Yellow Flowers and a Green Turtle

Last night brought more rain to southern Wisconsin, bringing the mosquitoes back to their peak after a few days of relative relief. That same night I heard the fall songbird migration had reached our area but this morning I wanted to stay out in the sun where there would be fewer mosquitoes- but fewer birds as well. I went out after breakfast to explore the parks of Middleton to see what I could find.

The predominant color for flowers right now is yellow. This was most striking in the form of cup plant (Silphium perforliatum) and compass plant (Silphium laciniatum).

Cup plant
Cup plant

Cup plant has an unique leaf shape that traps water. Small animals can even take a sip from it. With last night’s rains, there was still water in many of the namesake cups.

Nature's water glass
Nature’s water glass

Cup plant thrives in open areas with a scattered trees, and I saw many of them at both Stricker’s Pond and the Pheasant Branch preserve. Contrast this with compass plant which I find in more open areas (cup plant does great at my parents’ partially shaded lot while compass plant fares poorly). I found a few compass plants at the sunnier part of the Stricker’s Pond park.

Compass plant
Compass plant on the left, big blue stem on the right

It was a hot day and I got a late start so I didn’t see a lot of animals. American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) and cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were my most seen birds of the day. The turtles were in abundance. I didn’t see any snappers today but Wisconsin’s omnipresent painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) were busy sunning on logs before it got too hot.

Painted turtle
Painted turtle

If you want to see a painted turtle in the Madison area, just go to any calm body of water. If it’s not winter, you’ll see one. They are “painted” in red and yellow on an overall dark body. However, you will see an occasional one covered in duckweed like I did. Then it will be green.

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