Thursday, September 26, 2013

Violet Seed's Ballistic Seed Dispersal

Violets have a ballistic seed dispersal system that I enjoy seeing in action.
   Whenever I see a that violet seed capsule has just opened, I pause to watch as it launches its volley of seeds. This particular time I was able to grab my camera and take some photos and video as I watched the violet's explosive seed dispersal event.
   Here is a photo of the violet's recently opened seed pod.
Violet seed dispersal

Here is a video of violet seed being dispersed... a video of violet's ballistic seed dispersal in action.  Watch as one seed pops out on the right... then another from the left.
video
This video of the violet seed dispersal was cut to include just two seeds being shot...  Also, I slowed down the speed a bit.
Here is another video of the violet seed dispersal event.  The video shows a violet seed being fired, and if you listen, you can hear the seed hit the camera.
video

Here is a series of photos showing violet seed dispersal.
The seed dispersal began soon after the fully-developed seed pod was raised up where where it could dry out in the sun.
unopened violet seed capsule

 As the violet seed capsule started to dry out, it split open into three boat-shaped sections that revealed the seeds and pointed them toward the sky... ready for launch.
violet seeds ready to be launched
Then, as the seed capsule continued to dry, the seeds were squeezed from both sides of their boat-shaped launch pad until they started popping out.
violet seed dispersion

After a few minutes of shooting seeds, the seed pod looked like this...
Here is another photo showing the violet seeds part-way through the dispersal event.

 Here is a photo showing a violet's seed capsule after all the seeds have been shot onto the surrounding landscape.
empty violet seed capsule

   Now, the story is not over, because after the violet seeds were scattered to a reasonable distance by that ballistic dispersal system, another seed dispersal mechanism is ready to take over.  The violet seed are further dispersed and planted by ants...
   Here is a photo of one of the violet seeds.  See the white elaiosome on the left side of the seed?  That is ant bait... designed to lure ants into dragging the seed off to their nest.  There the elaiosome will be eaten and the seed discarded - well, for the seed that's transporting it to new location and also the convenience of being planted.
violet seed waiting to be dispersed by ants
   I don't have a good photo of mymecochory (seed dispersal by ants) in action. Chasing a scurrying ant with a macro lens isn't exactly easy, although I can't say I didn't try...  I'll have to wait to post on that until another time I encounter ants transporting the violet seeds (when I have my camera) and, more importantly, if my photos turn out to be acceptable.
   It's likely this happens in your backyard as well.  I hope you have had the privilege of witnessing violet's seed dispersal methods while it happens.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Singing Swordbearer - Another Night-Singing Insect

   I heard a song of a night-singing insect while I was sitting around a campfire with some friends.  The song was loud and long.  I briefly left the campfire to hunt down the source of the peculiar sound.  In the weeds beside the lane I found this very unusual-looking insect.... an Eastern Swordbearer, Neoconocephalus ensiger.
Unusual-looking insect - an Eastern Swordbearer, Neoconocephalus ensiger

The Eastern Swordbearer is a coneheaded katydid that looks like a grasshopper with a pointy head.
coneheaded katydid that looks like a grasshopper with a pointy head

  I made a point, in my previous post, to mention that I have a video of this unusual-looking insect signing.  So, here is the video of that singing katydid - a singing Eastern Swordbearer.   The video has only a little portion of the katydid's song, since it is a very long and monotonous song.
video
   Incidentally, we were sitting around the campfire beside on old, abandoned railroad grade when I heard this katydid sing.  Listen again to the katydid's call... doesn't it sound like a fast-moving train?  A fast-moving steam locomotive?
  
I took some photos of this katydid to, pointedly, emphasize its pointy head.
Katydid with pointy head - the Eastern Swordbearer, Neoconocephalus ensiger
This conehead could win an ugly bug contest, eh?  Do they give crowns for that?
coneheaded katydid with pointed head

I wonder what the purpose (the point) is for that fantastic cone.... that conical fastigium of vertex?
Protection... as in a horn?  Camouflage... to blend in with the grass?
Eastern Swordbearer, Neoconocephalus ensiger
Whatever the purpose, among the various species of coneheads there are different shapes of cones as well as a variety patterns on the cones.

