It already seems like a distant memory, those humid bug-ruled days of (very) late summer that ended so abruptly. I was in the jewelweed patch that last miserable day, but from what I could see it was a good day for the orthopteran inhabitants. One last chance to live and eat before the cold set in.
My mission was to collect jewelweed seed for spreading in places that have none, but should. And since it grows easily from seed, any low moist area in this forest is a good place for a jewelweed patch. I am realizing more and more the importance of this plant -not just as an individual, but for the community structure it creates. A midsummer mass of tall gangly jewelweed often tops 6 feet in height, and within its dense architecture thrives a little city of life unto itself.
But a summer’s worth of browsing and pollinating, flower and seed making, trampling and storm flattening eventually takes its toll. As the plants begin to collapse in fall, I am ready to wade in with my seed bucket…
…often capturing more than seed. I’ve encountered great numbers of Green stinkbugs Chinavia hilaris, feeding in the jewelweed patch this fall.
This well-camouflaged Fork-tailed Bush katydid, Scudderia furcata, was almost smacked into my seed bucket too. Instead I got to watch it eating a jewelweed seed pod.
The Yellow Woolly Bear caterpillar, Spilosoma virginica, also enjoys tender jewelweed foliage.
This is what I’m foraging for – the 2 or 3 ripe seeds in each pod. My gathering technique consists of gently “smacking” the upper branches of the plant over an open bucket, causing the fully ripe pods to expell their contents. The unripe ones don’t explode, so I can return for more seed in a couple days. Jewelweed is such a prolific seed producer that I’m likely not gathering more than 10% of any patch’s production.
It takes a certain focus to see where the good clusters of ripe seed pods are.
In our unusually warm late fall weather the plants continued to bloom while ripening seed.
As I was leaving the jewelweed patch, there was evidence of an incident. A large female Red-shouldered hawk had been hunting in this area for several days, and twice I saw her eating something as she perched on a low branch. Now I know who one of her meals consisted of!
Dear Readers: Just a reminder – reading these posts on a small device cheats you of a lot of the visuals. I work hard to make the images full-screen quality for your enjoyment, so read on your computer if possible!