Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Prickly pear cactus

Our native prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), at the Kankakee Sands prairie restoration in Newton County.  This sandy soil was once the lake bed of the shallow Beaver Lake.  Pictures taken July 20, 2012.
Link to previous post on Opuntia humifusa:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ruellia humilis

Ruellia humilis, at the same roadside prairie remnant in Benton County as the leadplant in the previous post.  Picture taken July 20, 2012.

Link to Ruellia humilis:

Link to Ruellia humilis:

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Leadplant (Amorpha canescens).  Only remnants remain of the vast prairie that stretched westward into Illinois.  This leadplant persists with other prairie vegetation along a narrow strip of land in Benton County between US Highway 52 and the railroad tracks parallel to it.  This spot is somewhere west of Otterbein. Picture taken July 20, 2012.

Link to Amorpha canescens:

Link to Amorpha canescens:

Link to Amorpha canescens:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blue Vervain

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata) grows at the edge of the north wetland at Celery Bog Park.  The standing water has receded from the edge of the wetland due to the dry season but the soil here is still moist.

Pictures taken July 15, 2012.

Link to Verbena hastata:

Link to Verbena hastata:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tulip tree response to drought

As the summer goes on with much less rain than normal, the tulip trees lose many of their leaves.  This tulip tree on the Purdue campus has lost most of its leaves, which lie dead and brown scattered on the ground under the tree.  The leaves that are left on the tree are new leaves at the ends of the twigs.

Picture taken July 10, 2012.

Link to another post on Liriodendron tulipifera:

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) makes an appearance in a ditch just south of the McAllister Park golf course in Lafayette.  This is in the flood plain of the Wabash River, so it is at risk to spread elsewhere in the river system.  Or maybe it's in other places along the Wabash already.  This is the first time I've seen it here or anywhere close to the Wabash River.

Link to Lythrum salicaria:

Link to Lythrum salicaria:

A closer look at the Lythrum salicaria, with bumblebees.(Bombus).

Link to bumblebees:

Another surprise here, Desmanthus illinoensis, also in the ditch near the purple loosestrife.  This is a native prairie plant but not one I'd expect at this formerly heavily ecologically degraded site.

Link to previous post on Desmanthus illinoensis:

All pictures taken July 8, 2012.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Coot Slough in a drought season

The standing water has disappeared at the south end of the slough at Celery Bog Park.  This is a view looking north from Lindberg Road.  You can still see some standing water off in the distance.  A thick growth of smartweed has emerged at the edge of the slough.  Without standing water this is ideal habitat for this kind of smartweed which quickly takes over the new land, still with plenty of water in the rich mucky soil.  This picture was taken July 8, 2012.

Not sure what kind of smartweed it is, it could be this kind:, here is a link:

Here is a view of the slough looking north from Lindberg Road, June 30, 2012.

Link to a previous post to a view of the slough Oct. 25, 2010:

Link to a previous post to a view of the slough July 26, 2009:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Verbena bracteata

Verbena bracteata, along the Wabash Heritage Trail, on the Lafayette side, between the pedestrian bridge and the power substation.  You see Verbena bracteata often at the edge of roads and sidewalks, spreading out over the pavement.  Picture taken July 8, 2012.

Link to Verbena bracteata:

Link to Verbena bracteata

Link to Verbena:

Link to another kind of Vervain:

Link to another kind of Vervain:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hydrodictyon in Wabash River

The Wabash River is abnormally low due to the many weeks of dry weather.  The algae growing here in this shallow slow-current spot is Hydrodictyon, sometimes called Water Net.  It has a characteristic yellow-green color when viewed from a distance like this.  This is near the boat ramp at Mascouten Park in West Lafayette.  The Wabash River water level as measured at the Lafayette gauging station is 1.61 feet.  All pictures taken July 7, 2012.

Link to Wabash River levels:

A closer look at the Hydrodictyon in the Wabash River.  The cells of this algae are linked together in a net pattern.

Link to Hydrodictyon:

Hydrodictyon forms these net tubes about a centimeter wide.

Link to Hydrodictyon:

An even closer look at the Hydrodictyon cell structure.  Each scale division is one millimeter.

REVISION July 23, 2012:  It seems that the Lafayette gauging station was recalibrated soon after this picture was taken, the corrected water level on this day would have been something like 1.0 feet.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Creeping Water Primrose

Creeping Water Primrose (Ludwigia peploides ssp. glabrescens). At Celery Bog Park, the northernmost wet area, just south of Cumberland Ave.  With months of dry weather the water level is receding and this Ludwigia is spreading over the area that is normally under water. The cylindrical cage in the background is the drain for the whole Celery Bog Park wetland system.  No outflow from this drain now though as the water level is too low.

