Photos of the Week – September 26, 2019

This is the time of year when I start feeling a little frantic about the coming end of the growing season. The last of the flowers are blooming. Insects are becoming less abundant, and migratory butterflies, dragonflies, and birds are heading south. Grasses are turning golden brown and fluffy seeds are floating through the air. It’s a gorgeous season, but one tinged with sadness as another season nears its terminus.

A damselfly makes goofy faces at me on a dewy morning.

I’ve been sneaking out for quick photo trips as often as I can. I can feel winter creeping up on me and I feel a strong need to get as many flower and insect photos as I can before it’s too late. As a result, I’ve got hundreds of photos from the last couple weeks. Here is a small selection from that image library.

New England aster is a magnet for pollinators, including butterflies, bees, and flies – like this hover fly.
Monarchs are seemingly everywhere right now as they migrate south after an apparently productive summer.
This Chinese praying mantis was holding itself upside down and parallel to the grass stem it was hanging on to, making itself difficult to see.
A tiny beetle is silhouetted on a common milkweed seed at sunrise.
Nodding ladies tresses (Spiranthes cernua) seems abundant this year. This one is in a former crop field restored to prairie.
A dewy damselfly at sunrise.
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) in a restored wetland.
A native Carolina mantis in Lincoln Creek Prairie, here in Aurora.
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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

11 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – September 26, 2019

      • Here is a post from the Northeast Chapter of the Illinois Native Plant Society that is of interest. One of the comments that is not shown, unless you select to see “All Comments”, mentions the name change of our Midwestern Spiranthes cernua to Spiranthes incurva. A change that has not yet been universally adopted. The post has a link to an iowaplants website that discusses the issue of separating Spiranthes cernua and Spiranthes magnicamporum in depth.

        I have seen pure white Spiranthes cernua populations. I have seen both Spiranthes cernua and Spiranthes magnicamporum populations with a creamy color in the interior of the flower. In “Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region”, Fredrick W. Case, Jr. mentions S. magnicamporum has “Lateral sepals free, spreading, with incurved tips, often meeting above the flower.” In a population of orchids, that I am calling S. magnicamporum, some years I have observed the incurved sepals and in other years the sepals of these plants are straight. Even more interestingly, straight and incurved sepals appear to both be on the plant you photographed. Since I have found this trait to be inconsistent, I have been using a second trait that was mentioned in “Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region.” This trait mentioned in the key on pp. 177 for S. magnicamporum is “… central portion of the underside of lip yellow, …” With taxa that integrate, the line must be drawn somewhere. This is where I have chosen to draw it. Unless a microscope is used to look at the embryos, we cannot really be sure of the identify of this plant. This is something, I have not yet tried to do to verify my identifications.

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