This is the specimen tree we planted in spring, a tricolor beech. You can just barely see that the leaves have been eaten off the top. Apparently beech trees make great habitat, and it only took a few months for the wildlife to notice the new buffet. And to think I bought the thing because it's ridiculously pretty.
Here you can see the two cocoons in relation to each other on the tree. Each one is about the size of my thumb. I had a hard time getting the autofocus to lock on the tree instead of the prairie behind it.
This is the higher cocoon.
I got one really fabulous shot of the lower cocoon. It really looks like a wad of dead leaves.
This is a long view of the prairie garden, looking past the beech tree through a notch in the treeline. All that tall yellow stuff is cup plant, a native wildflower. I started out with a couple and now there are lots of them. I didn't plant these, Gaia did. :D It kind of looks like a giant weedpatch from a distance, but a lot of what grows in there is legitimate prairie plantmass. It's changed over the years -- used to be a ton of milkweed, not much of that left, was almost all goldenrod for a while and these these cup plants began to spread.
Here's a closer look at the cup plants.
I've turned the camera vertical to emphasize the height. They're about 10 feet tall. The surrounding goldenrod is about 5-6 feet tall.
Here's a medium view of the flowers.
In the closeup, you can see that they're a lot like sunflowers.
This is the patch that I think is little bluestem. The grass is about 5-6 feet tall, but still hasn't opened its damn seedheads so I can tell what it is. (Bluestems have turkey feet shaped seedheads.) There are several domestic sunflowers out there too.
As I approached the patch, I walked into a cloud of butterflies. We have a lot of thistle blooming in the prairie garden this year. :D This is a male black swallowtail.
I got one great spread of him showing the distinctive double row of yellow spots.
This shows the underwings. On the hindwing is an orange spot with a black dot inside it, characteristic of black swallowtails.
This is some sort of cabbage butterfly.
When the butterflies wandered away, I walked up to the sunflower patch. I planted all kinds of wildflowers in this patch but the only ones that bloomed were the sunflowers. I think the bluestem and the big patch of comfrey have crowded out everything else.
Here's a closeup of a yellow one. You can see that it has more buds to open later.
This is the bronze one. I think it's the first exotic type sunflower I've gotten to bloom. I really like that autumn color. A drawback is that most of the fancy hybrids have little pollen or other appeal for insects. But the seeds were free, so I planted them, and I have to admit it's very pretty.
In the vertical view, you can see how tall these are, about 5-6 feet. The Yellow in the middle is the tallest thing in the patch so it might be a bit bigger. These are black seeded sunflowers. The gray-striped ones are a lot bigger in all regards; I've grown them in the past.
This shows the middle of the wildflower garden. From the top, the flowers are moonbeam coreopsis, yarrow, and black-eyed susan.
This thistle patch sprouted at the edge of the savanna. Just beyond it is a bare spot that I'm hoping will catch the seeds, allowing us to migrate the patch slowly northward toward the prairie garden.
This is a female black swallowtail, distinguishable from the male because she only has one row of smaller yellow spots and a larger arc of blue on the hindwings.
And here comes the male. :D They fluttered around each other for several minutes.
The thistles are starting to go to seed. For a couple weeks a year, the prairie garden becomes "the cloud garden" as thistles and milkweeds release their fluffs.
My garden doesn't look like anything from a garden magazine. But it's teeming with life, and I like it that way. :D
If you want the butterfly of happiness to light on your shoulder ... don't pull up all your thistles.