Link to previous post on drain in 2008:

Link to Ludwigia peploides ssp. glabrescens:

Link to Ludwigia peploides:

Link to Ludwigia peploides:

Runners grow horizontally as the plant spreads and colonizes the newly exposed bare soil.

Pictures taken July 1, 2012.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Arnoglossum atriplicifolium

Pale Indian Plantain (Arnoglossum atriplicifolium), at Celery Bog Park.  A plant of prairie habitats, this species was introduced here in the park a few years ago in a prairie restoration effort.

Picture taken June 30, 2012.

Link to Arnoglossum atriplicifolium:

Link to Arnoglossum atriplicifolium:

Juglans nigra at Celery Bog Park

Here is a new black walnut sapling along the back trail on the west side of Celery Bog Park.  This part of the park is more or less being maintained as a prairie habitat.  Once farmland, when the park was created, prairie plants were added in a prairie restoration effort.  Despite this, walnut trees are sprouting here and there.  If left to itself, this area might return to forest. 

Picture taken June 30, 2012.

Link to previous post on black walnut (Juglans nigra):

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lactuca serriola

This is the common prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola), along the Cumberland Avenue roadside at the north end of Celery Bog Park.  Its habitat is disturbed areas which is why it so familiar in urbanized areas where mowing or earthmoving has occurred.  This plant has grown to maturity, as an annual it only takes a single season.  It will die off before winter and the tiny dandelion-like seeds will float away.  If the seed falls on another disturbed area it may grow into another prickly lettuce there.  If nobody hits this spot with a mower or a weedwhacker or herbicide, it will eventually be colonized by a different plant of a more stable ecosystem.

Link to Lactuca serriola:

Link to Lactuca serriola:

Link to Lactuca serriola:

Here is a view of Lactuca serriola in the same location, that has not yet matured to the flowering stage.  This is how we normally see it, before somebody calls it a weed and tries to destroy it.  Our culture has brainwashed us into thinking this way. 

Pictures taken June 30, 2012.

Bouncing Bet at Willamsport Falls

Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis), in flower, at the edge of the bedrock floor of the creek just before it goes over Williamsport Falls.

This plant is reputed to be used to make a soap to wash things with.  Years ago as an experiment I took some Bouncing Bet and crushed it up and swished it around in some clean water.  It made a weak foam on the water but the water got so dirty that I hardly think it would have been able to get anything clean.  

Link to Saponaria officinalis:

Link to Saponaria officinalis:

Link to previous post on Saponaria officinalis:

Just before going over the edge of the falls, the creek has carved potholes in the sandstone bedrock. 

A view of Williamsport Falls.  Due to the lack of rain all year, I expected the falls to be completely dry but there was about as much water flow as you'd usually see this time of year.  During a bitter cold winter this can turn into a huge icicle.

Williamsport Falls is in Warren County and is right in the middle of the town of Williamsport.

Link to Willamsport Falls:

Pictures taken June 20, 2012.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Flash Flood in Happy Hollow Ravine

The month of June 2012 has been very dry in West Lafayette, and the main ravine at Happy Hollow Park has been completely dry most of the month.  After no rain all month, about 2/3 inch of rain fell the evening of June 16.  The next morning of June 17 about 9 am the excess water that ran off of the ground reached the ravine and flow was briefly restored.  Here you can follow the stream as it flows down the ravine.  The last movie was taken while looking down from a small footbridge near the park picnic grounds.  This aboveground flow only reached a short distance beyond this point and the creek remained dry all the way to the Wabash.

This creek is dry a lot of the time and it's got water in it a lot of the time but I've never seen it starting up like this before.  

Solar Halo

June 23, 2012.  The Wabash is calm and very low.  I looked over the side of the pedestrian bridge and saw a strange arc in the water.  Then I realized it was a reflection of the sky.  I looked up overhead and sure enough saw that the sun was surrounded by a halo.

Link to solar halo: 

Link to solar halo:

Just so happened that the edge of the halo was at zenith when I took the picture.  This is evident because you can see the reflection of the observer/photographer (me), at nadir.

Link to zenith:

Link to nadir:

The sun is never at zenith because Lafayette is north of the Tropic of Cancer.  The halo is at an angle of 22 degrees from the sun.  How many days in the year is it possible for the edge of a solar halo to be at zenith?  What months are they?

Notice not only the reflection, but the shadow of the bridge and the observer is evident.  From the information given, can you calculate the height of the bridge?  Can you estimate the time of day?


Another view of the solar halo a few minutes later, from a point in downtown Lafayette.  Inside the arc the sky is grey and outside it is blue.  Why is this?

These pictures were taken June 23, 2012.

Link to Wabash River levels:

Link to another scene from the bridge on a different day: