Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wafer Ash

When visiting the Fall Creek Loop trail this past weekend, I found a Wafer Ash, Ptelea trifoliata, in bloom. I had never seen one in bloom before, so I was quite pleased. It was fragrant, with a sweet, yet pungent, smell.
Here is a closeup of the flower clusters. The clusters are rounded, and the branches were just covered with them. Such a lovely sight!

It is called hop tree or wafer ash for the winged seeds. The hard brown seeds are encased in a papery disk that looks like a thin wafer. This design helps disperse the seeds by wind.

Photo from Wikipedia

One of the main reasons I was excited about the discovery of the wafer ash was the possibility of this caterpillar. This is an orange dog, the caterpillar for the Giant Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio cresphontes. It feeds primarily on plants in the citrus family of which Wafer Ash is a host plant here in Indiana. The caterpillar is a bird dropping mimic. Smart camouflage! Not many animals will eat their own poo. It also has a backup plan for defense. If harrassed too much, it will rear up and extend its osmeterium, the fleshy reddish projections on its head. These horns are accompanied with a foul smell. The effective combo of scary horns and stench probably deters most animals looking for lunch.

Photo from Wikipedia

And, finally, the beautiful butterfly this ugly duckling becomes. The Giant Swallowtail is a large butterfly that will stop most people in their tracks as it flits about. The black and yellow combo with the striking lined pattern is just breathtaking. One of my favorite butterflies, I hope the hoptree attracts some of these fascinating creatures so I can watch them transform this summer!

Photo from Wikipedia

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1 comment:

Celestial Elf said...

Great Post :D
thought you might like my machinima film the butterfly's tale~
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1fO8SxQs-E
Bright Blessings
elf ~