“ephemeral” (noun): plant – or – (adjective): lasts a short time 

29 March, 2020            ephemeral (noun): plant ephemeral (adjective): lasts a short time 

My non ephemeral friend Gus and me at Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota in 1991. This picture was taken sixteen years after we met in homeroom in Freshman year at Gonzaga High School in Washington, DC: 

Gus, me, Mt. Rushmore, almost thirty years ago

We took this selfie yesterday at Pony Pasture with his son Joey: 


This is Gus with my mom at my brother Kevin’s house for my fortieth birthday in 2001. Smiling always came easily for mom, but Gus was (by a very wide margin) her favorite of all my friends: 

Mom didn’t like all my friends but she adored Gus

We don’t live close together but we’ve stayed close throughout the forty-five years (what?!) we’ve known each other. Gus was one of the first people to visit me at the hospital after my accident – I was still in a coma – and he stayed close through the entire episode. Over the years, Gus and his family have had experiences that were in many ways worse than what I did – but he remains strong, healthy, energetic, caring and warm-hearted. He could be in the picture dictionary (sorry to overwork that metaphor) next to “resilient.” 

When we were hiking yesterday I saw my first Yellow Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) of 2020: 

Trout lily

I know not everyone will click on that link and learn more about Trout Lilies, but I’m going to excerpt the critical (IMO) phrase here. According to the Virginia Native Plant Society : “Across the state, spring would not be spring in Virginia without the entrancing drifts of trout-lilies, trilliums, and other lily kin in April’s sunlit woods.” 

I first hiked at Pony Pasture in my early forties and I’d never heard the words “Trout Lily.” What’s more, the only way I’d ever used the word “ephemeral” was as an adjective. I knew things could be described as ephemeral – lasting a short time – but I didn’t know it as a noun. As in “this Trout Lily is an ephemeral.” 

This is another thing blogging has done for me – I’ve learned things I would otherwise never have known, because they showed up on this blog. And this blog is nine years old and I’m still learning. “Slowly” is the way I always learn though – I am truly a slow learner. But I’m having fun! 

Readers whose plant knowledge is greater than mine (that’s a very low bar), feel free to correct me if I have misidentified any of these plants. 

Bluebells are ephemerals, but they’re already (last week) well represented on this blog. I need to research this more  before I blog about it too – I also need to work on my plant photography. But speaking of plants. I’ve mentioned in years past Evelyn’s planted elderberries in the beds beside our driveway. This year they had terrible looking black bugs on them. I learned they’re aphids – I can’t (today) be more specific. I took this picture this afternoon: 

Aphids on our elderberries. They are not welcome guests.

Evelyn was researching how to make them go away. I don’t know – as of today – how this happens. But – somehow – those aphids are attracted to elderberries. That’s not super mysterious to me; I’m attracted to elderberries myself. What is mysterious to me – I’ll learn this week – is how ladybugs are attracted. Because  – this is what’s weird – when we went out there, ladybugs were already laying eggs on the elderberries! Ev took this picture today: 

Ladybug eggs. How awesome is that? Photo by Evelyn

“You couldn’t make this stuff up” happens on this blog a lot, and if I live to be a hundred that sensation will always delight me. So in the “you couldn’t make this stuff up” category, my continued search of the elderberry plants yielded this. The fight against aphids requires unity:

Ladybugs defend elderberries with the opposite of the ultimate sacrifice (make love not war) I got up about 8:00 this morning; I’ll admit I didn’t anticipate that. Earlier this week I did hope I’d see – I’m not convinced they’re gone – was an owl. And I saw one! This was Tuesday, on the same branch (vine) I’ve photographed them on since Thanksgiving: 

Beginning another sixteen weeks?

Ospreys on the way home today. Their nest is looking more like it could hold some eggs. And while I was there, the ospreys were doing a fair imitation of those ladybugs making the opposite of the ultimate sacrifice. So perhaps there will be baby ospreys. We’ll see: 

These ospreys are looking more confident

Brown-headed cowbirds reappeared in my yard this morning when we got back from the river. Wikipedia describes them as obligate brood parasitic bird. They lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. It seems really unusual to me but I guess is business as usual to them. Some humans find this behavior repellent, in the manner that some people find the behavior of vultures repellent. Brown-headed cowbirds don’t have another way to survive – evolution has selected them to act this way. They’re cool looking too: 

Brown-headed cowbird – an obligate brood parasite

I tried to squeeze too much into this weekend (long bike ride this afternoon too) so I’m up too late so I’ll sign off until next week. It’ll be April! Enjoy! 

All best, 


About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Barred Owls, Birds, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Insects, James River, love, newfaze, ospreys, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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