Saturday, November 21, 2009

Groundsel Tree

Today the park was very quiet.  All morning, there were only 3 divers who were all gone before noon.  They were the only people in the park until after 2:00 when 2 more divers arrived.  It was also pretty chilly out today.  I don't think that we ever got to the upper 70's.  It was not my favorite kind of day at the park.  I did have time to enjoy a long walk this morning though, so its not all bad.  I took a lot of photos, but I had to pare it down a little to just nine that I will show you today and at least six that I will save for another day.  The photos that I selected for today are all of one type of plant and the myriad of critters that I found who really valued that one type of plant.
The plant is a Groundsel Tree.  It is more reminiscent of a bush, but it is a very fast growing plant.  Its a rather plain, unassuming looking plant with round and slightly jagged leaves.  Most of the year, you probably wouldn't notice it.  Right now, its a big, white, fluffy cloud.
As I photographed the fluffy tufts of white, I began to notice a few insects.  There were several Leaffooted Bugs.  They were all over all of the Groundsel Trees around, likely feeding on the leaves and other soft parts of the plants.  The bugs are appropriately named.  Their back feet are flat and... leafy.
I was looking over all of the plants to try to find more bugs in better positions for photographing when I kept finding more and more different kinds of insects and things.  The next thing that I found was a gall.  A gall looks like a wart or a big ugly growth on a tree.  A gall is formed when certain insects lay eggs on or in a growing part of a tree, like a branch.  The tree then tries to isolate this foreign body by growing a dense shell around it.  The insect egg is protected from the outside world and the tree is not harmed by the insect.  I found several galls on the Groundsel Trees and they all had tiny holes in them.  I don't know if that was from something that could feed on the galls or if they were holes that larvae had escaped from.  A quick internet search gave me no answers as to what kind of insect utilizes the Groundsel Tree.
I found two different types of moth caterpillars pupating.  The first doesn't look like anything more than some folded leaves, but they are cocoons.  The Leafrollers could be one of several types of moth caterpillars who have rolled themselves up in a leaf instead of spinning a whole cocoon.  There is some silk holding the leaves closed.  A leaf makes a pretty good sleeping bag!  The second is one that I have showed you before (and the one pictured in the link has Groundsel Tree leaves on it!).  Its a caterpillar from a Bagworm Moth.  It appears to be completely sealed and pupating so it must be a male.  The females remain caterpillars for their whole life.
Last, but not least, I found a spider egg sac.  I guess the Groundsel Tree was supporting insects and spiders at all stages of development.

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