October 2009

As Lisette and I went to take our bikes out of the garage, we noticed caterpillars of Small White (Pieris rapae, Klein Koolwitje in Dutch) slowly walking up against the wall, coming from the Perennial Wall-rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia, Grote Zandkool in Dutch). They were no doubt on their way to a spot where they were going to pupate. I had noticed a pupa in the door frame of the garage door earlier, but didn't write an entry about it yet as the picture I took of it wasn't any good. I took a new one today and I'm very satisfied with this one. Later today I saw the caterpillars had reached what will probably be the place where they'll pupate, under the boarding where the another pupa was sitting right beside a 'pile' of coccoons that probably belong to an ichneumon wasps who's larvae travelled up to that place inside a Small White caterpillar. See the August 22nd entry for very similar coccoons...


This morning I used my bike-light to check up on the caterpillars I wrote about in the previous entry (it was still very dark when I left, even though the moon seemed to be full and the sky was quite clear). They're gone! Maybe they both went into furter hiding, but I doubt it. It seems more likely a Great Tit came by and picked them out of there. The pupa is still there though, as are the wasp-coccoons.

Woops. Seems I drew that conclusion a bit prematurely. Lisette just told me she saw both caterpillars somewhere else (both in the door frame).

One of the caterpillars of Small White (Pieris rapae, Klein Koolwitje in Dutch) is in the process of pupating on the garage door frame. A small white strand of silk can be seen on the second picture that will remain visible when the pupa has been formed.


One day later, the pupa is ready. Still very fresh and a very different color than the one I photographed on October 3rd though. As I was photographing it, a small wasp, probable a Chalcid wasp species (Chalcidoidea sp.) came out from behind the pupa. I'm sure it has been up to no good...


Another Small White caterpillar is ready to pupate and again one of those (probably) Chalcid wasps is present...

We worked in our back garden a bit today. We cleared a patch behind the garage to make room for some vegetable and fruit plants. I moved some of the plants growing there to new places: a huge Wild Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum, Grote Kaardenbol in Dutch) rosette, several Bugleweed plants (Ajuga reptans, Kruipend Zenegroen in Dutch), a couple of Mallow plants (Malva sp., not sure which species, Kaasjeskruid in Dutch) and a small unidentified plant that looked a bit like a Ribes species. It was impressive to see the size and strength of the roots of Alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Luzerne in Dutch). I'm not completely sure if it goes for this species of Legumes (Leguminosae, Vlinderbloemigen in Dutch), but most species of this family are host to bacteria that live in the roots of these plants where they provide the plant with nitrogen taken from air in exchange for carbohydrates.
Lisette pointed out to me that one of the treetrunks in our back garden looks like it is going to explode with fungi. White fungus is coming out of each opening in the bark. So after we'd finshed work in the garden, I washed my very dirty hands and went back outside with my camera. As I came across the pond I noticed how clear the water looks (which is normal for this time of year I think), even though not a single bit of the botom can be seen with all this waterweed in there. I think I'm going to have to take some of that away sometime soon. The Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus, Wolfspoot in Dutch) has stopped flowering quite a while ago but is still looking beautiful, even in extreme close-up. :)
I'm very excited to see what must be flower buds on the willow... I'm still not sure exactly what species of willow it is, Grey or Eared (resp. Salix cinerea or Salix aurita) or a male or female (I hope it's male!). That last question will be answered next spring... :)
Close to the willow are several Common Figwort plants. Some I sawed, others I planted. One of the planted plants is still flowering. It's flowers often attract wasps (though I have not yet seen this in our garden), but today it attracted a different visitor from the Hymenoptera order of insects. An ant went into the flower where it undoubtly found something nice and sweet.


