“Plants vs Zombies”

by ESP on April 3, 2011 · 21 comments

Sago fronds are unfurling,

feather grass panicles are forming,

swaying in the spring breezes.

Colorful paper wasps

Polistes exclamans,

are going about their business,

as are the flies (ahem), ensuring no shortage of numbers for the summer.

The “Frog Prince” is sitting proudly once again atop his sea of green inland sea oats.

Yes it is now certainly spring – and it sure is turning out to be a warm one.

It seems I am always performing the most hideous of activities in the most hideous of hot humid weather, and 90+ temperatures this week definitely made extracting three giant timber bamboos and a Mexican lime tree a slightly moist activity to say the least!

Still, I shouldn’t complain, it would have been much worse if the mosquitoes were out, sucking blood from the vein. I knew I only had a short window after receiving my fist hit on the ankle a few days back.

First I tackled my Mexican lime tree. I have had a good run with this citrus tree and some bumper fruit crops, but after being cut back to the ground last year (and requiring the same treatment this), it would have developed into a gnarly looking – more cut back limbs than actual tree aesthetic…so out she had to come. I could see new growth emerging at the base – I quickly averted my gaze and began humming my happy tune as I hacked at the base, killing it.

My stomach sank as I moved onto the giant timbers, remembering how I snapped two wooden shovels and a pick axe a few years ago only trying to divide one (which was a total success but I would never recommend or repeat the activity).

Here is a blast from the posting past in the Patch:


In fact this was the reason I now only use metal shovels, and even now, the forces required to extract one of these root-balls puts a considerable strain and a potential Darwin Award bend on the metal implement.  Two plants came out with the normal amount of sweat and swearing but the third was a bigger specimen, and it was not coming out without a fight…

…”Aye noo yer talkin, ESP. I could make spears out of those culms, twice the length…”,

Enough William.

Strange formations, tap roots and lateral culm shoots make sure the extraction will test you and your shovel. Working around in a circular fashion around these formations is the only way to get under the plant to start snapping the roots or lower back tendons, depending which go first.

Having a really annoying soaker hose to deal with also does not help matters any. This one took me half an hour before I beat it into submission, or was it the other way round? And just why was I removing these giant timber bamboos?

Well they get huge, do not do well in the hard freezes, and are generally a huge mess to cut down and clean up. I have reduced my population now to three in the Patch.

While I was hacking away in this bed I did happen to disturb some squirming creatures and took a welcome break to try and shoot them, with my camera that is – (almost any distraction is most welcome when digging out bamboo).

Texas Brown Snake

Storeria dekayi texana

Hatchlings are the size of an earthworm, and even adults are no more than 13 inches long and can be found just about anywhere there is a cool dark moist bit of soil like nicely mulched landscaping, which is where they are commonly seen.

Texas Brown Snakes eat a wide variety of suitably sized insects and other invertebrates, including snails and slugs, making them our gardening friends.

Other creatures observed this week include:

Fiery Searcher Beetle – Yikes!

Calosoma scrutator (Fabricius)

or more commonly known as the “caterpillar hunter.”

I said caterpillar!  (RIP Steve).

This has to be one of the most incredibly bright beetles I have witnessed to date in the Patch, they are also large and fast (think roach like movements) brrr.  Ground Beetles (Carabidae) are mostly shiny black, but some, including this fiery searcher, are brightly metallic in color. Their most common prey include tent caterpillars, gypsy moth caterpillars, and other forest caterpillars.

The caterpillar hunter spends the day searching for insects and their pupae, a single beetle may consume 7-10 caterpillars each day. Adults may live up to two or three years.

I followed this one around for some time hoping it would rest for a second…it finally did,  settling in this crevice between two of my moss boulders.

“I can totally relate”.

While venturing into my shed to get my shovel to take out my bamboo I caught this little anole in the middle of a movie shoot, apparently it was a remake of the 1922 film Noir movie: “Nosferatu”. As I exited the shed I was screamed at by the director to stop making clanking shovel sounds and to : “CLOSE THE ********SHED DOOR”!

