Last Sunday was a fantastic immersion into natural history, high on a ridgetop in rural Washington County, Ohio. A bunch of us were guests of Julie Zickefoose, and we explored her property and some nearby lands. A highlight was nocturnal mothing and caterpillar-hunting. Many interesting finds were made. I'll hope to share some more of them here, eventually.
If one can ignore the prickly stems, Horse-nettle is certainly the showiest of our native nightshades with its clusters of ivory flowers (sometimes light violet), each with a prominent cluster of lemony anthers, Later, small yellow-orange fruit that resemble elfin tomatoes will form - these are said to be deadly poisonous.
Weedy and widespread Horse-nettle may be, but it produces one of the most interesting moths in eastern North America. The caterpillars of the scaly marvel that follows eat only this plant. Julie took us to a dry ridgetop meadow rich in Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosus, and scattered about were many Horse-nettle plants and other interesting flora. And it was here, amongst the plants that spawned it, that we saw the following moth.