The very hungry reclassified caterpillar

Not, in fact, a tomato hornworm.

tomato hornworm caterpillars

Last week I posted about the voracious caterpillars that decimated one of my tomato plants. I theorized, based on as close an identification as I could make, that it was a tomato hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata.

Made sense. Fat, green guys with white stripes and brown spots? Check. Horns on their rear ends? Check. Munching on tomatoes? Check. My guys’ stripes weren’t as fat as the ones in the photo from the University of Minnesota Extension publication, but perhaps I had juveniles? Maybe after eating my entire plant, the stripes would grow as bloated as the rest of their bodies.

Not so fast. Enter iNaturalist, a fabulous nature-identification app that I’m in love with. Created as a joint project between the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, it allows citizens to upload their observations and get critter identifications from other members. The data are shared with databases like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, so you can feel good about contributing to biodiversity science.

Everyone on the app piled on to correct me. I don’t have tomato hornworms, although my mistake is a common one. I have tobacco hornworms, Manduca sexta. This link shows the differences very clearly. Tomato hornworms have V-shaped stripes and bluish- or black horns on their rear ends. Tobacco hornworms have white diagonal stripes bordered in black, and have red horns on their butts.

White stripes, red horns. Clearly, tobacco hornworms.

Treatment is the same: pick ’em off and feed them to hungry birds. I’m happy to report the sad, naked tomato stalk grew a few new leaves this week, so maybe it will pull through.

Here at MHM, we believe in science, so I wanted to correct the record. 🙂

A simple way to keep track of garden changes

My life is hectic. I’m trying hard to cut down on distractions so I can enjoy a few things in my life more fully. One of those priorities is my garden.

shed and iris.jpeg

Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) in shades of red and pink, planted among irises, lilies, and daffodils.

This year I had a glorious show of Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus). Sweet William is a biennial plant, meaning it grows, flowers, sets seed, and dies over the course of two years, rather than one for annuals.

They’re fading now, and setting seedpods. If I collect the seed, I can sow it and have another batch of plants ready to go for next year. And while I like the mixed-colors look, there are a few places I’d like to add these plants but I want to restrict the color scheme a bit.

As I went outside with brown paper envelopes in hand, I wondered how to differentiate between the different colors of Dianthus. How will I remember what’s what? Then I remembered the bit of genius always at my side: my smartphone.

I snapped photos of each color and immediately labeled them:

 

Then I labeled my paper seed envelopes to match.

I created an album in my iPhone Photos app to keep them organized, so when I’m planning my garden for next year I’ll have a quick reference. (Or I guess I could also come back here.)

How do you keep track of changes in your garden?

Garden log, 5.12.16

Went out in the backyard with the dog this morning intending to pull weeds for 10 minutes. Camellia ‘Midnight Lover’ had a terrible case of leaf hall, so I pruned those out. While I was at it, I struck 12 cuttings of Camellia ‘Nuccio’s Cameo.’ I haven’t had much luck in the past growing camellias from cuttings, but I keep trying.

Louisiana iris ‘Black Gamecock’ is in bloom in the rain garden and looking rather spectacular.

New plants, 2016,Vol. 1

Planted two tassel ferns, Polystichum polyblepharum, yesterday before the freeze. One looks great. The other I had let get too dry, so it will take a while for it to settle in and look good.

  • I acquired them last week at the Duke Gardens plant sale, a gardening sucker’s paradise if every there was one. It’s worse then Target. I went in with a $25 gift certificate I had won at a lecture, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to limit myself to that small amount. The total sum spent shall remain between me and my bank, but I will say I think I got the better end of the bargain.