Naturally I obliged. I cannot bring myself to venture back in there until they wrap.

I understand that this Largus californicus was the director with his “all-seeing” eye strategically positioned on his back,

and this baby grasshopper was apparently an extra.


The first butterfly iris blooms have emerged…

my Japanese maple is putting on an amazing show, as are all the colors of verbena:

Pink, reds and purples to name a few.







The gulf coast toads have also made their croaking presence felt in these recent warmer days, taking orders from their frog-prince,







and filling the Patch and surrounding area with their extremely loud vocal shrills.

I think we really need to stop playing this infernal “Plants vs Zombies” – phone app, immediately, starting tomorrow, or next week, okay, perhaps next month?


I know what he wants when he grows up.

Stay Tuned for:

“The Good Life”

All material © 2011 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
1 Gail April 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Love that picture of car guy with the hot rod!

2 ESP April 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Yes…and he is protecting a bunch of acorns in his pocket. That car was the best one, thinking of asking Leah for it for Christmas :-)

3 Annie in Austin April 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm

The Caterpillar hunter is quite amazing, ESP… do you think they’d climb a pecan tree for a web-full of caterpillars or just stick to those within a few feet of the ground?

Oh, The Good Life! You’re probably only talking about it in an ironic sense, but I really love that show & so does DH. There can be such an eerie, time travel quality to watching old British tv shows: you can see Richard Briers & Felicity Kendal as urban homesteaders when they’re young, then watch them age in the Monarch of the Glen and Rosemary & Thyme or go Shakespearean in Much Ado.

No pond or stock tanks so no frogs, but the mockingbirds fill in that noise-niche well enough.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

4 katina April 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I was at Red Barn yesterday and I saw some sort of wasp/bee-type pick up and carry off a little green caterpillar. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I thought, “man, if I were Philip, I’d totally 1) have a camera on me, and 2) be taking a picture of this.”

And thanks for reminding me of the time we had a brown snake in the house. Yeah, we still have no idea how it got in…

Hi Katina.

I have my camera on me from the minute I walk out of my house to nightfall, it has become as ingrained as brushing my teeth, and that is the beauty of a slim point and click, I seriously want to upgrade to a stronger zoom though (same camera).

Crazy you had a brown snake in your house…where you mulching around the edges of your carpet? Has your bath become a holding point for marginals perhaps? I had enough granite in my boots the other day to start celosia in, I know exactly how it is :-).


5 ESP April 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Hi Annie.

That Caterpillar hunter was quite intimidating and superbly metallic, my pictures do not do this creature’s luminescence justice at all, and I would like to think that they go up high for the pecan web worms!

I grew up watching The Good Life, in fact I would watch it from start to finish again given half a chance, and everybody had a crush on Felicity Kendal! I did not get into Monarch of the Glen and the others so much. I take it you have watched Only Fools and Horses, Butterflies, All Creatures Great and Small, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, and Porridge? I agree on the BBC time travel quality…I only have to hear the first few bars of music from Last of the Summer Wine, to transport me back to a younger era.

Annie, you definitely need a pond – ever thought of one?


6 Annie in Austin April 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm

All Creatures Great and Small has been on pbs here and at one time they showed Last of the Summer Wine but the others aren’t familiar.We don’t have cable so no BBC, just whatever N-flx instant deigns to allow us, which is not much. I’m writing down the names you mentioned, Phillip- maybe they’ll show up someday.
We go to the pond tour every year and look – who knows? In the meantime the bird fountain is very satisfying!

PS Philo is still not over Felicity Kendall ;-]

7 jenny April 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I’ll swear that every bug in Austin says ‘ Let’s head on over to the Patch, for the chance to become a star on his blog. He has a worldwide audience’ Why can’t I get such clear close-ups with my camera?

