Out in the Grasslands

It’s time to start exploring the grasslands, here and elsewhere!  Summer is in full swing and the grassland flowers are starting to bloom.  Along with them, the insects are out and about as well.  You just never know what you might encounter.  Here is a sample from the last couple of days:

First up, grey tree frogs.  I know, they look green, but that’s because they can change color.  The really important question, however, is this:  are they just plain ol’ ordinary grey tree frogs, or are they Cope’s grey tree frogs?  The two species are so difficult to tell apart that even the experts have some difficulty, so of course, I don’t know which these are.  But they are very tiny and they are all over the place out on the grasslands – look for them perched on the milkweed leaves.  But do leave them there – that is their home.

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Last year, Gary and I found one lone green milkweed.  We were very excited to see it back this year, but even more excited to find a small patch of them out on the grassland.  They are in bloom right now.  Not very show, but up close they are lovely…and you can see the definite milkweed flower shape.

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And where there are milkweeds, you might just find these!  I was so excited to find this monarch caterpillar today!

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We saw several monarchs out on the grass land yesterday, and I saw a few again this morning.  The one I was able to sneak up on and photograph was looking a bit worse for wear.  Her colors were quite faded.  I hope she’s laid plenty of eggs!

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There were LOTS of these beautiful metallic flies all over the milkweeds.  I believe it is a long-legged fly in the genus Condylostylus.  Are there any entomologists out there to confirm this?

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The Turk’s cap lilies are just starting to open.  This one was a bud yesterday.  This morning I drove by and it was open.  (Drove?  On the trails?  Yes – I was headed out to the grassland on the golf cart to work at scrubbing paintball paint off the plexiglass of our kiosk; got one panel about 90% cleaned before I had to stop.)

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Of course, the common milkweed is blooming all over the place.  Milkweeds are great for long-term study.  Not only are the flowers fascinating to look at, but the plants are ecosystems in their own right – so many insects call them home!

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Yesterday I caught this very dark common wood nymph with the camera.  There are lots of them flying around the grasslands – look for very dark butterflies.

DSC_0427common wood nymph

This assassin bug is one of the many denizens of the milkweed.

DSC_0421 Zelus luridus assassin bug

And some of the coneflowers are starting to bloom, too.  Right now you can also see spiderwort in bloom, and hoary alyssum (not native) and yarrow (also not native). Oh, and the spotted knapweed is also in bloom (highly invasive non-native) – those are the little purple ones you see in the photo below. The natives are slowly coming along and the season is upon us to make weekly forays out to the grassland to see what’s open.

DSC_0398Plan your visit(s) soon, and let us know what you find!

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About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
This entry was posted in amphibians, frogs, insects, invasive species, wildflowers. Bookmark the permalink.

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