Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life's A Ditch

Once again, I was reminded that there is wonder all around us, and you can find beautiful things in the most ordinary places. Today I found wonder in a lowly ditch. Actually, I think this is a pretty good ditch. This is a ditch I have visited periodically for several years because it often has lovely wildflowers. Fall beauties like Catesby's Lilies, Deer Tongue and Rayless Sunflowers (when they don't get mowed) and Barbara's Buttons in the Summer. Also, there are almost always great butterflies in this ditch. It happens to be right next to a piece of conservation land but there are many, many more like it on roads all over the country. Anyway, I was in the mood for a good flower/butterfly safari and so headed out to my sure thing spot with the hopes of finding something pretty. I got to my destination in time for the last bit of perfect morning light. Half an hour later it would be in full sunlight and start getting kind of hot. But now it was just right. At first I honed in on the tall, obvious things, which would have been satisfying all by themselves. Big purple Horrible Thistle, Oakleaf Fleabane, Gaura, Woolly Mullein, and some lovely Blueheart that comes in white and purple.
Horrible Thistle (Cirsium horridulum)

Oakleaf Fleabane (Erigeron quercifolium) and little grasshopper

Gaura (Gaura angustifolia)

Woolly Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Blueheart (Buchnera americana)

I got some nice pictures, and then I noticed that I had somehow missed seeing the bajillions of Hatpins and Polygala all around.
Bog Batchelor's Button (Polygala lutea)

Yellow Hatpins (Syngonanthus flavidulus)

So I squatted and crawled around in the grass to get a good angle, aware of the fact that I would probably be covered with ticks and chiggers, and ever alert for snakes. Also, my ditch is on the side of a scenic county road, which is great, except that people seem to need to drive very fast on this road, so I always keep a careful eye out for traffic. But traffic was sparse today, and I could hear the pretty "Here Kitty Kitty Kitty" call of the Bachman's Sparrows in the Longleaf Flatwoods in the distance. It was a totally pleasant morning. I walked along the ditch, looking for butterflies, and suddenly saw a Lady's Tresses Orchid! Then another, and another!
Ladies Tresses Orchid (Spiranthes vernalis)

This was great! Turning around, I realized there were White Long-leaf Violets all around my feet.
White Long-leaf Violet (Viola lanceolata)

Then I saw the tiny Dwarf St. John's Wort and got really excited because I'd never found these by myself before. I only learned about them on a guided wildflower walk.
Dwarf St. John's Wort (Hypericum mutilum)

Looking down at the minute yellow flowers, that's when I saw the Dwarf Sundews. Thousands of them! I'd been stomping all over them in my enthusiasm to find butterflies. I crawled around and took lots of closeup pictures of the tiny (dime sized) Sundews. Their sticky red droplets were shiny and pretty in the dappled light and I could even see a few insects stuck in the glue. Most of them had tiny flowers, too.
Pink Sundew (Drosera capillaris) with flowers

Sundew droplets up close

That's when I saw the big shiny spider. I think it may have molted recently because it looked so fresh and new in the morning sun.
Not sure what kind of spider--maybe a Trapdoor, or a Purseweb.  If you know, tell me!

It was all too beautiful to keep to myself, so I called my buddy, Maralee, to share what I'd found. After she arrived, we took lots more photos of the Sundews and Polygala. Then the Little Metalmarks came out to pose!
Little Metalmark on Polygala lute

We got some great shots, and as I was leaving, I saw my first little Argiope spider of the season.
Zipper Spider
So the lesson for the day--there are wonderful things in the most everyday places. You just have to look.

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