Not only has it been a little while since I wrote in this diary, it had been a little while since the last time I went into our back garden to take a good look around. So it was quite a nice surpirse to find all these mushrooms! Mostly some kind of sulphur heads (mushrooms are far from my specialty...) growing out of these kind of railway sleepers that whoever originally designed our garden used to create flowerbeds. They're very old and slowly rotting away now, which is proved by the presence of these beautiful golden mushrooms. But these aren't the only mushrooms growing in our garden. A couple of brown mushrooms are growing out of the soil near our 'compost heap' and I found a very small fragile looking mushrooms growing in the grass. The treetrunk I photographed for the previous diary entry is looking quite different now. The small white lines have grown into nice white shelf fungus like mushrooms. I'll take a picture of the entire treetrunk again soon.
Less nice things are happening in our garden as well. Well, that depends a bit from who's side your looking at it, but anyway, the Small White pupa that I photographed on October 3rd has been parasitized. There's a small hole in the pupa as can be seen on the picture below, but what can't be seen is that's it completely hollow as well. I'm guessing the wasp larvae that developed inside the caterpillar have pupated at the same time as the caterpillar but hatched much sooner. No sign of something similar happening in the other Small White pupa (see October 7th). I just noticed though, the hole was probably already there on October 3rd. A lot less easy to see it was a hole then though. The rest of the story stays the same.


The brown mushroom I photograhed two days ago is changing it's shape pretty quickly. It's cap seems to be spreading.
The Absinthe Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Absintalsem in Dutch) that has flowered this summer is, like nearly all plants in our garden, on it's return. It was getting rather open near it's base as it had invested so much in flowering, but now there are a lot of leafs forming near the base. I'm not sure how to make sure this plant will be doing well next season, should I cut off the flower stems? I'm going to look around on the internet as I don't know...
We also went for a nice walk in the forest. We saw loads of mushrooms. The one first one on the pictures below is a member of the Macrolepiota family (a Parasolzwam in Dutch). I'm not sure about the second ones but they looked like they were nearing the end of their 'flowering time'. Very nice dark golden colour though. The red and white ones are famous of course, the Fly Argaric (Amanita muscaria, Vliegenzwam in Dutch). And even though it looks very typical, I'm no expert on mushrooms, so I don't know the name of the beautiful scaly one. The last one's a Common Puffball though (Lycoperdon perlatum, Parelstuifzwam in Dutch). The Dutch name is funny, because this 'Parelstuifzwam' was growing near Parelgras (Melica uniflora, Eenbloemig Parelgras with, 'Parel' meaning pearl in Dutch), a somewhat rare plant species.



I was already aware of the fact that mushrooms can grow quite quickly, but it can still be amazing to see just how quickly. The mushroom on the pictures of the last two diary entries has expended it's cap completely now (see second picture), it's even a bit over it's top already. Mushrooms of the same species are growing at several spots in our garden. I'm not sure what species they are, but that doesn't really matter, they're more than welcome. :)
Yesterday I went to cut off a branch of a nearby pollard willow. I 'planted' it in the ground in our back garden, near the Grey/Eared Willow. Planting means I just pushed it into the ground as deep as I could. I hope it'll grow, I plan on topping it near the ground so it'll stay something like a shrub. That's what I want to do with the Grey/Eared Willow as well. All these willows are excellent nectar plants (and pollen if they're males) and I hope to attract some nice wild bees, bumblebees and perhaps some butterflies with flowering willows in our garden.
Also, another picture of Crescent-cup liverwort (Lunularia cruciata, Halvemaanmos in Dutch). Another? Yes, I photographed this before, back in April 26th, but it's such a beautiful little plant I couldn't resist... :)

Edit (January 17th 2010): After some online research I discovered the mushrooms are probably those of Shoestring Rot (Armillaria ostoyae, Sombere Honingzwam in Dutch). A mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus, the mushrooms being something like flowers are for plants) of this same species of fungus in the United States of America is by some considered to be the biggest living organism. It covers an estimated 8.9 square kilometers! It's mass is estimated to be 605 tons. It's a parasite on the base, roots and trunks of deciduous and coniferous trees. Though I enjoy seeing lots mushrooms in our garden, I hope these don't do any of the trees in our garden any real damage...