Last weekend, a few days after a weeding party spotted Monarch butterfly caterpillars in the Visitor Center’s Demonstration Garden, four chrysalises showed up attached to bluestem grasses and boneset.
Between showers this afternoon, we checked on them. One had apparently flown, leaving behind a ragged shell. Two were slowly drying and trying their wings in the mist. One has yet to emerge, but through the case, we can see the faintest stripes, which means it won’t be long.
The pupa seems entirely too small to contain all that butterfly—as if the metamorphosis were not enough of a miracle. Note the very faint lines visible through this one.
Next, a newly hatched monarch just out and still drying its wings.
Thrilling to see them, and to know their plan. Unlike the season’s previous three generations, which live no more than six weeks, these butterflies will migrate—up to 3,000 miles—to warmer climates and live for six to eight months until time to come north again.
In an earlier stage, before pupation, they were caterpillars, like this one.
The caterpillar is a voracious eater capable of consuming an entire common milkweed leaf in less than five minutes. In the process they gain a poisonous defense against vertebrate predators such as frogs and birds. (This one was in the house garden last year, but succumbed to a praying mantis, against whom its defenses were ineffective.)
Here is the scene, the garden at the side of the Visitor Center near the loop road, where the monarchs emerged.
Fourteen species of Goldenrod grow at The Quarry Gardens, and most of them are blooming right about now. The featured image pictures a fine show of Gray goldenrod along the road at the quarry overlook platform.
North America is the world’s center for goldenrods with about 100 native species. Not surprisingly for such a large family of similar plants, they can be difficult to distinguish. In a timely move, Devin Floyd and Drew Chaney, of the Center for Urban Habitats, have created a user-friendly key to identifying those at the Quarry Gardens. Their key clusters the 14 species into five groups based on the shapes of their flower heads, and then goes into the details of leaf shape, stem hairiness, etc., each ending with a positive identification of one of these:
Stiff goldenrod, Solidago rigida Silverrod, Solidago bicolor
Downy goldenrod, Solidago puberula Slender goldenrod, Solidago erecta
Showy goldenrod, Solidago speciosa Gray goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis
Pineywoods goldenrod, Solidago pinetorum Early goldenrod, Solidago juncea
Blue-stemmed goldenrod, Solidago caesia Zig-zag goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis
Sweet goldenrod, Solidago odora Late goldenrod, Solidago gigantea
Tall goldenrod, Solidago altissima Canada goldenrod, Solidago canadensis
The key may be found printed at the QG’s Visitor Center, or here: Key to the Goldenrods (Solidago) of Quarry Gardens Not being especially skilled (or patient) with dichotomous keys, we’re still mystified by several of these, but here are photos of some easy ones:
Sweet goldenrod has leaves that smell like anise. It may be found in the meadow by the Visitor Center and the North Quarry waterside pollinator patch, among other places.
Silverrod might fool you you didn’t know that there is one white-flowering species of goldenrod. It may be found along the pine needle pathway to the overlook platform.
Stiff goldenrod may be found in the Demonstration garden by the Visitor Center.
Devin found this Slender goldenrod along the road by the South Quarry.
Pineywoods goldenrod volunteered—where else?—in the pinewoods along the path from the Visitor Center to the quarry overlook.
Showy goldenrod frames a view of the prairie that now covers the site of the first (middle) quarry. It is also among the 69 species planted or seeded into that prairie.
A few facts about Goldenrods:
- They are a food and nectar source for many insects.
- Their pollen does not cause hay fever; the culprit is ragweed, which blooms at the same time. Goldenrod has been used medicinally to reduceallergy symptoms.
- All are members of the Aster family, short-day plants that bloom in late summer.
- Thomas Edison, experimenting to extract the maximum amount of rubber from goldenrod, produced a 12-foot tall plant that was 12% rubber. The tires on the Model T Ford given to him by his friend Henry Ford were made of rubber from goldenrod.
- The young leaves are edible, and the plant has had some uses in traditional medicine for kidney ailments.
- The name Solidagomeans to make whole or heal.
- Cluster galls are a species indicator as they are found only on Canada goldenrod.
Ezra and Theo Staengl know birds. They also know the Quarry Gardens, having walked here often and supplied images and text for the Visitor Center’s digital photo exhibit Birds of the Quarry Gardens. Here they are (at another site).
So far, our 40-acre site has yielded sightings of 75 species, including the Scarlet Tanager in the featured photo, and the Indigo Bunting, below.
On Thursday, September 13, Ezra will lead a two-hour walk to observe year-round and early fall migrating birds, starting at 7:30 a.m. at the Visitor Center. To join him, sign up online at quarrygardensatschuyler.org/visit. The event is limited to 12 participants.
The 25 landscape professionals in attendance came mostly from Virginia but also from parts of Maryland. Representing various specialties related to landscape design and management, they spent much of the day working in multidisciplinary teams. The three people standing are helpers with online research (l to r) Carol Heiser, DGIF; Rachel Bush, CUH; Devin Floyd, CUH.
A few even had energy left at the end of the day to walk the main trail and see the quarries! We were happy to host the day, and hope that the QGs might be the inspiration and location for many more such educational events.