Thursday, June 14, 2012


There are many species of Lady's-slippers.  On a hike along Cascade River on the North Shore of Lake Superior, we found these little beauties.  This particular flower has several names, including Moccasin-flower, Pink Lady's-slipper, and Stemless Lady's-slipper. 

The Yellow Lady's-slippers shown above were blooming in early June on Hayden Prairie.  They bloom about a month later and are smaller than the yellows blooming in the woodlands.  Only once we found a small  White Lady's-slipper blooming on Hayden Prairie as well. 


We found this unusual plant called Prairie Smoke on Hayden Prairie in northeast Iowa.  If you find this flower, you are looking at a true praire flower and it is a marker  for authentic prairies.  Blooming in late May or early June, the delicate whisps (sepals) will blow with the wind.  A short flower, they tend to grow in clumps.

Beautiful shades of blue to purple appear on the Spiderwort flowers.  This flower is found almost exclusively on prairies or restored prairies.

The Puccoon is a fairly common, small wildflower found in many habitats.

Prairies, road ditches and meadows are all  home to the Wild Rose.  Click on June 2012 in the Archives, to the RIGHT and UP from this photo, to view more our current entries.

About five miles from our home, in a road ditch adjacent to an old railroad bed, is a prairie remnant.  Prairie Phlox is one of the many true prairie flowers that still bloom there.  These flowers mark a quality prairie remnant.  Old railroad beds are often a great place to find prairie flowers, because the railroads used flame throwers in the old days to burn off the weeds.  The prairie flowers could withstand the burning better than the alien weeds.

The Early Sunflower is the first of the composite sunflower family to bloom on prairies.  It is about three to four feet tall and butterflies love it.

Goatsbeard flower looks like a tall yellow dandelion, but what is interesting about goatsbeard is that when it seeds, it produces a 3-4 inch globe that looks like a dandelion on steroids.  This is not a true prairie flower. 

This unusual fly is called a Snipe Fly. It is related to the biting deerflies, but the eastern Snipe Flies do not bite.  It is actually the first one we have ever noticed.


Dragonflies are great predators of insects and therefore helpful to humans.  We are going to need them this summer to clean up all the mosquitos in central and northern Minnesota!  All dragonflies need water as a hatching ground, but once they hatch, many of them move to the meadows and prairies.  We began to photograph them last year, and find them fascinating.  This particular dragonfly is a female Widow Skimmer.  Some dragonflies are very easy to identify and others are extremely difficult to key out.  Our guidebook selection is growing.

This is a common dragonfly of southeast Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Named the Midland Clubtail, it is easy to see where it got its name.

This is a 12-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly (female).  It is a common dragonfly of the moist meadows of this area.

Great Spangeled Fritillaries can be flighty and very active, but once the milkweed flowers release their scent and nectar  these butterflies are so strongly attracted that they will allow close attention and become easy to photograph.  Many species of butterflies use the milkweed.

Pale Purple Cone flowers are the prairie relative of the common garden Purple Cone flower. Bumblebees love this flower.

Cream Indigo is a large plant of quality prairies.  It can grow in excess of three feet tall.  There is also a yellow variety.  The dye indigo comes from this family of plants.

Wild Quinine is found only on true prairies and their remnants.  We have been told it was the original source for the malaria drug, quinine.  But better yet, quinine is found in our gin and tonic mix!

I am fairly confident that this is in the dogbane family of plants, although other names are used for this prairie plant. 

Thimbleweed, so named because of its unusual seed head. It is a prairie wildflower and not a weed.

Common Yarrow is found in dry road ditches and other dry meadows.

Wild parsnip is an alien invader that is spreading all over.  You can often find it in road ditches.  This is a plant you should avoid.  Contact with this plant combined with sweat and sunlight can cause a severe burn and blistering.  A friend of ours even ended up in the hospital after too much contact with this plant.  It pulls easily if the soil is moist (wear gloves and long sleeved shirt).  If the soil is dry, cut the root twice with a shovel.  It will not come back.

Friday, June 1, 2012


During this past week many new butterflies have emerged.  Now instead of chasing birds with cameras in hand, we are pursuing the butterflies. We have several species pictured below.
The Great Spangled Fritillary is a large (3.5 in) and common butterfly over much of the United States.  This butterfly seems to prefer wet meadows or marshland edges as its primary habitat.  We have a great hatch of fritillaries this year.

This is the underside of the Great Spangled Fritillary as it feeds on a dandelion. It also really loves milkweed blooms, but these are not in bloom yet.

This gorgeous creature is the Red-spotted Purple.  It is an eastern butterfly whose larva feeds mostly on cherry trees.  It is not as common as most of the rest of the butterflies we see, and thus is a real treat for us to photograph.

The Red-spotted Purple is not only gorgeous from the top view.  It has a pattern of red spots on the underside.  Sometimes in the right light you can faintly see these showing through on top as well.

The Bronze Copper is a small (1.3 in) butterfly found in moist meadows in the Upper Midwest.

The Question Mark butterfly belongs to the angle-wing family.  It is a beautifully striking butterfly when its wings are open, but it looks like a dull dead leaf when its wings are folded shut. 

This butterfly belongs to a family called the Crescents.  Crescents come in yellow/black, orange/black, and combinations thereof.  They are fairly small (1-1.5 in)  and quite common.

This may look like a female monarch, but it is the Viceroy butterfly which mimics its somewhat larger cousin.  Since monarchs taste bad to birds, the Viceroy may be using the mimicry as a survival tool.

This moth belongs to a family of moths called the prominents.  There are about 100 species of these common and rather dull colored moths.  This one was hiding under a towel drying outside. 

This large bumblebee, one of our best natural pollinators, loves to feed on red clover.  There were several dozen along our driveway wherever the clover was in bloom.

This small beetle (0.4 in) is a member of the snout-nosed beetle family of which there are several thousand species.  Many are quite colorful.