Wednesday, September 10, 2014

acmon blue on naked buckwheat ~ 09/10/14 ~ Podere di Farfalla

mating acmon blue (male top, browner female bottom) on naked buckwheat
mating Icaricia acmon (aka Plebejus acmon) on Eriogonum nudum var. auriculatum

I mentioned in a previous mating acmon post on seacliff buckwheat from mid-July about how host plant associations cannot be assumed.  I'm trying to do a better job at documenting the butterfly, the plant, and the activity.  Here I found them on another type of buckwheat (one that was not evident to me back in July).  I was able to get a series of mating photos that made for a surprisingly graphic gif.  Unfortunately, after succumbing to a fit of giggles, I decided other people may not appreciate my crass animal p0rn humor (or it might get stolen and put on a site I would be embarrassed to show my grandmother, if you know what I mean).  And so, it's not included on Nature ID.  However, it was eye-opening to see how butterfly sexy parts actually fit together.  I never took such a close look before.

acmon blue laying egg on naked buckwheat
Icaricia acmon laying egg on Eriogonum nudum var. auriculatum

This is the true money shot for me.  Laying an egg on an identified host plant.  Although, as I witnessed this spring, females sometimes get their host plants mixed up.  No kidding.  It's apparently how insects regularly adapt to using introduced plants.  It's evolution in action.  At the time, I was encouraged to find the egg of my unusual sighting.  Ha!  I tried, I really did.  It's very much like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Miniaturized.  What's not always obvious from photos is exactly how small all of this is.  I seriously doubt I'll be able to get a clear picture of something as tiny as an acmon egg out in the wild, on a cliff, in bright sun, and the ever-present wind.  With my relatively recent need for reading glasses, I couldn't even see what the egg here looked like after the female did her quick drop off.  I'm starting to view television nature shows in an entirely different light now and not in a good way.  Instead of oohing and awing over nature, I'm wondering how the heck they managed to film whatever it is that they did.  Seriously.  Eh, I like my easy crappy photos.  So, on to the plant...


While I already suspected which buckwheat this was, I used the plant list for Podere di Farfalla to narrow down the possibilities of buckwheats, from 256 spp./var. found in all of CA to just 6, plus 4 more from nearby Garland Ranch.  I looked at all the possibilities, and more, just to make sure it wasn't something I hadn't heard of before.

oblong leaves along lower part of stem, wavy margin, spider webby on top, 
and solidly fuzzy below
(my descriptive words, nothing to do with plant keys)

The official CNPS list for Garland Ranch shows another of the 14 var. of naked buckwheat (geez, there's a lot), sometimes called hairy flowered buckwheat or Fremont's wild buckwheat (E. nudum var. pubiflorum).  I took a close look at the few available photos online, and I think the leaves here look more like auriculatum than pubiflorum.  Leaf shape more determinate over level of fuzz on top?  It's a close call, and I could be wrong.  If anyone knows better, please tell me!

a step-back view 
(See?  Crappy.  Bright butterfly sun and waving plants in the wind do not mix.)