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BARRED SULPHUR

Barred sulphur butterfly feeding on small butterwort flower.

This small butterfly can be found in open pine woods, dunes, patures and other disturbed sites throughout Florida. The range extends into the southeastern United States from Virginia to Texas, being more frequent in the coastal regions. The predominant range also extends from the Rio Grande River south into Argentina. Strays into Arizona, New Mexico and the central states north of Texas.
Can be seen year-round in Florida, more abundant from August through October. This species overwinters in the adult stage with a different color form.
The barred sulphur is a small yellow butterfly with black wingtips and a black bar along the rear margin of the forewing (upper side). There is usually some black along the outer margins of the hindwings. Females are paler than males, sometimes nearly white, and the black bar on the lower margin of the forewings is much fainter or nearly absent. The winter forms of both sexes are a brighter yellow with less black on the hindwings. The undersides of the hindwings are gray to satiny white in summer and brown to red in winter. Wingspans are 2.5 - 3.7 cm ( 1 to 1-1/2 in.). The caterpillar is slender, bright green with a narrow whitish line along the side and having short hairs. The pupa is green with dark spots, flattened sideways coming to a sharp point at the head.
Host plants include the pea family - Fabaceae, vetches, and pencilflowers.



RABBIT-BELLS

A typically small, low-growing perennial herb of flatwoods, sandhills and dry disturbed sites throughout nearly all of Florida.

The range of Crotalaria rotundifolia includes the coastal states from Maryland through the southeast into Louisiana plus Arkansas.
The hairy stems may be trailing or erect, with alternate, oval to elliptic leaves, strigose on the upper surface. The small yellow pea-shaped flowers often have greenish lines, are on long stalks, and few in number. The calyx is five-lobed, hairy, with two sepals larger. The fruit is an inflated, glabrous legume about 2.5 cm (1 in.) long.
Crotalaria is derived from krotalon, the greek word for "a rattle", referring to the loose seeds inside the mature pods. Members of this genus are commonly referred to as "rattlebox".



APALACHICOLA FALSE ROSEMARY

This rare plant of sandhills, endemic to Liberty and Santa Rosa Counties is listed as endangered.

A member of the mint family, Conradina glabra has linear, aromatic, evergreen leaves similar in appearance to the culinary rosemary herb. Apalachicola false rosemary grows to .8 meters (31-1/2in.) tall. The upper surface of the recurved leaves are hairless, the lower surface is covered with dense hairs only visible with magnification. Flowers arise from the leaf axils in groups of two or three. The petals are white to pale lavender-pink with a band of purple dots in the throat. Flowers are 1.2 - 2 cm (1/2 - 3/4 in.) long, sharply curved upward with a three-lobed lower lip. The main flowering season is March through June, with occasional flowering through December.
Research and conservation of Conradina glabra is being conducted as a cooperative effort of the Nature Conservancy, Bok Tower Gardens and the Center for Plant Conservation. This photo was taken at the Bok Tower Gardens endangered plant nursery in Polk County where the species is being propagated for protection and re-introduction programs.



FLORIDA SCRUB-JAY

The Florida scrub-jay is the only species of bird restricted entirely to Florida.

These birds are dependent on scrub habitat with particular characteristics dependent on periodic wildfires. Optimal habitat consists of palmetto scrub with scattered oaks from one to three meters high and some unvegetative, sandy openings. They can also live in scrubby flatwoods if the pine canopy is open. Aphelocoma coerulescens is considered imperiled due to wildfire supression allowing excessive plant growth in what was naturally scrub and loss of habitat from development.

Online purchase options for Scrub Jay on Chop by Paul Rebmann Online purchase options for Scrub Jay with Acorn by Paul Rebmann



SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR LAUNCH

This week's feature is a long exposure photo of the last scheduled night launch of the space shuttle program.

In the early morning hours of Monday, February 8, 2010, the space shuttle Endeavour was launched into orbit on a mission to the International Space Station. The first attempt the previous morning was scrubbed due to cloud cover at the space center. This photo of the launch was taken from the beach in Ormond by the Sea, about 60 miles from the Kennedy Space Center.
You can click on the featured photo or heading above to also see two photos with the crowd in the foreground and the shuttle on the launch pad in the distance that were taken at Kennedy Point Park in Titusville on Sunday morning before the countdown was canceled.



BAROMETER EARTHSTAR

These mushrooms have a center that resembles a puffball, surrounded by rays that clasp and surround the spore sac in dry weather, then open in response to rain, giving it the common name of barometer earthstar.

Widespread in North America, often in sandy soil near conifers. Frequently found in large groups.
The spore sac is felty-rough, nearly round, 1-3 cm (3/8 - 1-1/4in.), whitish, then becoming gray to brown, with a small irregular opening at the top. The spore sac is covered by a grayish-brown skin that splits into six to twelve lobes, opening in wet weather into star-like rays 2.5-5 cm (1 - 2in.) long. These rays curl under to hold the spore sac aloft above the ground, then close in dry weather.
Astraeus hygrometricus is one of several species in the single genus making up the Astraeaceae family. The classification above that has been going through changes, and varies from source to source. There is another genus of earthstars - Geaster - that is placed in a different family and order.
This earthstar was photographed following a night of rain.