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The Atala and Coontie—a Comeback Saves Two Species

Friday, September 27, 2013

While taking a quick walk outside the Gallery building this morning I spotted a red caterpillar against the olivey-green leaves of a coontie (Zamia integrifolia). Then another, and another. It had to be the larvae of the atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala), which is infamous for depending on the coontie as its host plant. On close inspection, they are more like a brilliant glossy magenta scarlet, more orange towards their undersides, with two rows of seven yellows spots along their backs. During ...

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Native Basil—an Endangered Plant for the Kitchen!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Did you know there is a species of basil native to South Florida? Ocimum campechianum is known by many common names, like wild sweet basil, wild mosquito plant, Least basil, Peruvian basil, and a few others. It is native, though not endemic, to extreme southern Florida. While it has become quite rare here-unfortunately earning the status of Endangered from the USDA-it is more common throughout parts of tropical America, including the West Indies. This annual grows to about 18 inches...

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Safety in numbers

Monday, September 16, 2013

Larvae beginning to explore theAristolochia flower. Polydamas Swallowtail butterflies lay eggs in groups on the stems After the storms. and leaves of Dutchman's pipe vines. For the first few days after hatching, the larvae stay together. Gradually, they part ways as they grow larger and need more leaf surface on which to feed. After Sunday night/Monday morning storms, I discovered that the little brown caterpillars, which had begun to separate, regrouped along the stem of the ...

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Ah the Fecundity—You’ll Never Know What You Might Find

Monday, September 9, 2013

It rained heavily this morning, by the end transforming the daily noon steambath into cloudy, breezy, and tolerably cool conditions. So instead of trying to let my mind go blank during a quick lunchtime break today, I took a 20-minute walk around the Garden. I like to walk and poke around dark, brambly areas people avoid, like basements. Those less trodden areas appeal to me; maybe because they are usually quiet, and slightly ignored. But they are very much appreciated by ferns, fungi and ...

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Not All Volunteers Pass Muster

Friday, September 6, 2013

We so truly value our Fairchild volunteers. They make day-to-day operations possible, not to mention our special events like Mango Festival and many others. I've met so many dedicated volunteers in the three+ months I've worked here, and they are all really friendly, and deeply knowledgeable in ways that can only come from devotion to a labor of love. Some kinds of volunteers however cannot remain in the Garden. This Triplaris cumingiana, sometimes called an ant tree, grew up on its...

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Can't Wait for Fall—Veggies, Fruit and All

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

So I always plan to garden in the fall, but usually fail. "What? It's April already? I thought it was still September," I'll often be heard to say. Not this fall though. I've started the garden already and there's no turning back now-money has been spent! I definitely want tomatoes, the old standard. But I want something really, really good. I don't know exactly what that is, but I am pretty certain I can't get it locally. I therefore ordered...

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Snakes, snails and rainfall tales

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This summer in South Florida, rain has put our plants on liquid steroids. Lucky for them, but maintenance has kept us running with pruners. On those occasions when the sun appears, a good day's work has meant several changes of appropriate attire - T-shirts and shorts designated for gardening by telltale stains of plant blood. (I know that bananas and crotons can stain, but they cannot possibly account for all the drips and drabs I manage to accumulate.) In times like this, we must...

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Crab for Lunch

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I had quite the little adventure one day last week during a midmorning break. I've become fascinated with the many land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) living here at the Garden. It makes sense they're here. They like low-lying areas near the coast, and usually aren't found more than five miles from the coast, having to return to the ocean to disburse their eggs. (Note: I once saw one in my backyard in Country Walk, a good eight miles or so from the nearest salt water as the crow...

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New EPA label for bee-toxic pesticides

Sunday, August 18, 2013

EPA's bee icon to appear on four pesticidelabels that will kill bees and other insect pollinators. The Environmental Protection Agency has released a new pesticide label that prohibits use of four chemicals "when bees are present." The label will contain a bee symbol and information about spray drift and timing for use to avoid bees. The pesticides include are imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, all neonicotinoides.The new label will state this product can kill bees ...

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Plight of the Honeybees—Part Six

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jeff Pettis leads the Bee Research Lab of the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md. "From the beekeepers standpoint, we're not finding answers fast enough. They're struggling," he says. And more attention on the research side is focused on neonicotinoids because "they move through the system of the plant and can concentrate in the pollen. It's a new route of exposure for pollinators. In general, the jury is out, but pesticide exposure has come up...

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