Salix “Willow” Salicaceae

March 26, 2016
Blodgett Canyon, Lolo National Forest, MT
Robert Niese

Willows bear their reproductive parts in separate male and female catkins each on separate plants. This particular plant is male and is only just beginning to bloom. Unfortunately, without female structures or leaves, this individual is impossible to identify beyond its genus. Identifying willows is generally straightforward, you just need all the correct structures in front of you and a good key to follow. Many consider willow identification to be a skill reserved for “Master Botanists” but it’s a fun exercise for anyone interested in botany and possessing a rudimentary background in dichotomous keying! Consider it a challenge!


Thanatophilus lapponicus “Northern Carrion Beetle” Silphidae

April 2, 2016
National Bison Range, MT
Robert Niese

Photographed my first Silphid last week and, I must say, it was a horrendously smelly experience. These carrion beetles appear to prefer long-dead organisms, particularly reptiles and amphibians, and this little guy had apparently been hanging out in an extremely ripe carcass. I had to hold my breath every time I went in for a close-up! These beetles often overwinter in these carcasses, consuming the rotting flesh and maggots living there, until emerging at the first signs of spring. I might venture to guess that this is exactly what this individual did all winter, which might have contributed to its particular odor.