Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

One more take on woolly croton

with 53 comments

On a woolly croton plant (Croton capitatus) in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I noticed that a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) had caught what appears to be a potter wasp, seemingly in the genus Parancistrocerus, from the subfamily Eumeninae.

One of the great existential questions of our time, at least in the Anglosphere (i.e. the English-speaking parts of the world), is how to spell the adjectival form of wool: is it woolly or is it wooly? Dictionaries accept both, though the form with a double-l seems to be favored, for the same reason we write really rather than realy and totally rather than totaly. For people who come to woolly as non-native speakers, its non-literal meanings must seem strange. Merriam-Webster gives these:

2a: lacking in clearness or sharpness of outline
woolly TV picture

b: marked by mental confusion
woolly thinking

3: marked by boisterous roughness or lack of order or restraint
where the West is still woolly— Paul Schubert—used especially in the phrase wild and woolly

Though my pictures have usually come from the wild and my posts have sometimes been wild and woolly, I trust you haven’t found any instances of really totally woolly thinking in them.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2021 at 4:37 AM

53 Responses

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  1. My mother used to work for Merriam-Webster in their office in Springfield, MA and I hate to disagree with them, but I think this is the definition of the correct spelling.

    This image gets a big WOW from me. The spider is gorgeous and of course with prey adds so much interest. I’ve captured a few crab spiders with a variety of prey. This is nice…well not so nice for the wasp.

    I was just kidding about the spelling, btw.

    Steve Gingold

    October 16, 2021 at 4:57 AM

    • I appreciate your capitalized WOW. This is one of the best pictures I’ve ever managed to get of a spider with its prey. Green lynx spiders are pretty common here, fortunately for nature photographers. Whatever problems I sometimes have in identifying species, there’s no mistaking a green lynx spider.

      Your “just kidding about the spelling” coincides with my positing the spelling of woolly to be “one of the great existential questions of our time.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2021 at 6:05 AM

    • As for that song you linked to, it’s so familiar, even though I don’t think I’d heard it for the past 50 years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2021 at 6:12 AM

      • I am pretty sure if an orderly in a hospital where one of us was spending our last hours put that on as we faded away we’d recognize it. How could we not?

        Steve Gingold

        October 16, 2021 at 10:28 AM

        • True, but I can think of a great many songs I’d much rather hear in my final hour.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 16, 2021 at 1:20 PM

          • Not the point but of course. A sad story. My mother died of lung cancer. We visited her the night before she died. The next morning we visited again and while there she passed away. When we walked into her room some jerk had put on country western at 10+ volume. She didn’t care for the genre at all. Probably the same jerk who stole a ring off her finger.

            Steve Gingold

            October 16, 2021 at 1:35 PM

  2. The lynx spider is one of my favorites! The blue background is pleasant, and for me, created a softer thought about the kill of the wasp. Even the woolly croton looks like a nice place to perish.

    Littlesundog

    October 16, 2021 at 6:19 AM

    • That’s a novel phrase: “a nice place to perish.” A soft blue sky and a soft place to die. From what you say, I take it green lynx spiders are as common in central Oklahoma as in central Texas. I’ve photographed them many times over the years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2021 at 6:27 AM

      • Yes, the green lynx is common here. One year I photographed one that hung her egg sac on a Thai Basil plant in the front flower beds. As her babies hatched, she was a ferocious mother – fending off would-be predators. In a short couple of weeks, she perished slowly in the late October chill. I was thankful for the opportunity to observe her that autumn.

        Littlesundog

        October 16, 2021 at 7:30 AM

        • You’ve reminded me that this past November I found a green lynx with a slew of baby spiders:

          Ambushed bushy bluestem

          I wonder if the mother spider you mentioned died of old age rather than the chill of late October, because the baby spiders seem able to survive the winter cold.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 16, 2021 at 7:39 AM

  3. What a great image, Steve! 🙂

    Pit

    October 16, 2021 at 8:03 AM

  4. That is an unusually beautiful spider. The comments indicate a lynx spider?

    Lavinia Ross

    October 16, 2021 at 9:54 AM

    • Yes, this is what’s known as a green lynx spider. Other kinds of lynx spiders exist, many of them not green.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2021 at 1:18 PM

  5. Alien look to Lynx spider is extraordinary

    Yoli B

    October 16, 2021 at 1:39 PM

  6. Excellent macro!

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 16, 2021 at 3:44 PM

  7. I was unfamiliar with the word woolly. A lot of redundancy.

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 16, 2021 at 3:48 PM

    • The literal translation would be lanoso. As far as I can tell, that hasn’t developed extended or slang senses the way the English word has. Are you aware of any non-literal meanings for lanoso?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2021 at 5:22 PM

  8. Stunning macro, Steve!

    Eliza Waters

    October 16, 2021 at 6:06 PM

    • Thanks. It’s not the first time I’ve gotten in close to a green lynx spider and its prey.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2021 at 8:00 PM

  9. Fantastic capture of the spider’s capture of the wasp!

    Peter Klopp

    October 16, 2021 at 6:14 PM

  10. That certainly was one more take on woolly croton, with the spider pulling off a very effective take-down. What a great photo. I see green lynx spiders lurking relatively often, but I can’t remember seeing one with prey. I was surprised the spider took on such a large wasp, but I’ve learned that they’ll take on larger prey than might be expected because of their ability to spit venom over distances of up to 8 inches. The venom disables the prey immediately, and they can go about preparing their meal at their leisure.

    shoreacres

    October 16, 2021 at 8:38 PM

    • I don’t think I knew about green lynx spiders spitting venom. That explains how a spider could get the better of prey that have their own defenses.

      I’d been fortunate to find green lynxes with prey before last month’s Bastrop encounter. This morning I searched old posts and was reminded of this green-on-green encounter from 2016:

      One green succumbs to another

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2021 at 8:48 PM

  11. I vote for two L’s in woolly. Your photo of the wasp and the spider on the Croton is incredible!!!!

    Birder's Journey

    October 16, 2021 at 8:43 PM

  12. What a beautiful image. Or WOW as Steve Gingold wrote. In my youth a woolly was a knitted jumper. Woollies were warm underwear.

    Gallivanta

    October 17, 2021 at 12:07 AM

  13. […] of doveweed, Croton monanthogynus (a genus-mate of the woolly croton you saw here a week ago and again yesterday. The erect plant a quarter of the way in from the left is annual sumpweed, Iva annua, whose pollen, […]

  14. Great meeting; great shot!

    harrienijland

    October 17, 2021 at 10:11 AM

  15. That’s an amazing spider and victim portrait! Nothing woolly about this image! (UK spelling. 🙂 )

    Ann Mackay

    October 17, 2021 at 11:06 AM

    • This is one of the best spider-and-victim portraits I’ve done. Nothing woolly, indeed, except for the croton.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2021 at 9:22 PM

  16. Bully! I say, Good Chap!

    J. Alex Pan

    October 17, 2021 at 4:06 PM

  17. Wow! That’s quite an image, not something I see everyday. 🙂 And look at the hairs/barbs on the legs of the spider. And of course its color. Quite a catch, in more ways than one.

    Todd Henson

    October 20, 2021 at 8:25 AM

  18. Wonderful sighting and image, Steve!

    circadianreflections

    October 21, 2021 at 10:38 AM


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