The change of seasons can be very subtle here on the Gulf Coast. Days are still hot and the leaves don’t change color until much later. But, one sign of fall I notice is the disappearing leaf litter in my wooded area. The leaves have done their job keeping the soil moist and breaking down into compost to feed the trees. Just as the old ones disintegrate, the trees will drop this year’s leaves to start the process all over again.
I am always fascinated with plants trying to grow no matter what situation they find themselves in.
I had thrown some Fire Spike cuttings into the composter and they managed to stretch their way to the light and find a slit to come through.
The Fire Spike has continued to grow throughout the summer. Somehow there is enough moisture in the composter to keep it going.
All summer I have been collecting weeds in an empty fertilizer bag and threw an Air Potato Vine tuber in with the weeds. Even the lack of soil could not stop that vine from growing.
Could these two be heading out on a date? It was just too cute when I saw some that Crepe Myrtle flowers had fallen in just the right place to make her look all dressed up.
Philippine Lilies (Lilium formosanum) are one bulb that is possible to grow in our Gulf Coast climate.
The white flower looks similar to an Easter Lily, but grows 3 to 5 feet tall and blooms in July and later.
In the evening the lily gives off a scent that attracts hummingbird moths.
The plant makes an attractive seedhead that is quite decorative. Most importantly, it is filled with seeds. I have been trying to get a colony growing, but usually, only one plant matures and flowers. It is definitely a goal to work on.
I mentioned on a previous post, that I was trying to grow the correct Passion Flower to attract the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly. I finally got it right. Several have arrived.
The Butterflies got to work and laid eggs which have already hatched into a new generation.
Even more exciting, I found five Pipe-vine Swallow Tail caterpillars on my Aristolochia fimbriata.
The nurseryman was correct with his advice that the butterflies would come. The plant is nearly gone, but that was the plan. I collected some of the seeds for next year’s plants and butterflies.
Chocolate Plants ( Pseuderanthemum alata) are heirloom passalong plants in the South. Mine was passed to me by my mother-in-law. It gets its name from its chocolatey color.
I always keep some in a pot, but I have been trying to start colonies in various beds. I am having a good outcome in the back bed near my wooded area.
The Chocolate Plant will make a flower stalk of purple flowers. The seeds are tiny and I usually let them fall where they may and transplant the seedlings when I find them.
This one planted itself in cobble rocks and became to hard to dig up without damaging it. The plants grow bigger each year and hopefully I’ll have a beautiful display in a couple of years.
Strawberry pots can sometimes be hard to fill, but the Automatic Garden had a solution. Wishbone Flowers (Torenia fournieri) had germinated all over from last year’s plants. I transplanted all the free plants into the strawberry pot and was rewarded with a beautiful display. Best of all, my patio cracks will be full of plants for next year.
I had two previous posts on the killers. The first was on Cicada Killer Wasps that dig tunnels, fill them with Cicadas and lay their eggs on them. There are not many Cicada Killer Wasps (sphecius speciosus) in the yard now, although I saw one working on this hole this morning. The Cow Killer Wasp (Dasymutilla occidentalis) found it.
I caught the female Cow Killer, that is often called a Red Velvet Ant, backing out of the hole where she lays her eggs in the Cicada Killer’s tunnel which hatch first and eat the stored Cicada.
The deed was done and she scurried away.
The name Cicada Killer doesn’t seem quite as scary as Cow Killer. This stunning red and black Dasymutilla occidentalis is rumored to have a sting powerful enough to kill a cow. It will not kill a cow, but hurts really bad for humans. The above photo is a male and they lack stingers.
The females are wingless and pack a potent sting. I did not have that information on the morning I spent watching the drama of their lives play out. The female is also call a Red Velvet Ant and she sure is pretty. The female has a difficult journey. While I watched, she was pursued by many suitors at once. Her goal is to lay her eggs in the Cicada Killers Wasps’ tunnel.
Needless to say, the wasps were not welcoming. It seems like a rough life for the Red Velvet Cow Killer, but as it turns out she has many defense mechanisms and is hardly ever eaten. A study was done and 59 predators were given the chance to eat the Red Velvet Cow Killer and only two succeeded. The Cow Killer is one tough lady and lives up to her name.
These two inch long wasps are scary enough, but the name Cicada Killer makes one think twice about them. They have the less scary proper name of Sphecius speciosus. The giant wasp does kill cicadas, but otherwise ignores humans. I must have dozens of them this year. They fly close to the ground and I can stand among them as the large females circle around.
The calls from cicadas have lessened as the female Cicada Killers collect them to take into the 10 inch tunnels that are being dug in all my beds. Meanwhile, the males fly around and spar with each other and mate with the females.
I have found many more of these sandy nests around the yard this year compared to previous years. A few times I have seen a female go into a tunnel and once saw a wasp dive into the nest with a cicada which they lay their eggs on to feed their larva. While these wasps are pretty chill, I did see one chase a hummingbird away from her territory. Sadly, these big gals only live 60 to 75 days and their only goal in life is to reproduce.