New backyard plant: Willow Bustic

New backyard plant: Willow Bustic
On the first day of spring 2015 (that was March 20 for those of you who still aren’t keeping track of the seasons and astronomical events) I planted a new tree in the side yard out front: a Willow Bustic, Sideroxylon salicifolium. (Although take that taxonomic name with a grain of salt; apparently the tree is ...

New backyard plant: Beach Creeper

New backyard plant: Beach Creeper
My front yard is a problem. It faces south, and it’s very hot and dry. The soil is sandy, and because much of the front yard is reclaimed from a time when the street was wider, there’s a lot of crushed limestone under that sand layer, making for tough digging: those loosely compacted rocks are ...

New backyard plant: Bahama Jacaranda 2

New backyard plant: Bahama Jacaranda
One of my favorite memories of my decade spent at UCLA was seeing the huge trees with all the purple flowers and the flowery name: Jacaranda. They were scattered all over campus, in front of the library, in the courtyard outside a classroom I was in a lot, in the sculpture garden, near the top ...

Large moths

Large moths
Over the years I’ve found some big moths on the property, both as larvae and as adults. When I say big, I mean big enough that people notice them, not the little tiny guys that are present by the hundreds in the grasses and flower beds. I’m talking sphinx moths, family Sphingidae, also known as hawk ...

What’s in a name? The “involucrate” of Lantana involucrata

What's in a name? The
My last post was about a nice little Florida native plant that I’m trying out (again) in the yard: Lantana involucrata. Now “lantana,” you’ll recall, in addition to being the name of a town not far from where I live, comes from the Latin for “flexible,” whatever that may mean when applied to these rather woody ...

New backyard plant: Button Sage

New backyard plant: Button Sage
This spring I decided to revamp my yard a little bit, removing some poorly performing plants (firebush, believe it or not) and replacing them with species that might be more suited to the growing conditions here. And in my front yard, that means hot and sunny. Lantana involucrata, commonly known by its taxonomic name but also ...

Dragonflies and damselflies returning to the yard

Dragonflies and damselflies returning to the yard
After a dry beginning to March (and no rain since then, but at least the heat’s moderated a bit for the past few days), the odonates have started returning to the yard, just in time for the equinox! One or two of them run into mishaps: but by and large they are still the most ...

New backyard bug: Ammophila pictipennis

New backyard bug: <em>Ammophila pictipennis</em>
It’s been a hot, dry, and windy March leading up to the Ides this year. Not great for photographing insects. But one evening as I was dragged out into the back yard by my soon-to-be 4-year old, I saw a large, slow-moving wasp. I ran back inside to grab my camera and was able to ...

Sweat bees in the yard

Sweat bees in the yard
Sweat bees are fairly common. We get two kinds here in my yard, neither of which are common enough to have common names, but which I see fairly frequently: Agapostemon splendens and Halictus poeyi. The “splendid” green Agapostemon moves very quickly; a good shot of it is fairly rare. But H. poeyi is a bit ...

Odonates returning

Odonates returning
As the calendar turns from January to February, damselflies and dragonflies are returning to the yard. Today three lovely male Citrine Forktails (Ischnura hastata) were in the back yard while I was baby sitting for three-year-old Daniel, home with a respiratory infection. (Yay, work from home.) While he was helpfully turning the back yard into ...