Posts Tagged ‘tree sap’

Comma Butterfly

A comma butterfly landed in front of me as I headed toward the backyard.

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The ragged female stopped to rest on her mission to find host plants — hops, nettles and elm trees — to lay her eggs on.

Comma butterflies (Polygonia comma) overwinter as adults and begin flying as spring warms. The feed at flowers, tree sap, animal droppings, carrion and decaying fruit.

I used to put overripe fruit on the cistern to attract the sap-flow butterflies — which include the tawny emperor, red-spotted purple, viceroy,  hackberry butterfly, question mark, painted lady and red admiral.

Little Wood Satyr

Little wood satyr butterflies usually fly their hopping-style flight through the woods or along country roads, not in my yard.

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Much less pose for pictures.

Little wood satyrs (Megisto cymela cymela) feed on tree sap, decaying fruit, animal droppings and rarely on flowers. They are a butterfly of woodlands, brushy fields and occasionally city yards. Their first brood flies May and early June, and second July till late August here in southern Illinois.

Twig Anatomy

I have to admit I’m not the best at identifying trees. The ones with compound leaves all look the same to me. Oaks can hybridize and can be a real challenge.

Trees can be identified by other things besides their leaves. Some have distinctive bark, like the corky warts on hackberry trees and flaking bark on sycamores. Not to mention the fruits and seeds they produce too.

Trees can also be identified by their twig. It’s a good way to identify them in winter. This is a twig on the cottonwood tree in my backyard, taken the end of October before the leaves all fell off.

The picture shows the reddish bud of next-year’s leaf and the scar where this year’s leaf dropped from. Buds can have both leaf and flowers, or either one or the other.

Both the buds on this twig are lateral buds. Twigs also have a terminal bud.  The cream-colored corky area below the leaf bud is the leaf scar.  The spots in this area are called bundle scars and are the places where the tree sap entered the leaf. The vertical light areas on the twig are lenticels, and these are patches of loose tissue which let air into the tissue beneath.

This is a bundle scar on our catalpa tree,

and this on our ash tree. Kids would enjoy this scar’s “big grin” and investigating other trees’ twigs too.