woodfin property. (Thanks, Bill and Fran, for having us!) We saw more butterflies at the beautiful Stiff Chapel Cemetery than we’d seen all week!
In addition to the outings, many people worked hard collecting observations on their own. We had several people new to iNaturalist jump in with both feet! A big welcome to iNaturalist for Rochelle Delozier (iNat ID “delozier4”). She just joined iNaturalist in August and made over 500 observations during the BioBlitz! Wow! Matt Delozier (iNat ID “outdoormatt”) wasn’t too far behind her, and Brent Blackwell (iNat ID “backfire”,) while not entirely new to iNaturalist, caught the bug this year and did some serious ‘Blitzing, too!
Identifying observations made by others is one area in which our chapter has historically lagged. However, we’re well on our way to remedying that this year! We had more people than ever before making identifications during the BioBlitz. Twelve members each provided identifications for over 100 observations made by others, and several chapter members each made thousands of BioBlitz ID’s. This is such an important part of the outreach component of iNaturalist, so a big thanks to people who worked on identifications!
Kudos to Sam Kieschnick for organizing this project and inspiring so many of us! Check out the whole project and results on iNaturalist: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem Sam will be presenting a webinar reviewing the results and relevancy of the 2020 BioBlitz, on Friday, September 25, at 7:00 PM. Pre-registration required: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ssLSn7T6Qe6r_HfTAjyCtg
September 12, 2020
This week is a big biodiversity search in our DFW area but I have been unable to participate due to other circumstances. So today I took a walk in my yard. I discovered I had missed three moon blooms last evening as their blooms were now hanging listlessly on the vine. BUT there is the promise of two more coming and very soon. I will have to be watchful after the sunset. As I looked at the blooms I became aware of a parade of ants going up and down a metal fence post. Those going up were ‘empty-handed’ but those going down were carrying egg sacks to a new destination on the ground in the ground cover. They had apparently taken those precious bundles to a high spot during the rains – which happens to be a hole in my fence. As a I watched them I was aware of another movement as a very small green anole moved along the fence and then jumped into a bush for a morsel to eat. This animal was less than an inch long but its tail was at least two inches long.
All over the yard are patches of surprise lilies in a brilliant orange red color. They suddenly pop up from the ground after that first fall rain – September 1 was the date this year – and they have continued coming up and blooming since them. Some have started their decline by losing their vivid color. I noted that in one area some were laying on the ground and something had stepped on them and broken them. Who or what was exploring my garden when I wasn’t looking? A tiny toad – about a half a penny size – moved away from my big feet. He could only hop a few inches but he did so quickly and disappeared in the ground cover of leaves.
I walked around a corner and found another anole of a more adult size. Part of its tail was green but the lower half was smaller and brown. I would guess it had met with a predator and was able to escape with just the loss of part of its anatomy. As I watched it climb up a wall of the green house a very small frog suddenly jumped high into the air and continued hopping towards a bush. I had finally seen one of the Rio Grande frogs that I can hear so often at night. Biodiversity journeys are often found at home.
A few photos and facts from New Hampshire… You can take the Master Naturalist out of Texas (temporarily) but they will still seek to learn about the natural world wherever they are.
White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis) butterfly: Have you seen a Red-spotted Purple butterfly? If so, you have seen this species. All Limenitis arthemis in the north have a bold white stripe crossing the forewing and hindwing, while in the south, the species has evolved to mimic the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail.
Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant that is native throughout the temperate northern hemisphere but favors the cooler climates of boreal forests and mountain peaks.
Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) is a small, semi-aquatic turtle that is globally endangered. Their favored habitat includes flooded forests, marshes, wet meadows, bogs, and woodland streams in the eastern United States and southeast Canada. They are most at risk during their frequent terrestrial wanderings when they are particularly vulnerable to predation or encounters with automobiles.
Moose (Alces alces) are the largest members of the New World deer sub-family and range throughout Canada and most of the northern tier of states in the U.S. Moose are solitary throughout most of their lives. They feed on vegetation such as pond grasses and young trees and shrubs and require habitat that offers protection from extremely hot or cold temperatures. This one is probably a two-year old calf that is recently on its own. Nevertheless, it was taller than my small SUV.
Here’s my latest project. I got the idea from the North Texas Gardner’s Facebook page. We just had foundation work done along this barren side of the house that’s always been a messy storage area for miscellaneous stuff.
It’s always had drainage issues from the downspout to the right, plus my neighbor told me it floods his yard every time it rains.
So I dug a trench from the downspout and along the fence line to the front of the house and put in a pipe and filled it in. Then installed a weed barrier. I already had the concrete steppingstones that were used for my son’s motorcycle that is now long gone.👏👏👏.
Then filled in with the rocks (900 pounds) which I hauled one bag at a time. Now I have a 4’x28’ blank canvas to play with. Water won’t be a problem with 3 sprinklers along the wall but it does get about 5-6 hours of intense western sunlight plus radiant heat into the evening. Whatever goes in there will have to withstand the punishing Texas sun including me.
Greg Tonian – Ovenbird
Jim Dulian’s Quiz Submissions
Jim Dulian’s Heron Chicks
Jean Suplick – Once a Collector always a Collector
Terry Comingore – Think Skinks
Rick Travis – Milkweed Project in the Wetlands Update
The Botanical Research Institute of Texas, or BRIT, is located in Fort Worth, adjacent to the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens. The sleek, LEEDS-accredited building has been in operation since 2011. Herbaria are the places that plant specimens are compiled and maintained. Collecting and keeping specimens of plants, which are pressed, dried, labelled, and mounted on sheets of paper, is of scientific value for several reasons. Having a plant specimen provides an example of a species in a particular time and place, which is important for recording the occurrence, range and distribution of plant species. It allows us to document any changes in those same attributes over time. It can also illustrate such important information as flowering period and, as such, any changes in seasonal development. Such information is important in documenting the effects of climate change, for example. More recently, genetic information from specimens has become another important resource for study. By comparing genetic information from past specimens with current, it is possible to investigate changes, such as losses, in genetic variability over time. To make plant specimens from the herbarium readily available for study to scientists globally, the pressed samples at BRIT are in the process of being digitized (scanned) and uploaded into a searchable database more useful for scientific research. As the plant specimens are individually labelled, the information from the labels has to be transcribed, one at a time, into the database along with the scanned photo, by humans. The handwriting on the labels varies widely, as specimens are from the 1700s onward, and is not readly legible to computer-aided input systems. Herbarium collections are therefore valuable scientific resources. The BRIT in Fort Worth is one of the top ten largest Herbaria in the United States. It is an amalgamation of the original collections from SMU (Southern Methodist University), Vanderbuilt University, Louisiana State University, along with BRIT specimens. Recently, Dr. Nelson Rich from Collin College has donated his personal collections to BRIT as well. These most recent specimens have to be sorted and prioritized before they can be incorporated into the main collections.
Since 2009 the Texas legislature has designated the third full week in October as Texas Native Plant Week.
This year we have partnered with Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Agrilife Water University to celebrate Texas Native Plant Week with an iNaturalist Bioblitz.
The point is to see how many plants can be observed using the iNaturalist app during the week of October 20 – October 27. All plant observations made during the week in Texas with a photo will automatically be added to the project.