Spotted beebalm or spotted horsemint (Monarda punctata)
This plant contains thymol, an antiseptic and fungicide. It was historically used for medicinal purposes including the treatment of upset stomachs, colds, diarrhea, neuralgia and kidney disease. Thymol is also found in thyme (Thymus vulgaris) from which its name is derived and is responsible for the aromatic odor and flavor in the kitchen herb.
This Florida native plant also attracts many pollinators!
This flower, Gaillardia pulchella, goes by many common names. Indian blanket flower is the name I've encountered the most around here in central Florida. Whatever you want to call it, it's a gorgeous flower that never fails to catch my eye! I was hoping to get sunset colors in the background here, but the storm in the distance had other plans.
Check out this beautiful Florida whipscorpion (Mastigoproctus floridanus)!
The North American "giant vinegaroons" used to be grouped together under Mastigoproctus
gigsnteus, but a research group revised this species complex back in February in a publication in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (Number 418, page 62). The revisions were based on distinct morphology and geographic distribution. The vinegaroon (aka whipscorpion) that can be found in Florida is now considered a state endemic.
These arachnids are not scorpions despite one of their common names suggesting so ("whipscorpion"). They do not have a stinger and are not venomous. They are capable of spraying an 85% acetic acid mixture to defend against any potential predators. Another common name for these is
"vinegaroon" which refers to the acetic acid mixture they can spray. Vinegar is made of diluted acetic acid (5-20%).
These invertebrates can grow to be 85mm + (3in +) in length not including their "whip" tail and legs. Like other arachnids such as scorpions and spiders, whipscorpions have 8 legs, but they only use 6 of their legs for walking and the front pair are used as pseudo antennae. They possess pedipalps (pincers) similar to scorpions for grabbing and cutting prey. Also similar to other arachnids, they exhibit parental care. The mothers will carry the eggsac and keep it safe, refusing to eat until the yound are hatched as it could risk damage to the eggsac. Once born, the babies climb onto the mother’s back until they are capable of feeding on their own. They can live to around 4 years in the wild.
Though they might look intimidating, they are considered to be important in controlling populations of cockroaches and crickets, so please don’t be afraid of them or harm them!
I was wading through a wetland yesterday and this absolutely massive robberfly landed on a shrub near me. When I got closer I realized it was carrying a bumblebee (or carpenter bee?). This thing had to be around 4cm long!
I believe this is a Florida bee killer (Mallophora bomboides). They prey on bees and wasps by snatching them in mid-flight or while pollinating.
Check out this crazy caterpillar I spotted at Blue Spring State Park on Monday. It's a white-marked tussock moth caterpillar (Orgyia leucostigma). The adult moth is cryptic and "dull" colors, but the larvae sure are colorful and showy!
The bright coloration is a warning to potential predators (or curious humans) that they can pack a punch when touched. People commonly have mild to severe allergic reactions if the hairs contact sensitive skin.
These small ferns on this oak tree are resurrection ferns (Pleopeltis polypodioides). The resurrection fern gets its name because it can survive long periods of drought by curling up its fronds and appearing desiccated, grey-brown and dead. However, when just a little water is present, the fern will uncurl and reopen, appearing to "resurrect" and restoring itself to a vivid green color within about 24 hours. It has been estimated that these plants could last 100 years without water and still revive after a single exposure.
When the fronds dessicate they curl with their bottom sides upwards. In this way, they can rehydrate the quickest when rain comes, as most of the water is absorbed on the underside of the leaf blades. Experiments have shown that they can lose almost all their free water—up to 97%--and remain alive, though more typically they only lose around 76% in dry spells. For comparison, most other plants would die after losing only 8-12%. This fern can lose almost all the water not hydrating the cells in its leaves and survive. When drying, the plant synthesizes dehydrins which allow the cell walls to fold in a way which can be reversed later (Info from Wikipedia and Florida Plant Atlas).
This plant has even been the subject of an experiment in which it was sent to space to test it's dormancy ability in microgravity. The researchers were investigating the plant's characteristics for use as a potential food source for long-duration space missions.
This is an older shot of mine of Vero Beach Pier in south Florida. I haven't been out chasing good light to photograph any landscapes or seascapes lately because I've been so busy since my part-time job as an environmental scientist has become full time now despite not finishing up PhD work yet. In the meantime, I have plenty of older shots to share! 🙂