   Did you ever think about what kind of bizarre,wild-eyed creatures may be lurking in the weeds along the roadside when your car lights strafe the weeds? 
How about when your campfire-light dances on the bushes and grasses... have you ever made it a point to ponder what kind of 'neighbors' might be gathered on the fringes?  Hey, I know it's tough to leave a campfire, but who knows what you'll find if you slip outside the firelight for a short time to appreciate the 'neighbors'... You may be glad you did... it's likely the friends won't miss you... and although it's likely they'll  never know what you saw, perhaps they will discover it, at some point.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Conehead?" "That's Beside The Point"

"Conehead?"
"How did I get that name, you ask?"
"Hmmmm...  "Well, Katydid it."
Eastern Swordbearer - Neoconocephalus ensiger - a coneheaded katydid
Eastern Swordbearer - Neoconocephalus ensiger - a Coneheaded Katydid
"Why, you ask?"
*ponderous silence*
"Wow! You ask such pointed questions."  "Ummmm...hey, aren't green eyes becoming?"

The point is... a post with video of this Katydid singing will be coming shortly.

Monday, September 9, 2013

One Night-Singing Insect From A Chorus Of Katydids And Crickets

   Have you been enjoying the chorus of night-singing insects this summer?   I've been listening to the wondrous variety of night sounds... from crickets, to katydids, to trigs.  When I get a chance, I try to sneak up on the singing insects and observe them as they produce their songs.  The other night, I was out stalking night-singing insects when I heard a 'skritching' sound coming from a dead Rhododendron bush.  I believe what I heard was a Clicker Round-wing Katydid singing from the bush.  Because there were no leaves to hide this green, katydid-looking insect, it was easy to see.
  I snapped a photo of this round-winged katydid (Amblycorypha sp) as it sang its 'skritchy' song.
Clicker Round-winged Katydid

Then I took a video of the katydid singing.
In the video, you can hear a loud chorus of katydids as well as various other sounds of night-singing insects.  Listen close for the calls of the Clicker Round-winged Katydid in this video.
video
Notice in the video of the katydid singing, how the katydid makes its sounds by rubbing its fore-wings against each other.  That stridulary area is a light tan color, while the rest of the katydid is all green. 
 
 Yes, more posts about night-singing insects are coming soon.  In the mean-time, check out my post about a cricket that sings through a hole in a leaf to amplify its song.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Drunken Yellowjackets, Part Two

  I mentioned in my last post that I had seen some drunken yellowjackets visiting orchids along a sidewalk in town.  Here is a photo of one of those yellowjackets visiting the Broad-leaved Helleborine that grew among some ivy near someone's porch steps. 
   The Broad-leaved Helleborine is an orchid with an unusual pollination system.  Unusual in that it attracts wasps and yellowjackets which are on the prowl for caterpillars. To do this, the plant (falsely) emits GLVs or green-leaf volatiles... GLV's are what the wasps home in on to find their prey.  What the wasps find instead leaf-munching caterpillars are orchids flowers with spiked nectar.
Here is a close-up of the orchid.

In the photo below, notice the orchid's pollia plastered on the yellowjacket's head.
That is apparently the reason for the alchohol and narcotic-laced nectar.  The impaired yellowjackets seem to go about their business without bothering to clean up, as you can see in the photos below.
While the wasps are nectaring, they contact the sticky globs of pollen which adhere to their head.
Since they are drunk, they apparently fail to notice the extra adornments on their heads... so they make their unsteady way to the next orchid to see what's on tap and in the process they cross-pollinate the orchids.  Neat, eh?

As I mentioned, I found these orchids growing as weeds in some landscaping along a sidewalk in town.

 I also found patches of these orchids growing along woods roads through Hemlock forests.
   I have watched yellowjackets and wasps visit those roadside orchids. At the same time, I have also observed butterflies and bees that simply flew past the orchids... uninterested in the false aroma of caterpillar-chomped leaves.  I hope you have had the privilege of observing this happen.
 
  Since I had a camera when the wasps were visiting the helleborine, I put together this post... even though I have previously written about these fascinating orchids.