Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Things to Look for in June

It's June and the world is abuzz with life. It's no coincidence that we've written a lot about insects at this time of year!


Mosquito by James Jordan
Mosquito larvae: As a gardener, I've been complaining about how all the rainstorms coming through the DC metro area over the last several weeks seem to have mysteriously passed over our house with only a sprinkle. But there's a silver lining: fewer mosquitoes. See our tips on looking for spots where they might be breeding.

Tiger swallowtail
Tiger swallowtail in our backyard
Tiger swallowtails: In the fall, tiger swallowtail caterpillars form a chrysalis in which they'll spend the whole winter, waiting for the right time to emerge. And then, on some warm, sunny day in April or May, you'll see one fluttering by. And you'll know: winter's over. In June, you'll start to see more. To me, tiger swallowtails are one of the things that make summer summer in Washington, DC. If you spend enough time outside on a sunny day, you're bound to see one.

firefly
Firefly by James Jordan
Fireflies: J.M. Barrie wrote: "when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies." I feel like you could say the same of fireflies. They've been out for several weeks now, but they're really starting to be plentiful now. We sit and watch them almost every night in our backyard. What better way to celebrate the summer?

mulberries
Mulberries by akeg
Mulberries: These berries are bane of some homeowners' existence as they drop and ferment on sidewalks and driveways throughout the metro area...not to mention the purple bird poop. Still, we choose to see mulberries as a glorious abundance of free fruit, rather than an annoyance. We made a great batch of mulberry jam last weekend!

ramp flowers (allium tricoccum)
Ramp flowers by milesizz
Ramp flowers: Ramps are sought out earlier in the spring for their edible leaves and roots. But later in June, they send up flower stalks topped with a puffball of white flowers. If you can find a big patch, it's a very impressive sight. We've seen a lot at Scott's Run and Carderock...keep an eye out and let us know if you see some.



Photo credit: kthread
We're generally opposed to the Asian plants that have made it into our local woods, but the wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) might be one exception. For several weeks in July, these relatives of our native raspberries are abundant and delicious. And, if we can get to the berries before the birds do, and keep the plants from spreading, all the better. Get out there and do your part!


Cicada lyrica by DaynaT
Cicadas: Also toward the end of the month, keep an eye and an ear out for the dog-day cicadas. It doesn't take much work to hear them: they're some of the loudest insects on the planet.


Photo credit: The Natural Capital
Milkweed is a beautiful, once-common roadside plant that is struggling in modern times. If you love monarch butterflies, you should show milkweed some love. Their lives depend on it: monarch larvae can only survive by eating milkweed leaves.



What else have you been seeing on the trails lately? Leave a comment and let us know!