Return to Pachyschelus

by Carl Strang

Last winter I described a leaf-eating beetle, Pachyschelus purpureus, which has a diet contrary to the usual rules governing leaf-eating insects. My past observations have been that, instead of eating a variety of tree leaves, or focusing on a group of herbaceous plants with similar defensive chemistries, this beetle scrapes holes in the surfaces of both wild geranium and bitternut hickory leaves at Meacham Grove Forest Preserve.

Geranium beetle on leaf b

I was interested, then, to read in Missouri entomologist Ted C. MacRae’s blog, Beetles in the Bush, that he has studied beetles in genus Pachyschelus. Through e-mail correspondence I have learned from him that purpureus larvae are leaf miners, known to develop in geranium leaves. Ted encouraged me to continue observing these beetles, to see if indeed there is a particular connection between them and bitternut hickory.

Pachyschelus hickory 2b

The above photo I took in the late summer. I found only a few scattered Pachyschelus this year, and though they were resting only on geranium and bitternut hickory leaves, none were feeding. Thanks to Ted I now know that purpureus adults are known to feed on a variety of tree leaves. My observations simply may be of beetles taking a bedtime snack before finding winter shelter. In the spring they will emerge and lay eggs on larval host leaves. I want to continue studying this beetle at Meacham Grove, however. I want to learn to recognize their mines. Our expectation is that these will be limited to geraniums, but if I were to find them in bitternut hickory as well, that would open the possibility that incipient sibling species, separating to specialize on two separate larval hosts, may be evolving.

Incidentally, take another look at that last photo. While searching for the beetles this year I was struck by the white spots on the elytra, how they resemble eyes (complete with antenna-like extensions). A bird grabbing for the apparent head end might find its beak sliding off the hard pointed tail end of the beetle, which then could escape by flying away in the opposite direction, its dark color in the shaded forest no longer highlighted against a pale leaf.

Woodland Gardens

by Carl Strang

In an earlier post  I outlined my general, less-than-purist approach to gardening. I emphasize native species, but add others to make connections to my neighbors’ landscapes and to keep some color going through the season. Any gardener knows that there is an element of inquiry in the art. For instance, I have not had success with Jacob’s ladder in the main woodland garden in my side yard, but it does fine in the front.

Yard 10MY2b Polemonium

This year I am experimenting with a variegated form of Solomon’s seal in the front and side yards.

Yard 10MY3b var sol seal

My small side yard is dominated by 3 silver maples. Beneath them I have an understory with witch hazels, smooth arrow-wood, Juneberry, and pagoda dogwood. A mix of native woodland plants has something blooming for a good part of the season. Earlier the wild geraniums flowered.

Yard 23MY 3b geranium

These are supplemented by some non-native amsonias in the background.

Yard 23MY 12b Amsonia

If you look closely you may see the small pawpaws that ultimately will overtop the amsonias. These are growing from seeds I brought back from a vacation trip to southern Ohio, though pawpaw is native to northeast Illinois, too. Mid-summer brings a gap in blooming woodland wildflowers.

Yard 3JL 9b green textures

Though personally I like the variation in textures and shades of green, I like to bring in some color with tuberous begonias and hostas along the edge.

Yard 3JL 8b begonia hosta

This year I also added an urn with some New Guinea impatiens and a tropical Alocasia ‘Sarian’.

Yard 3JL 10b side yard container

I’m interested in seeing if these will keep going if I bring the urn indoors for winter.

P.S. this is the 200th post of this blog.

Fruits of Restoration

by Carl Strang

In earlier posts I have written about the restoration work going on at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Today I want to share some of the positive results that already are visible. The prairie was burned in late March, and as usual looked like a desolate moonscape afterward.

Mayslake burn 4b

This week that same area is green with vigorous growth.

Prairie 19MY 2b

Meanwhile, the slope between the friary and May’s Lake has greened with diverse plants.

Friary hill spring 4b

In places there are abundant oak seedlings, the potential next generation that had no chance beneath the dense buckthorn and honeysuckle brush that was cleared out over the winter. Members of both the white and red oak groups are visible here.

Oak seedlings b

In addition, Virginia waterleaf is flowering in good numbers all along the slope.

Waterleaf 1b

Toward the bottom of the hill some wild geraniums have begun to bloom.

Wild geranium b

Nearby are some Rubus which key out to common dewberry.

Common dewberry b

A red-osier dogwood was one of the woody plants carefully avoided by the brush-clearing crew, and it is flowering.

Red osier dogwood b

Earlier I showed the abundant trout lilies, toothworts, three species of buttercups, dutchman’s breeches, trilliums, violets, wood anemones and so forth. More will follow.

%d bloggers like this: