Sunflower tortoise beetle (Physonota helianthi) is a small leaf beetle. It occurs in the United States east of the Great Plains and in adjacent Canadian provinces. It is uncommon throughout its range.
There are three color phases that each adult undergoes. The teneral adult, freshly emerged from the pupal stage, is soft bodied and dingy white or ivory. The intermediate adult is black and white with numerous spots. This phase lasts about three weeks. The mature adult is entirely iridescent green. The upper thoracic plate and the two hardened wing covers each have a semi-transparent covering over the entire surface.
Both larvae and adults feed on the underside of leaves. They occasionally defoliate the plant and can be a major pest. Larvae carry dried fecal matter over their body, presumably as a form of camouflage. The fecal matter is attached to a forked appendage on the last abdominal segment, and is held suspended over the body.
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is an exotic, invasive, thorny shrub. It is native to Japan and has been cultivated around the world as an ornamental. It was introduced into North America in the 1800s where it occasionally escapes cultivation. It is now common from Maine to Minnesota south to North Carolina and Missouri, with scattered populations in the west. In Minnesota it is common in the eastern half of the state with scattered populations in the western half. It is found in open, bottomland and upland woodlands; woodland edges and openings; pastures, meadows, and old fields; and roadsides and other disturbed places. It grows in well-drained, moist to dry soil under full sun to medium shade. It is a restricted noxious weed in Minnesota. The state recognizes – and prohibits – 25 cultivars in addition to the parent species.
Japanese barberry is a dense, compact shrub that sometimes forms large, impenetrable thickets. The shrubs are usually no more than 3′ tall but can be much taller. The narrow, spatula-shaped leaves appear in tight clusters on short shoots along the stems and branches. There is a single, half-inch long spine at the base of each leafy shoot. In May and early June clusters of 1 to 5 small yellow flowers appear at at the ends of the shoots. These are replaced in late summer by bright red juicy berries. The berries remain on the plant throughout the winter.
Tall beggarticks (Bidens vulgata) is a common, widespread, native but often weedy wildflower. It is native to Europe and North America. It occurs across the United States but is most common in New England, the upper Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest. It is common in Minnesota. It grows in loamy or silty soil, under full sun to partial shade, in wet to moderately moist sites. It is found on the banks of rivers and streams; on the margins of lakes and ponds; in wet forests and meadows; and in ditches, railroads, roadsides, and other open disturbed sites. It is weedy in moist disturbed sites.
Tall beggarticks is a robust annual with an inconspicuous inflorescence. It is usually 12″ to 20″ tall but in favorable conditions it can reach 60″ or more in height. The leaves are divided onto 3 or 5 leaflets. At the base of each flower head there is a whorl of 10 to 21 modified leaves (bracts). The flower head has up to 150 yellow disk florets and either no ray florets or just 1 to 5 small yellow ray florets.
Armyworm moth (Mythimna unipuncta), also called true armyworm and the white speck. is a migratory wainscot moth. It is medium-sized for a moth, large for a wainscot moth. It occurs in Europe, northern Africa, Iceland, North America, Central America, and northern South America. It is common throughout the United States and Canada, common and sometimes abundant in Minnesota. It does not survive cold winters. Adults migrate south in the fall and a later generation disperses north in the spring. Adults are found in Minnesota from March to November. Caterpillars feed on leaves and sometimes seed heads of mostly grains and other grasses, but also many broadleaf plants close to their infestations. After defoliating a stand of plants, they will move as a group to a nearby stand and resume feeding. They are often a serious agricultural pest, especially on wheat and corn.
Armyworm moths are ¾″ to 1″ long. Their forewings are tan with dark peppering and a small but conspicuous white spot. The caterpillar is up to 2″ long.
There are fifteen species of snow scorpionflies (Family Boreidae) worldwide, thirteen species in North America, two in eastern United States including Minnesota. The two species in our state are both in the genus Boreus and are easily told apart by their color.
Mid-winter boreus (Boreus brumalis) is a small snow scorpionfly. It is common in the United States from Maine to Michigan, south to Tennessee, and in Canada in Nova Scotia and Ontario. There are isolated populations in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. They are found in deciduous woodlands that have moss on the ground. Larvae live in moss and prey on small insects and other animals found in the moss, and possibly also on the moss. Adults prey on small insects and other animals found hibernating under stones and moss. They are seen on the surface of the snow on winter days when the temperature is above freezing feeding on other winter insects.
Lewis flax (Linum lewisii var. lewisii) is an uncommon, non-native, prairie wildflower. It is native to western North America as far east as North Dakota. It is uncommon in Minnesota where it is considered adventive—it is not fully established and the populations in the state may not be self-sustaining. The first recorded observation in Minnesota was in 1959. It continues to spread as it is often included in seed mixes used on prairie restorations.
Lewis flax is semi-evergreen, with at least some foliage remaining green throughout the winter. Flowers are not produced until the third year or, if conditions are favorable, the end of the second year. Bright blue flowers appear from May to July. The petals open at sunrise and fall off by late afternoon.
Dwarf raspberry (Rubus pubescens) is a perennial, low-growing, non-woody subshrub. In the United States it occurs in the northern tier of states south to New Jersey, Colorado, and Oregon. In Minnesota it is common throughout most of the state but absent in the west-central, southwest, and south-central counties. It is found in moist to wet woodlands and meadows and in various wetlands including shrubby swamps, bogs, and fens.
Short, erect, leafy stems rise from a creeping runner that can be up to 80″ long. The 2 to 5 leaves are each divided into three leaflets. In mid-May to late June 1 to 4 small white flowers appear at the end of the stem. In early to mid-summer, each flower is replaced by a small, bright red to dark red fruit. The fruit is tasty but small, and it does not easily separate from its core.
Narrow-leaved vervain (Verbena simplex) is a 4″ to 27½″ tall, erect, perennial forb. It grows in full sun in moderately dry to dry soil in upland prairies, hill prairies and old fields; on roadsides and railroad rights-of-way; and in other open, disturbed areas. It occurs in the United States from New Hampshire to Minnesota south to Texas and Florida, and in adjacent Canadian provinces. In Minnesota, where it is at the northwestern extent of its range, it has been recorded in only five counties. In two of those counties, the records are historical, and it is now presumed to be locally extinct (extirpated). It is listed as a special concern species in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Narrow-leaved vervain has one or more stems, narrow leaves, and a spiked inflorescence. The flowers are lavender or purple to white, or white tinged with blue, rarely white. Compared with the other three species of vervain found in Minnesota, narrow-leaved vervain is much rarer, is a much smaller plant, and has much narrower leaves.
Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum) is a robust native plant. It can be 4′ to 10′ tall but in Minnesota it is usually no more than 7′ in height. It is found in prairies, open woodlands, roadsides, and disturbed sites. It has a patchy distribution in the lower two-thirds of Minnesota and is never common. It is absent from the far north and the Arrowhead region.
Tall thistle will easily pass the Native Thistle Test. Grasp the stem near the base of any native thistle loosely in your fist, then slide your fist upwards to just below the inflorescence. If the plant is a native thistle, you will not get a single prickle – it will be “ouchless”. If the thistle is thought to be an exotic (non-native) species, this test is not recommended.
Tall thistle looks similar to other native thistles. It can be distinguished by the stem that is green and not spiny; and the leaves that are white on the underside and are either unlobed or shallowly lobed.
Prickly tree clubmoss (Dendrolycopodium dendroideum) is an erect, evergreen, perennial, low-growing plant that looks like a miniature coniferous tree. It grows in northern forests and in shrubby areas recovering from fire or other disturbance. It often forms large colonies. In Minnesota it is common in the northeast, infrequent in the southeast, and mostly absent from the south and west.
Prickly tree clubmoss is usually no more than 6″ in height and has widely spreading branches. The branches are themselves up to four times branched—most branches have two or more secondary branches (branchlets), those branchlets are usually branched, those branchlets are often branched, and those branchlets are sometimes branched. The stem and branches are densely covered with prickly, needle-like leaves. Each fertile plant has 1 to 7 spore-bearing cones.
Several other Minnesota clubmosses are very similar in appearance. Prickly tree clubmoss is distinguished by lateral branches that are round in cross section, not flattened; stiff, prickly, widely spreading leaves on the lower part of the stem; and leaves on the branches that are all equal in size and arranged in six ranks, 2 above, 2 below, and one on each side.