August 7th, 2010


50 More Urban Species #24 Northern Flatid Planthopper

Northern Flatid Planthopper Anormenis chloris
This planthopper has found remarkably effective camouflage on my friend Diane's shirt.

Flatid planthoppers belong one of several families within a larger group that includes cicadas and leafhoppers. Planthoppers appear to have evolved in the tropics and spread outward. The two main host plants of Anormenis chloris are black walnut and paw paw, two trees that just barely range into Massachusetts. They can make use of at least three dozen other plants, including some crops.

Nymphs of flatid planthoppers excrete filaments of waxy material. The young insects become almost completely covered in a cottony wrapping, which sticks to predators and doesn't stick to spiderwebs.

50 More Urban Species #25: Blue Vervain

Blue (swamp) Vervain Verbena hastata

I find plants to be quite humbling. Occasionally I'll think that I have a firm grip on what plant species I can expect to find in Boston after having paid fairly close attention for the past 12 years. Then one summer day I'll see something I've never seen before and the vastness and variety of life smacks me in the face.

This "new to me" plant is blue vervain, also called swamp vervain, a native wildflower that grows in those occasionally wet places between bodies of water and dry habitats. Its flowers attract butterflies, and its seeds are eaten by finches. North American humans used the plant for a range of medicinal needs, much as Europeans used common vervain (Verbena officinalis).