Friday, July 22, 2011

Red-spotted Purple

A couple days ago I blogged about finally getting a chance to see a White Admiral up close. Well, yesterday here at home I had a chance to observe a Red-spotted Purple.

The tie you might ask? They're considered the same species (Limenitis arthemis). Yep. They look completely different but you have to delve deep into their teeny-tiny mitochondrial DNA to find any genetic variation.

Because they do hybridize, there are considered a polytypic species with two subspecies: the Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), found throughout most of the United States (I love the reddish tips on the antennae!):

and the White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis), found in the northern United States and Canada:

Some references list a third form, the Western White Admiral, found west of the Rockies, that looks the same as the White Admiral, but with the addition of red spots on the hindwings. My purely unscientific mind says to listen to the various scientific sources and stick with two distinct subspecies with hybrids occurring between the two. Dan Tallman's blog has a nice photo of such an intergrade.

Of interest, the Red-spotted Purple is a Batesian mimic of the Black Pipevine Swallowtail. It has developed color mimicry to help deter predators (the Black Pipevine Swallowtail is poisonous and birds have learned to avoid it, and anything resembling it).

So cool to see these two back-to-back!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Northern Escape

Last weekend we escaped up north to explore 40 acres of newly purchased land. We spent the weekend with friends near Tom Lake and had a great time walking along the bubbling trout creek that runs through our property.

I was thrilled to find Ebony Jewelwings all along the creek. I'd never seen one before in the wild and was fascinated the first time I ever saw photos of one. (Check out Dan Tallman's blog for really nice photos of jewelwings.)

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately since I did end up sitting in the creek, I didn't bring my telephoto lens. I'm actually amazed that the photos turned out!

Some of the northern wildflowers are still blooming, like this delicate Shinleaf that reminds me a bit of Lily of the Valley.

Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) contains a property similar to aspirin and its crushed leaves were applied to bruises to reduce swelling and pain. It's a member of the wintergreen family, but doesn't have a minty smell or flavor.

While a common plant, its diminutive nature and propensity to grow in heavily shaded decidious forests, makes this flower often overlooked.

I also had the opportunity to finally see a White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) up close. Easily recognized by the white band on black, White Admirals are found in deciduous forests throughout Canada and the northern United States.

The underside of their wings are a deep rusty red. The intricacies of marginal rows of blue and a submarginal row of red dots are stunning. This one was enjoying the nectar of Jon and Terri's mock orange.