Collecting Seeds

Common milkweed seeds ready to relocate by the wind.

Common milkweed seeds ready to relocate by the wind.

Another beautiful fall day!  It is a perfect day to collect seeds from native plants.  Our milkweeds are going to seed, so it is important to collect some before they all go poof in the wind.  After collecting the seeds, you can replant them in a new location as soon as possible. They will germinate next spring.  If you are saving the seeds, be sure to give them time to dry out completely before you store them.  They will rot if not dried properly.  Be sure to label the envelope or container you store them in.

Monarch Watch needs milkweed seed donations to continue their Monarch habitat restoration efforts. Monarch Watch is a nonprofit educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas. Visit their website at monarchwatch.org  to learn more about their efforts in saving monarch butterflies.

MJ

Swamp milkweed seeds.

Swamp milkweed seeds.

Asters!

Asters are blooming in the habitat.  This is an amazing fall blooming plant.  It attracts pollinators like butterflies, moths, bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees and soldier beetles.  Consider planting asters instead of garden mums in your landscape for fall color.

MJ

Smooth aster in the habitat.

Smooth aster in the habitat.

Butterflies!

The last few days we have notice more Monarch butterflies in the area.  Many butterflies and moths have been seen in the habitat. Black swallowtail, painted lady, cloudless sulphur, pearl crescent and mourning cloak butterflies have been seen this year. Whitelined sphinx, yellow collared scape, chickweed geometer and several skipper moths have also been identified.
It is important to provide a food source for the caterpillars in the habitat. Swallowtail caterpillars feed on dill and parsley. Painted lady caterpillars feed on sunflower and thistle. As we all know Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed. I am impressed as I drive around Lincoln at how many landscapes have common milkweed growing in them. Even school landscapes have milkweed! It has been reported for several years that monarch populations are declining. A coalition has submitted a petition for the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.
This summer my family raised several monarch caterpillars in a butterfly rearing tent. The eggs were located on very small plants that would not provide enough food or were located in an area in jeopardy of being mowed or stepped on. It was amazing to watch the caterpillars complete their life cycle and a thrill to release the butterflies in our backyard habitat.
MJ

Swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.

Swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.

Black swallowtail butterfly on tall thistle.

Black swallowtail butterfly on tall thistle.

Monarch butterfly ready to leave rearing tent.

Monarch butterfly ready to leave rearing tent.

‘Lone Wolf’ Sawtooth

Sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek Habitat

At 9 feet, this perennial sawtooth sunflower is standing tall in the Cherry Creek Habitat

My, my, my… how one of our perennial sunflowers has grown!

We have a sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) in the Cherry Creek Habitat. When grown in tight colonies the sunflowers reach 3-5 feet tall. However, when you plant one by itself (described as a ‘lone wolf’) it can reach up to 12 ft tall. This afternoon, we went out and measured the sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek habitat and it is 9 ft tall. It is glorious! Unfortunately, it is too tall for the space (and could be aggressive),  so we’ll have to move it later. There are plenty of pollinators on the sunflower now and it certainly is a standout in the habitat.

Other habitat news:

  • Excited! Jim in our office is busy adding a camera out back so we can view the habitat on the web and share video. We should even have “night vision”.
  • We’ve also been doing some nitty gritty work with weeding and adding more rock to keep working on the erosion issues with the space.
  • The activity at the bee nesting structure has really slowed down, although I did see one leaf cutter bee busy at work. Bumble bees have certainly not slowed down their activity – they are still as busy as “bees”.
  • Today, we saw a lot of monarchs moving south on their migration while working in the habitat.
  • As we move into fall, it will be time to harvest seed and plant more plants.
  • Speaking of sunflowers, the Lemon Queen sunflowers may not look as pretty now that the flowers are gone, but they are providing food for birds. This afternoon, a female cardinal and three of her young were busy feeding on the seeds.

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I “See” You!

We rarely go out into the Cherry Creek Habitat without a camera of some sort. You never know what you might see. When I’m strolling around, I try to have at least my cell phone with me! Today was one of those days when I could’ve missed documenting something special – – -

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

Common Yarrow in the Habitat

The yarrow has been a great addition to the Cherry Creek Habitat. It also makes a super hiding place. Do you see it?

Baby bullsnake in the yarrow

If you look close at the first photo, here’s the baby bullsnake who found a great hiding place right in the center of the yarrow. Very cool

 

Changes

It is a chilly morning in the habitat.  Very unusual for early September.  The bumble bees are out, but they are tucked into the flowers until it warms up a bit more.  The cottonwood tree is already starting to show fall color with yellow leaves. Sunflower heads are drooping, full of seeds that are attracting goldfinch. Our goldenrod is just starting to bloom and soon the asters will be too.

Bumble bee tucked into sedum flower.

Bumble bee tucked into sedum flower.

Sunflower heads are drooping and heavy with seeds.

Sunflower heads are drooping and heavy with seeds.

Cottonwood leaves turning beautiful yellow fall color.

Cottonwood leaves turning beautiful yellow fall color.

Goldenrod in the Cherry Creek habitat.

Goldenrod in the Cherry Creek habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have seen less activity around the bee house and are contributing that to the shorter day length. Gary, our Unit leader likes statistics and percentages.  He wanted to know what percentage of our bee house was filled.  We had an estimate, but today I decided to find out. After lots of counting, I concluded we had 21 percent occupancy in our bee house this year.  That is rather impressive for our first year habitat.

MJ

Master Gardeners at the Habitat

Yesterday we invited our UNL Extension Master Gardener volunteers to visit the Cherry Creek Habitat.  They participated in a Stationary Pollinator Count.  Observations made over a known period of time watching a known number of flowers on a single plant species is classified as a Stationary Count.  After the count they toured the habitat.  We discussed the different types of bees that have been nesting in the bee house and viewed the wide variety of plants that we have blooming.

MJ

UNL Extension Master Gardener volunteers in Lancaster County  participating in pollinator count.

UNL Extension Master Gardener volunteers in Lancaster County participating in pollinator count.

When a thistle makes you smile…

Native thistles like this tall thistle, are important to our pollinators. Remember, not all thistles are bad. It didn’t take long for the bumble bees and skipper to find this beautiful thistle flower. The tall thistles are just starting to bloom in the Cherry Creek Habitat. We can’t wait!!

Native thistles are both beautiful and important to our pollinators.


Enjoy “A Pasture Poem” by Richard Wilbur featuring the “thistle”
– also set to music (full text of the poem follows)

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Pollinator Counts

On Sunday my family helped me conduct a pollinator count at the Cherry Creek Habitat.  We each selected a Lemon Queen sunflower plant to watch for 5 minutes.  Our results were: 26 pollinators visited 7 flowers on 3 sunflower plants. Our data will be entered at The Great Sunflower Project website.

Pollinator count on sunflowers at habitat.

Pollinator count on sunflowers at habitat.

Why are pollinator counts important?  We know pollinator populations are declining. Little is know about urban pollinators and what their populations are. We do not know much about how healthy bee populations are maintained in an urban environment. Because natural habitats are uncommon in urban landscapes, they may not provide enough resources to support viable pollinator communities. However, if other habitats, such as urban gardens and restored areas, are sufficiently connected to natural habitats, then native populations may thrive.

By finding a way to track and place value on natural ecosystems, we will find a future in which conservation is a guiding principle of daily decision making throughout the world. Our pollinator count at the Cherry Creek Habitat is a step in the right direction.

MJ

 

 

Sunflowers and Pollinators

Lemon Queen sunflower with bumble bees.

Lemon Queen sunflower with bumble bees.

On Monday the Lemon Queen sunflowers were finally blooming.  My daughter and I planted them in May for the Great Sunflower Project.  We will do a pollinator count when there are a few more flowers open.  The bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees and many other pollinators have found their beautiful flowers.

MJ