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BLUE BUTTON

Numerous blue buttons were washed up on Volusia County beaches on August 25, 2013. There were also reports of these pelagic marine organisms on Flagler and St. Johns Counties around the same time.

Porpita porpita - BLUE BUTTON

Blue buttons passively float on the surface of tropical and sub-tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
Each Porpita porpita is actually a colony of hydroids that live in the round chambered float made of a chitin-like material. The disks range from 2-4cm (~3/4 - 1-1/2in.) in diameter and when alive are mostly brown on top. The individual zooids range from a bright blue turquoise to yellow, and each have specialized functions such as prey capture, digestion or reproduction. In the center of the underside is the 'mouth' which takes in food and expels waste. The tentacles have stinging cells to stun prey. These are not powerful enough to harm humans, but some people have reported an irritation from contact.



ROSE-RUSH

This is just one of the wildflowers I photographed late last summer at Palm Bluff Conservation Area in south Volusia County.

Lygodesmia aphylla - ROSE-RUSH

Flowering from March through November, this is the only species of the Lygodesmia genus in florida, where it occurs in sandhills, pine flatwoods, dry prairies, scrub and sandy disturbed sites throughout most of the state except for the western panhandle and extreme southern tip of the peninsula. L. aphylla is also found in a number of counties in southwest Georgia while the other Lygodesmia species are found mostly in the western United States.
Ruse-rush is a perennial herb with a rushlike stem to over three feet tall, milky sap and a solitary terminal flower. The corolla may be pink, pale rose or sometimes white. The 8 to 10 ray florets have toothed tips and disk florets are absent. The anthers are connate around the base of the style, which is purple, bifurcate and recurved. Eight linear phyllaries 14-22mm long with acute, often purple tipped, apices extend up the sides of the cylindric involucre with a calycule of 8 to 14 deltate bractlets 1-5mm long at the base. Basal leaves are few, narrow and long, often withered or absent by flowering time, the stem leaves - if present - are scale-like.



SPIDERLING PLUME MOTH

on

RED SPIDERLING

I was photographing red spiderling flowers early one morning when this little plume moth landed and began feeding at the flower.

SPIDERLING PLUME MOTH - Megalorhipida leucodactylus - on RED SPIDERLING - Boerhavia diffusa

I had just identified this plant after seeing it described on the Treasure Coast Natives blog. After not finding the moth in any of my insect or moth guidebooks, I checked bugguide.net, where I discovered that it was appropriately a spiderling plume moth.
This tiny plume moth can be found throughout Florida often near members of the Nyctaginaceae - Four o'clock - family of plants. The range also includes the Caribbean, southern California and Arizona.
With the distinctive "T" or airplane wing shape of plume moths at rest, this moth looked like a tiny tuft of down in flight. The wingspan is from about a half to three-quarters inch. Adult moths often have the abdomen in a recurved position, appearing much like a scorpion.
The host plants for Megalorhipida leucodactylus are the spiderlings (genus Boerhavia.
Boerhavia diffusa is a frequent perennial of dry disturbed sites throughout much of Florida. It can be sprawling or ascending, with slender stems to three feet tall or more with opposite and ovoid leaves, mostly on the lower parts of the plant. The pink to purplish flowers are minute, with inconspicuous bracts and lacking petals. Three stamens are surrounded by a glandular, five lobed calyx tube.



FIRE SPOKES

This close-up image of a Gaillardia pulchella flower is named 'Fire Spokes' because one of the common names for this wildflower is firewheel. Other common names include Indian blanket and rosering blanketflower.

Fire Spokes - Gaillardia pulchella - FIREWHEEL

A frequent wildflower of open areas, beach sides and other disturbed sites throughout much of Florida, mostly but not exclusively the coastal counties. The range extends throughout much of the United States except Kentucky, West Virginia and some northwest states. Firewheel is also found in Alaska, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
This annual or short-lived perennial is freely branched mostly at the base with ribbed stems up to 24 inches tall covered with tiny glandular hairs (trichomes). The leaves are alternate, hairy, lanceolate to narrowly oblanceolate and 1-3 inches long. Highly variable, the lower leaves are typically pinnately lobed and stalked, with the upper leaves entire and sessile. Flowers have a reddish-purple disk and three-lobed rays that are most commonly bright reddish-purple with yellow tips, but color variations often occur.
The genus was named in 1788 for Antoine René Gaillard de Charentonneau, an 18th-century French magistrate, by archaeologist, plant physiologist and naturalist Auguste Denis Fougeroux de Bandaroy. Both were members of the Académie Royale des Sciences. Gaillard was a naturalist, amateur botanist and patron of botany and received plant seeds from the French colonies which he both cultivated himself and shared with other botanists. The type specimen for Gaillardia had been cultivated in France, with a Louisiana origin.
Photography Prints by Paul Rebmann



POLKA-DOT WASP MOTH

This photo of a polka-dot wasp moth feeding on frostweed is featured to highlight National Moth Week July 20-28, 2013.

Syntomeida epilais var. jucundissima - POLKA-DOT WASP MOTH

This colorful moth, like other members of the wasp moth sub-family (Ctenuchinae) is active during the day and is common in most of Florida and southern Georgia. Polka-dot moths are native to the Caribbean region (including south Florida) and now range from the coastal areas of the southeastern states through Mexico, Central America and the northern regions of South America.
The larvae of Syntomeida epilais is known as the oleander caterpillar (photos on the Wild Florida Photo Syntomeida epilais page). The original host plant is believed to have been the now rare devil's potato or rubbervine, but the caterpillars switched hosts after the Spanish introduced the Mediterranean ornamental oleander to the new world in the 17th century.
Polka-dot moths have an iridescent blue/green body and wings, somewhat resembling a wasp in shape. Small white dots are found on the body, wings, legs and antenna. The tip of the abdomen is red/orange. Males and females are similar, with a wingspan from 1-3/4 to 2 inches. The orange caterpillars range in length from 1/8 to 1-5/8 inch and have clumps of black non-stinging hairs growing from black tubercles along the body.



CROWN-TIPPED CORAL FUNGUS

This distinctive fungus is found throughout much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains.

Artomyces pyxidatus - CROWN-TIPPED CORAL FUNGUS

I have seen what I believe was the same species in north Florida near the Suwanee River.
These photos were taken at Taylor Hollow State Natural Area, a Nature Conservancy preserve in middle Tennessee.
This fungus has been classified as Clavicorona pyxidata, but is more recently known as Artomyces pyxidatus.
Crown-tipped coral fungi are from 5-15cm (2-6 in.) tall and 2-10cm (3-4 to 4in.) wide, numerously branched, with crown-shaped tips having shallow cups and 3-6 points. The color is commonly white to pale yellow when young, darkening with maturity to a tan or pinkish hue.