8 ESP April 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Hi Annie.

I will bring some dvds and some (Shhh) VHS cassettes (if you are as old fashioned as us you may even still have a player) to the next GoGo for you to borrow…I have some great old British shows that I know you will enjoy.


9 ESP April 4, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Hi Jenny.

I do have a healthy supply of bugs it seems which I am sure are readying an army to pounce on my developing cherry tomatoes :-)…It amazes me that new ones just keep on popping in! I go for months seeing the old faithfuls then suddenly a brand new one! The fiery searcher beetle made my day!
I always hold my breath trying to get a picture of a new specimen, and I am sad to say my nerdy adrenaline spikes. Oh and if my “Halflings” are around me when I spot one, they know exactly what to do when I whisper between clenched teeth…”HOLD” (accompanied by an over-the-top hand gesture).


10 Gail April 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I agree with Jenny…the cool bugs must gravitate to and navigate toward “the patch”. A new iphone ap is called for don’t you think? (Even the three year old is a Plants and Zombies expert now!)

11 ESP April 4, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Hi Gail.

Build it and they will come :-)
It is scary how much him and his sister know about the Plants vs Zombies “almanac”…I am always asking their advice on appropriate defensive selection issues!
An entomology app? What a great idea!


12 Linda Phillips April 6, 2011 at 10:10 am

Your photography is amazing, as usual.
And, those “Halflings” are pretty cute…and, well trained. Keep up the good work.

13 ESP April 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Hi Linda and thank you very much.
I am not so sure about the well trained part :-)

14 Les April 7, 2011 at 5:04 am

I love that first picture of the Sago unfolding. As stiff as the adult foliage is, you would never guess they were ever that flexible. Though your pictures reinforce it, I know better than to ever put in a bamboo that is not a clumping one. Almost as bad is trying to get rid of unwanted Yucca filamentosa, which is a mulit-year commitment.

15 ESP April 7, 2011 at 8:59 am

Hi Les and how sharp those sago needles are. I seem to get spiked cleaning out the leaves from the center of these palms as much as I do trying to extract that last little bit of Bermuda grass that insists on digging it’s heels in at the base of my barrel cactus!
All of these bamboo were clumpers and yes running bamboo is not to be taken lightly.

16 Casa Mariposa April 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm

It’s official: Texas bugs are much weirder looking than Virginia bugs! I tried to eradicate bamboo that was growing in my garden when I lived in upstate NY. I thought it had a lot of nerve surviving such cold winters. I lost, the bamboo won, so I moved.

17 ESP April 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Hi, we do seem to have our fair share of weird bugs in Texas, it is true :-)
Got to watch that bamboo, all mine are clumping – but still a nightmare to dig up. I caught most of my giant timbers before they got too large to remove. I love this grass, but decided the mess with our recent spate of hard winters, was just too much…they were expensive too!

18 Katy Landscapers April 12, 2011 at 5:09 am

Awesome pics. Stunning with a touch of funny. Thanks for sharing your images of the season.

19 ESP April 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Thank you for dropping into the Patch Katy! And happy you like the images, that anole is still cracking me up…a true actOR right down to his “fingers”.

20 Linda Lehmusvirta April 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Wow, you’ve got some cool insects! My back is aching for yours about the dig-ups. First, we get the hard work of planting, and then tougher work getting rid of them. Yowsers. And good grief, you’ve already got a dietes flower? Mine are still straggling out of the ground. Wonderful pictures and inspiring story, as always!
Oh, and looks like you’ve got a car to buy in the future, huh?!

21 ESP April 14, 2011 at 10:58 am

That Fiery Searcher Beetle was very futuristic! Amazing colors, I have since seen another. Yes, never a fun job to take out bamboo, I still have some mature timbers, no chance of getting those out of the ground.
Thanks Linda and that car? More likely my old steed :-) I will throw in a couple of iced turbans naturally.

Previous post:

Next post: