Monday, October 13, 2014

Rover Ant Nuptial Flight


Brachymyrmex (Rover Ants) is a genus of mostly tramp species that have spread across the globe by human commerce. Colonies are more than happy to move into potted plants and are then transported around, usually a short distance but sometimes all over the place. It's not uncommon to bring a few colonies indoors in the winter time on accident either and species can be found in greenhouses throughout the world.

Despite a lot of nonnatives species in the genus spread around the world, they're not invasive. Colonies remain small and don't seem to displace other ant species.

Flights happen in late afternoon along side Lasius claviger, but seem to favor muggy days with an over cast to them and a slight chill in the air. Around 70 degrees is ideal of course but this species seems to be cold hardy, like Prenolepis imparis. They tend to favor nesting spots in damp, sandy soil, and go unnoticed on account of their size. Any mound formed around the entrance is usually insignificant, and on par with what a Monomorium would make, lots of extremely tiny dirt partials, unlike what a Lasius or Dorymyrmex species would produce.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Scoliid Wasps on Goldenrod

While touring New Moon Nursery I couldn't help but notice the alarming amount of Scoliid Wasps on their Goldenrod. I believe this is the cultivar 'Fireworks' but these are only plugs so they're not really representative of the adult plants. But even in flats, you can see a lot of these plants still try to flower.

Scoliid Wasps are parasites of beetle larva, including the nonnative Japanese Beetle. The adult form though is a pollinator that's fond of generalist composites and mint. Goldenrod, Aster, Mints and a few others are all good at attracting them to your yard. And because the larval stage consumes beetle larva they're beneficial to lawn health too.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Tour of New Moon Nursery

Being a member of the New Jersey Native Plant Society came with an unexpected perk this year. They held a fund raiser where we got to tour New Moon Nursery. They're a wholesale nursery native plant nursery, family run, started back in 2003. They do dabble in a few nonnatives but only under contract.

Before then the property used to be a chicken farm, and you can sort of see it in some of the buildings. Also they keep a couple dozen chickens around.

This is their shipping department, which was I believe they said were originally chicken cages from floor to ceiling. Basically one day a week, they go out and collect the flats to plants customers have ordered. They then take empty trays and assemble the orders from these flats and load them up into trucks or set them aside for customers to arrive and pick up.

It's at this point in the tour that we were given our free reign to fill up a flat of our own with with up to 50 plants, including a few things they had listed as limited supply and not available! The only real restriction was they had to be plug sized. This was a gift for just a $100 donation to the NJ Native Plant Society made well in advance. The nursery has 5 heated greenhouses, 10 row cover house, and a few outside areas filled with several hundred species of plants. Basically everything was up for grabs!

The tour continued into the greenhouses where they showed us how they start up seedlings in trays. I found it neat to learn they then take small cuttings of the seedlings after they germinate and root them to double plant production. The end product still maintains genetic diversity and they're able to mass produce cultivars that way.

Seedlings were a small part of the overall products they had. Pretty much everywhere else had hundreds of trays of plugs that we were free to take. It was actually fun just walking around the greenhouses, letting your hands glide across warm season grasses, rushes, Amsonia, and other perennials.

Around back they had an area setup for shade plants. These were mostly sedges which are more cold and shade tolerant than most grasses. They are also larger than plug size and thus not up for grabs, though each species was represented in the greenhouses where we were free to take them.

There was a small garden area back here where one native plant stole the show.

Spigelia marilandica, Indian Pink, is a shade plant with a brilliant red and yellow flower. Despite the slight warning "It will spread on you," this perennial remains one of the more expensive and in high demand native plants around. This is something of a contradiction that I don't know the answer to. (Probably should have asked while I was there, whoops.) I think the demand is created by the fact that so few growers grow the plant.

Around the front was the Pièce de résistance. This is where most of their plants are kept that are ready for sale. At this point the tour basically fell apart as everyone went and started filling up their trays.

Naturally I'm drawn to what brings in the pollinators, and this time it was a surprising number of cultivars. 

I had to just marvel at the number of Scoliid Wasps on their goldenrod they had. There must have been a thousand of them on this one patch.


Two Hours Later, here's what I brought home:

5 Helianthus angustifolius, my favorite Swamp Sunflower.
5 Spigelia marilandica, Indian Pink.
5 Senecio aureus, Golden Ragwort, which I'm trying out in the meadow garden.
5 Sedum ternatum, Stonecrop, which I'm giving a try for the first time.
5
Symphyotrichum laevis 'Bluebird', which I've seen in action among black eyed susans and they look great together. 
5
Symphyotrichum oblongifolius 'October Skies' which I have blooming now in nice fluffy domes of flowers out in the meadow.
5
Symphyotrichum noave-angliae 'Purple Dome'. This New England Aster is a compact cultivar, similar to S. oblongifolius.  I was going to alternate this with 'October Skies' to make a boarder.
5
Caltha palustris, Marsh Marigold, I've been trying to establish for years now and think I have a spot it might like to grow. 
5 Sisyrinchium angustifolium, Blue-eyed Grass.
Eurybia spectabilis, Showy Aster, was a last second decision. The flowers are larger than most Asters and certainly are showy, but I recall the overall plant not being that impressive.
3 Chrysogonum virginianum
'Superstar'. This is a selection of Green and Gold which is another first for my yard. It's a shade loving ground cover that blooms from April into June.

All and all I'd say it was a great trip.


Also Photographed:
In the cardboard are plants from Bluestone Perennials.
3 Solidago 'Fireworks'
3 New England Aster 'September Ruby'

I bought these two because they flower together and I love the combination of red and yellow.
(Also not photographed are a few dozen Tulipa clusiana 'Lady Jane' bulbs which I'm giving a try next year. I'm curious to see if species tulips are better at attracting pollinators.)


And a native Pitcher Plant which had some Sundews flowering in the moss. This came as a free gift from Aquascapes Unlimited

How to make Beetle Pancakes


Breakfast time just got real!