What are you seeing out there? We'd love to hear from you! The following posts are from some of our local Harpswell Nature Watchers.

August brought us perfect days to soak up the sun outdoors. Flowers were in bloom, animals were out, and sunrises/sunsets were not to be missed. Please enjoy our August edition! All of the contributions below are seen immediately in our Facebook group.

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This time of year, the rose hips of the native Virginia rose or prairie rose (Rosa virginiana) call attention to themselves with their lovely bright red color. They tolerate dry, salty conditions, so are common in Harpswell along roadsides and in the shrub zone along the shore. The fruits are rich in vitamin C and can be made into jam. Also, if you ever find yourself stranded on a Harpswell island (hope you never do), you can eat the fruits raw as an emergency food—it won’t be the best thing you ever tasted, but it will do the job.

Don’t confuse these native roses with the less delicate Rosa rugosa, a species native to Asia, brought here over 200 years ago as a showy ornamental. The Asian rose forms dense thickets that out-compete native plants. Rosa rugosa is a much larger plant, larger leaves and fruit. Its stems are covered with dense straight prickles, as opposed to the hooked, more widely spaced prickles of the Virginia rose. Virginia rose has light pink flowers that adorn the shrub for a long period of time in midsummer. In Fall the leaves have lovely color—turning yellow, to orange, to deep red.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight, August 29, 2020)
August is a great time of year to see pollinator species at work. Monarch butterflies are visiting milkweed plants to lay eggs while bees, beetles, flies and moths visit flowering plants like goldenrod and thistle. Mast-bearing plants are yielding high-energy foods like acorns, apples and berries, providing a feast for a huge variety of creatures from black bears to blue jays, field mice to turkeys.

(Submitted by Ed Robinson, Photo by Creative Nature_NL iStock, August 26, 2020)
Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus ) is a biennial plant, meaning it has a two-year life cycle. In its first year, it is a low, basal rosette of silvery-green, velvety leaves. The second year, it sends up a flower stalk that can be six feet high or more. According to the Native Plant Trust Web site, it was introduced to this country in the mid-eighteenth century from Eurasia to be used as a fish poison. A guide published by the British Columbia Forest Service states that the common name is based on the Latin word “mollis” that means soft—referring to the felt-like leaves. They also report that the plants were used as a torch or candle by dipping them in suet.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight, August 23, 2020)
A very celebratory-looking cluster of mushrooms have popped up at Otter Brook Preserve!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder, August 14, 2020)
Does anyone know what this odd and unusual looking 'bug' is? There were three of similar size wandering around on my porch railing this morning...

Green Lacewing larvae, nicknamed “Aphid Lions” because they are voracious predators of aphids and other sift bodied insects. They cover their bodies with the carcasses of their prey, bits of fuzz, lichens, and other debris to camouflage themselves from ants, which try to protect aphids.

For more information on these bugs CLICK HERE

(Submitted by Gina Snyder and answered by Alan Seamans, August 8, 2020)
I see so much evidence of the Pileated Woodpeckers along the trails here in Harpswell, but it's a real treat when I manage to spot one! Photos taken at Otter Brook Preserve.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder, August 8, 2020)
Sunflowers are blooming right now. The young flowers face east at dawn to greet the sun and then slowly turn west as the sun moves across the sky. At night, the flowers slowly turn back east to begin the cycle all over again the next day. This phenomenon is called heliotropism. In some plants, just the leaves track the sun—turning perpendicular to its rays to maximize exposure.

The plant moves in an interesting way. During the day, the east side of the stem grows faster, which allows the top of the shoot to move gradually from east to west. At night, the west side of the stem grows faster, moving the flowers back facing east. Smart plant!

Once the sunflower flowers mature and the plant is growing more slowly, the flowers turn east and remain there. Researchers believe that by facing east, the flowers heat up faster and therefore attract more bees since bees prefer warm flowers. Some daisies exhibit flower heliotropism and the leaves of pole beans track the sun as well.

Another interesting thing about sunflowers, is that the “real flowers” are hiding in plain sight! There are many, many tiny flowers that make up the brown center. As you can see in the closeup picture the real flowers are tubular with a yellowish base and brown tips. Each of these flowers will produce a seed. These are called disk flowers. Asters and daisies are examples of other plants with disk flowers. Grab a hand lens to look closely at flowers next time you are outside. You may be very surprised at what you see!

(Submitted by Lynn Knight, August 4, 2020)
A turtle basking, a frog soaking and a ladybug beetle - a great day for spotting critters! All in Otter Brook Preserve!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder, August 3, 2020)