Monday, July 13, 2015

Phenology: Hibiscus Flower

We are unfortunately back into normal July weather. Overnight lows around 70 degrees (Fahrenheit of course) wouldn't be bad if the air were less humid. In the daytime the thermometer creeps toward 95 degrees whenever the sun peeks out from in between the "thundershowers," which temporarily cool things down to 75 or 80 degrees with 99% humidity. It's like being in a sauna that lasts for most of the month.

Insects thrive on this weather. I saw two more big sphinx moths on the road this morning: a male, dead but still handsome with red-brown wings, and a female, bustling about trying to fan the water off herself after the morning "thundershower." Also observed on the way to the computer center: a Sulphur butterfly, a Red Admiral butterfly, a Silver-Spotted Skipper.

Less appealing insects love this weather too. Gnats and flies are more motivated to come into houses and make themselves a nuisance when it rains. The nuisance is greatly mitigated if you discipline yourself to live in peace with paper wasps. So far this summer, when I've seen a nuisance insect, a wasp has never been very far behind.

Many birds molt in July and August. (Chickens do.) Old feathers fall out and new feathers grow in. During this natural process the birds become less active, spend some quality time with their families, and try to put on some weight for fall migration. They sing less, and fly less (especially when wing feathers are renewing themselves). However, on the way to the computer center I saw two little yellow warblers with black wings, quarrelling as they flew.

Flowers observed this morning included the usual red clover, chicory, daisies, crown vetch, native vetch, Queen Anne's Lace...and an unusual full-sized hibiscus, outside Gate City on the westbound side of Route 23. There is a species of hibiscus (H. syriacus) that can survive and thrive in our climate. Some call it "Rose of Sharon." The white, pink, or purple blooms are almost as big as sunflowers. They are often cultivated near houses, and their hardiness (I don't fuss over flowers but still have two thriving bushes) might have been a tip-off that they can escape from cultivation, but this is the first one I've seen growing "wild."

This Morguefile photo, contributed by Mrmac04, is not the flower I saw this morning, but it's the same color.