Seed Harvest 2022

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Each year I feel anxious until I have some seed gathered for next year.

The tangles I have growing in the front an back are pretty dense in terms of the number of species of vegetables and flowers.

The vegetables include tomatillos, groundcherries, peppers, squash, pumpkins, okra, and several varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

The flower seeds also have to be gathered, although the birds leave very little of the sunflowers seeds to harvest.

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Sunflowers and Butterflies

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The front and back yards are tangles of heirloom vegetables and wildflowers of many different types, and that draws a lot of butterflies, especially the large yellow tiger swallowtails.

Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) and various varieties of sunflowers dominate about half the area with full sunlight, with cosmos, coneflowers, and zinnias making up most of the rest, at least as far as annuals.

Note that all of those flowers are warm yellow, orange. and red colors, and so it’s a little dazzling on blue-sky days, especially with all the large butterflies flying around.

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Eutrophic Collapse

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Eutrophication is when the phytoplankton population explodes and depletes all the oxygen and kill all or most of the animals.

This happens when nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients build up and cause the algae to bloom.

The ecology in Experiment Tank #6 crashed from Eutrophic Collapse.

How did it get overwhelmed with nitrogen and phosphorus?

Because so many frogs laid so many clutches of eggs in it. Clutch after clutch.

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Flower Meadow & Rate of Change

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The large maple in the back yard was home and pantry to all sorts of birds and animals, and so I wasn’t happy taking it down, but it needed doing.

The maple was asymmetrical and leaning over the house.

The issue was using a lot of energy to change things very fast and move all the organic material (tons of wood and leaves) off the property in a day because that is the way tree services work.

It went against my principle of making change slowly, even in removing invasive plants and ornamental shrubs.

I prefer to make large changes as incrementally as possible to minimize impacts on all creatures, especially salamanders and snails and other slow moving critters.

For the tree, I wish I could have left the main part of the trunk standing to rot in place and provide habitat for many kinds of insects, birds, and animals.

It could have been cut off at 12 feet, and I could put a beehive on top.

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20220701-passionflower-bumblebee. Notice the yellow pollen on the bumblebee’s head, back, and wing.
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Male Rhinoceros Beetle

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This is a male specimen of the eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus), a species of rhinoceros beetle native to the eastern US.

I saw one of these only a handful of times growing up, and I was amazed each time.

I associate them with years when June is rainy, and the plants are fat and green. I think every one of these I have seen turned up the day after a night rain.

If I had any doubts about turning my lawn into an ecological oasis, this guy showing up would have convinced me.

Young Adult Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans)

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This is a young adult Green Frog. It is much smaller than the old blue-faced males in the ponds, but it is still an adult and reproductively active, capable of laying a clutch of several hundred eggs in a night:

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20220615-frog-eggs. This clutch of eggs was laid by a single pair of young Green Frogs of the same size and age as the frog shown above.

Experiment Tanks

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I had some downcycled plastic barrels that I had previously used as rain barrels before discovering how much maintenance it took to ensure mosquitoes weren’t reproducing in them.

I cut these in half and plugged any holes and set up eight of these as breeding tanks for mosquito fish and tree frogs on my back patio.

The total volume of material in each tank is less than 15 to 20 gallons, with a rim of about 10 inches extending above the top of the water.

I added water and clay to each of these tanks and then seeded the microflora and fauna with mud and water samples from the ponds.

I let that brew for a week, and then I added plugs of aquatic plants from the ponds: water hyacinth, elodea, duckweed, and hair algae.

I also added more clay and topsoil for the minerals and to increase the biomass.

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Frog Eggs: Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

20220629 Eggs of Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis) apparently lays larger clutches than I have seen in the past.

Previously, all the clutches I observed were smaller and broken up into different clumps separated by floating vegetation.

I speculated that was because the mating parents were avoiding the larger Green Frogs.

I’m not sure why the eggs in tank #4 are so numerous and all clumped in one area the same way the clutches of Green Frog eggs have been.

I certainly hope this isn’t because this is the first clutch laid where the parents weren’t pursued.

20220629 Eggs of Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis) v2
20220629 Eggs of Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis) v2

Note that these eggs were laid within the past 12 hours and the yolk is still spherical. Within 24 hours the yolks will become flattened embryos.

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Videos of Tadpoles Swimming in Experiment Tank #6

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At the bottom of this post are two videos of tadpoles of the Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans) swimming in experiment tank #6. One video is from June 27, 2022, and the second is from June 30.

Juvenile Green Frogs have laid several clutches of eggs in all eight experiment tanks. Cope’s Gray Tree Frogs (Hyla chrysoscelis) have also laid several clutches of eggs in every tank as far as I can tell.

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Biodiversity and Ecological Value

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At least half of my time tending the pollinator meadow is spent removing invasive evergreen seedlings: monkey grass (liriope), Japanese privet, wintercreeper, English ivy.

These plants might not feed most insects and other animals, but birds love the seeds and poop them all over creation.

The problem is that these plants displace native species that feed a higher number of species, including caterpillars and other insect larva.

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20220609-mallows. Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus) with Scarlet Rose Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus) in the lower left corner of the photo.

A plant doesn’t have to be rare or endangered to be ecologically valuable.

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