I believe that each day is an opportunity to find and appreciate something beautiful in the native plants and creatures of Georgia.
In January of 2018 we had some super cold morning temperatures and a local photographer shared how to make frozen bubbles - which works best in very cold temperatures - so I decided to try it. You need a solution of water, dish soap, corn syrup, and a straw. Here is a link for a recipe.
Depending on how they are managed, areas like cemeteries can be refuges for plants. Near my house, one cemetery is full of ground-hugging phlox planted years ago by caretakers. I look for it every March to carpet the spaces between the graves with bright pink blooms. It might be moss phlox (Phlox subulata) or it might be trailing phlox (Phlox nivalis) or it might be both with hybrids created by nature. The shades of pink vary from white to deep pink.
|Phlox subulata or Phlox nivalis in cemetery|
|Arabia Mountain outcrop|
Arabia is a county-managed park and very accessible. I explored just a small part of it by following the path from the Nature Preserve. The mix of plants and colors really does create a tapestry of beauty across the stark face of the rock outcrops.
I like to imagine my yard is a haven for wildlife and occasionally I stumble upon proof - like one day last May when I spied a giant swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on my wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata). Also known as hoptree, I have this native planted in a large pot on the front porch and it is native to my county (which is why the butterfly is in this area). After realizing that predators destroyed most of the eggs, I gathered the few remaining ones and raised them in a cage.
|Giant swallowtail on Ptelea trifoliata|
|Spiraea virginiana and bumblebee|
The flowers on my Virginia meadowsweet (Spiraea virginiana) were the best this June that they have ever been. These tiny flowers are adored by a variety of beetles and small bees. I just have to keep the deer away.
In July, my neighbor alerted me to a new arrival in the area: a piebald deer had been born and was living in the woods behind their home. The deer continues to thrive, we saw it grazing with its family just this past week.
|Piebald deer and mother|
|Harris's 3-spot moth caterpillar|
August continues to be a prime month for caterpillar hunting and this year was another great year finding new ones in the area (see my blog from then). One of the coolest ones that I found was after that blog post and I found it on that very meadowsweet spirea that bloomed so well in June. This is the caterpillar of the Harris's 3-spot moth and those bits next to the head are the remnants of shedding from one instar to the next.
Another great moment in wildlife reproduction happened in September when I spied this pair of box turtles making babies in my neighbor's yard. Maybe next spring will bring the pitter patter of tiny box turtle feet.
|Box turtles making more|
Fall is a good time for native plant sales and I was finally able to pick up a replacement for a plant that wasn't true. Apparently, quite a few people in Georgia had been mistakenly growing a non-native Hibiscus relative (Abelmoschus manihot) instead of the native comfortroot (Hibiscus aculeatus). The plants look very similar, but the center of the flower is noticeably different. One of my blog readers pointed out the mistake and we're trying to get the word out to anyone propagating this in Georgia to check which one they have. Thanks to the Chattahoochee Nature Center for growing the correct species and I was thrilled when my purchase bloomed in October.
|Hamamelis virginiana blooms in November|
I went to Virginia again this December and took a day trip up to Chincoteague Island via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It's a very seasonal area and most of the businesses were closed but the state park was open and we went in search of the famous wild horses. A tip from the ranger got us to exactly the right spot to find them grazing in the marsh.
|Horses resting in the wooded edges of the marsh|
|One lone horse in the open, perhaps it is the male|
I wish you a Happy New Year, full of beautiful and productive encounters with our native wonders. For more pictures, you can also follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/usinggeorgianativeplants/