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AMERICAN BEAUTYBERRY

This multibranched deciduous shrub displays distinctive clusters of magenta to deep purple berries in the leaf axils from late summer through fall.

Callicarpa americana is commonly found in flatwoods, hammocks and along wooded road edges throughout all of Florida, including the keys. The range extends throughout the southeast, west into Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, and north into Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland.
This shrub grows up to 2 meters tall with clusters of small pinkish flowers in the leaf axils from late spring into summer. Leaves are opposite, simple, ovate, with crenate to serrate margins from below the midpoint to the tip. The leaves are aromatic when bruised. Both surfaces of young leaves, and the lower surface of older leaves are covered with star-shaped hairs.
Beautyberry makes an excellent landscape plant as it is tolerant of many conditions and transplants well. The abundant fruit is attractive to wildlife, especially birds.



EASTERN FENCE LIZARD

A lizard of open pine flatwoods and fields, often seen on fences, stumps and trees.

The range extends through much of the south-central and southeastern states, and in Florida as far south as the I-4 corridor.
These lizards have a rough scaly body up to 15 cm (~6in.) long. As seen in this photo, males have bright blue patches on the sides of the belly and throat. Females have wavy patterns of black and light gray on top. These patterns are usually much fainter in the males.
Fence lizards are very similar to the Florida endemic scrub lizard, but without the thick side stripes.



SNOW SQUARESTEM

A perennial of moist to dry hammocks, flatwoods and beaches throughout much of Florida.

The range extends through the southeastern coastal states from Louisiana to South Carolina, plus Tennessee, Kentucky & Illinois.
The rough branched stem is rough, 4-angled and mottled with purple, growing to 2 m (~6ft.) tall. Small, compact, rounded clusters of more than 20 white flowers with black anthers are on long stalks and can appear any time of the year. The leaves are opposite, rough and hairy, coarsely toothed, broadest near the base, often three lobed and long petioled. The rough leaves give this plant another common name, cat's tongue
Some experts consider all of the Melanthera in Florida one species - M. nivea - while others treat them as seven different species. If considered separate species, snow squarestem occurs in south Florida only near the coast, with different species (M. angustifolia and M. parvifolia) inhabiting inland areas.
This is a nectar plant for many species of butterflies.



GIRL WITH CRAYFISH

In honor of Take a Child Outside Week the featured photo is a girl with crayfish.

A young boy looks on in wonder as a girl holds out a crayfish caught during a nature walk lead by a park ranger. The nature walk at Mt. Rogers Recreation Area in southwest Virginia was an activity to reveal some of the creatures that live in mountain streams. We also saw several kinds of salamanders along the creek that flows past Grindstone campground.
National Take a Child Outside Week is held September 24-30 each year to encourage people to get children outside and enjoy their natural world. Often modern family lifestyles do not include much outdoor time. Change that and fight Nature Deficit Disorder, a term used by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods.



SCOLIID WASP

This week's featured photo shows a scoliid, or digger, wasp on last week's feature, Florida false sunflower.

These wasps are unlikely to sting people, unless trapped or harassed.
Of the three forms of this species, Campsomeris plumipes fossulana, is the only subspecies that occurs in Florida. This subspecies is found throughout the southeastern states, with the entire species (all three forms) ranging though most of the eastern United States. There are six genera and 20 species of scoliid wasps of the family Scoliidae in North America, with eight species in three genera occurring in Florida.
Scoliid wasps are also sometimes called digger wasps because the females dig into the ground, sting and paralyze beetle larvae, then lay their eggs, which after hatching, feed on the paralyzed grub. Larvae of the scarab beetle is often targeted. These wasps can often be seen flying low above the ground in a figure eight pattern. They are also sometimes seen feeding on wildflowers.
Campsomeris plumipes fossulana are black with yellow abdominal markings and a body length of 15-25 mm (0.6 - 1 in.). The legs, thorax and edges of the abdominal segments are hairy. Males have longer antenna and are typically smaller than the females.



FLORIDA FALSE SUNFLOWER

A frequent perennial wildflower of sandhills found only in the Florida peninsula, ranging from Clay County south to Lake Ockeechobee.

The showy yellow flowers are usually solitary and terminal on the stem, appearing from May to October. Phoebanthus grandiflorus grows up to 1 m tall, typically unbranched with mostly alternate leaves that are narrow, 3-5 mm wide, linear to lanceolate, entire and rough. The fruit is an achene.
There are two North American species in this genus. The other species - Phoebanthus tenuifolius - is a rare plant of sandhills and flatwoods in parts of the panhandle and Alabama and is listed as threatened in Florida. Similar to P. grandiflorus, except for having narrower leaves. The ranges of the two species do not overlap and are widely separated.
Purchase Phoebanthus Florets Ascending by Paul Rebmann