Surprises in a Wildlife Garden

stingingcaterpillar021213AMy beautiful wildlife garden is always filled with surprises and this week was no different.  Whenever I take the trashbin to the curb, I always walk along the front of the culvert that runs along the property and see what I can see.

What is this pretty purple mystery flower?

What is this pretty purple mystery flower?

I caught a glimmer of purple, less than the size of a dime.  Click, Click.  I always have my camera in my pocket.  I continue a few feet more!  Whoa…is that a tiny yellow-eyed grass?  I can’t believe it could be that small, it is barely the size of a toothpick.  Click, Click…investigation needed.

is that a little bladder thing on the stem?

is that a little bladder thing on the stem?

Hmmm, over there, those look like woodsorrel, but why aren’t the tiny yellow flowers open?  Click; Click…this need a closer look.

The leaves look like woodsorrel but the flower is wrong

The leaves look like woodsorrel but the flower is wrong

I close the gate and head to the computer.  Coffee!  It’s Research time!

I readily identify my purple find as a member of the lobelia family and heck; I can even pronounce LO-BEEL-EE-YA.  A search of the ISB Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants confirms and I jump for joy when I realize that this particular species, Bay Lobelia (L. feayana), is ENDEMIC to Florida!  Woo, Hoo…eat your heart out Georgia, you are too far north.  HA HA Texas, too far west!  It’s mine……allll mine!

Bay Lobelia (L. feayana), endemic to Florida

Bay Lobelia (L. feayana), endemic to Florida

Ok, on to the woodsorrell looking thing.  Maybe it is trifolium …it has three leaves. (WOW…two scientific names in a row that I know and can say… TRY-FOE-LEE-YUM!  Oh yes, there it is.  DRAT, not native. Trifolium dubium, common name: Low Hop Clover; Suckling Clover.  Well, at least it isn’t on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council invasive plant list.  Oh, it seems to have advantages:

Trifolium dubium is an ANNUAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to October, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, self. The plant is self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.

One more wildflower to go as I stare at the magnified photo on the computer.  WOW, up close you can really see that this miniscule little flower is a bladderwort.   Ok…there it ‘tis…at the end of the list Zigzag Bladderwort (Utricularia subulata) and it is NATIVE to Florida!

bladderwort020813So, I get to add two new species of native plants to my property list which brings it up to at least 299, and I haven’t counted all the trees and grasses yet.  Talk about biodiversity.

Having such a good day of surprises, you wouldn’t think it could get better.  I took a wander around the back, by the pond and over to the side I looked to see if the Dwarf Oak was in bloom.  I’m not even sure what it would look like in bloom, but the laurel oak has catkins this week, so now is as good a time as any to check.

Dwarf Live Oak (Quercus minima) is diminutiive and often overlooked

Dwarf Live Oak (Quercus minima) is diminutiive and often overlooked

Dwarf Live Oak (Quercus minima) is barely 6 inches tall.  I carefully lift up a leaf and look under and then lift another.  Hmmm…what’s that bright yellow spot?  OH WOW!  A caterpillar of some sort.  Click, Click.  Sherlock Setters is on the track.  Lessee…..looks like a stinging caterpillar, or do they call them slug caterpillars?  I’ll look over at

Moth caterpillar?  Who ARE YOU?

Moth caterpillar? Who ARE YOU?

An hour later I am still looking without a find so, it’s off to the search engines:  “Yellow, black, white tufts caterpillar” Yahoo searches, Google searches, photo searches.  Zip, zilch, nada.

I crop and post to bugguide and get a very quick reply from the caterpillar gurus.

“Nice! Interesting – but we don’t know what it is???  Wonder if it is some instar of some Monoleuca???”

Oh nooooooooooo, if they don’t know I may never find out.  Well, then again, there was that moth photo that languished on the identification site for two years and someone finally gave it a name… hope springs eternal.

I went out the next day and searched for my little friend as I now felt the need to box him up, feed him and wait for the result of metamorphosis but alas, it was not to be.  Neither hide nor hair (or would that be tuft?) of him around.

As frustrating as it is to not know, I’ll live and perhaps there will be a caterpillar Monoleuca “SETTERSii” in my future!

Attention Florida:  The Central Florida Native Plant Sale will be in Kissimmee on April 5th and 6th. Be sure to stop “buy” and say hello.


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    • says

      Thanks so much! I’ll bet nature provides you with some excitement even in an overutilized prairie. She is all healing! and I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only “nut” who needs to study and learn every facet of her garden :)
      Loret recently posted..Freshwater seafood?

    • says

      Hi Judy!

      I check every day in the various patches of dwarf oak but so far nothing. I’m still hopeful and maybe I will see some weird moth in flight to lead me in the right direction.

      It certainly has a fabulously exotic pattern!
      Loret recently posted..Mountains in Florida?


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