Diverse lawns in south Florida

Diverse lawns in south Florida
Earlier this spring I started reading yet another book on gardening in south Florida. This one, by James Kushlan, with photos by Kirsten Hines, is called Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens. It came out last fall from the University Press of Florida. I didn’t order it at first, because I already have tons of ...

Fiddlewood flowers and true garden pests

Fiddlewood flowers and true garden pests
Gardeners who plan their gardens for wildlife often see that planning rewarded. The thing is, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether that reward is, as the computer programmers say, a feature or a bug.  That is, we plant the plants we do because we’re interested in more than just the way the garden looks to us; we ...

New backyard plant: Portulaca pilosa

New backyard plant: <em>Portulaca pilosa</em>
I didn’t plant this pretty little weed, known variously as pink purslane, kiss-me-quick, or pigweed, but I’m glad to see it volunteering in my yard. Pink Purslane, known to horticulturists as Portulaca pilosa, is a low-growing plant with succulent leaves (succulent in both the technical and culinary senses) and pretty little pink flowers (although if you plan ...

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary
The Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) is one of the most common butterflies in my backyard, and it’s one of the most impressive as well. Large and brightly colored, it’s attracted to the nectar provided by the abundant flowers of the butterfly sage (Cordia globosa) that I have growing in several places, as well as to ...

New backyard insect: Megachilid bee sp., subgenus Chelostomoides

New backyard insect: Megachilid bee sp., subgenus Chelostomoides
Being a backyard naturalist has its ups and downs. It’s fun to get to know your little corner of the earth well enough to know when something new (to you, if not to science) appears there. Lately I’ve been noticing how many different species of bees there are. Of course the most common bee in ...

Step into my parlor…

Step into my parlor...
…said the spider to the lady beetle. And yet, nothing happened. This morning before work I went out and, as usual, was taking pictures of whatever I could find in the yard. I found this lovely Southern Sprite damselfly (first of the season): It’s always a pleasure to see these relatively rare damselflies. (Odd, too, how abundance is ...

Sweat Bees, or, spring is happening…

Sweat Bees, or, spring is happening...
…and the bees are buzzing with excitement. I was out in the yard at lunchtime, as usual, and I noticed more than the usual activity around the flowerbeds in front. There were these little yellow blurs zipping from flower to flower in the Gaillardia. These are among the prettiest flowers in south Florida, although I ...

Zebra heliconian

Zebra heliconian
Some days, you just get lucky. This Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonia) just sat patiently on a leaf letting me snap pictures as I walked closer and closer.

New backyard butterfly: Dainty Sulphur

New backyard butterfly: Dainty Sulphur
April’s showers have brought an explosion of new insect life to the garden. This morning I went out to check on the new plantings (record heat yesterday had made me concerned despite the relatively frequent recent rains) and discovered at least a half dozen Halloween Pennant dragonflies: Three or four little blue dragonlets (yes, this ...

Damselfeast 2015

Damselfeast 2015
The Rambur’s Forktail damselfly (Ischnura hastata) is one of the more widespread and common damselflies in my area, and across the southern part of the country, really. Its range even extends into Hawaii, according to the sightings map from Odonata Central: There are a couple of reasons this damselfly has such an extensive range. One ...