Highlands Biological Station buildings remain closed to visitors with the exception of limited visitor hours for the Nature Center.  HBS Botanical Garden trails remain open, and in accordance with University policy masks and physical distancing are required on the HBS campus.  Highlands Biological Station currently plans to offer academic and public programming in summer 2021, observing University mandated Covid-19 safety protocols.  For the safety of the HBS summer community, before being permitted to work or study at HBS prospective summer students, teaching faculty, and researchers must provide documentation of (1) having received a Covid-19 vaccine or (2) a negative Covid-19 test taken within 3 days of planned arrival.  Please see the HBS website for full summer 2021 Covid-19 safety policies and procedures, and bear in mind that University policy and HBS program plans are subject to change in light of developments with the pandemic this spring. 

Rudbeckia laciniata

Rudbeckia laciniata

Cutleaf Coneflower

Asteraceae

Sunflower Family

Cutleaf Coneflower is a common summertime sight on the Highlands Plateau, its brilliant yellow daisy-like flowers bringing splashes of color to roadsides and wood margins.  The genus name Rudbeckia, which includes Black-eyed Susans, was chosen by Linnaeus to honor his mentors Olof Rudbeck the younger (1660-1740) and Olof Rudbeck the elder (1630-1702), both botanists at Uppsala University.  The species name laciniata, Latin for “jagged” or “cut,” is a reference to the deeply cut and sharp-lobed leaves.

While the flowers of this species understandably get all the attention, it’s well worth inspecting the leaves too.  If you’re lucky you might find one or more spiny black caterpillars of the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly,

Chlosyne nycteis

(Family Nymphalidae, the Brush-Footed Butterflies), contentedly chewing away.  If you’re even luckier, you might find a little treehopper family hidden on the underside of a leaf.  In our area two species in particular,

Enchenopa binotata

(the Two-Marked Treehopper, with two yellow spots on its back) and

Entylia bactriana

(the Notched Treehopper), lay their eggs in a cluster in the midrib of Cutleaf Coneflower leaves.  This causes the leaf to droop at the point where the eggs are inserted, forming a snug canopy over the little treehopper family.  You can often find both treehopper parents with their young in early summer, and you might even spot ants in the mix.  These are friends, not foes: like aphids, treehoppers secrete sweet droplets of honeydew as they feed on plant sap.  Ants, knowing a good thing when they find it, aggressively protect the treehoppers from predators so that they can tend them, like little insectan cows, for the sugary honeydew.  `