Portia Tree Thespesia populnea
I got somewhere several minutes early, so I stood outside and looked around to fill in the spare time, and I noticed several mating pairs of red beetles crawling through the mulch around a tree. Of course, my camera leapt out of my purse, and I started snapping pictures. Then I thought about how many beetles I was finding in relation to where my feet were, so I quickly moved (I mean jumped) back onto the sidewalk, and looked all around instead of focusing on the pairs I'd first noticed. There were LOTS of beetles, but most of them were in huge masses on something on the ground. I was about to stick my finger into them to find out what was in the 'beetle balls', but I just couldn't bring myself to do it, so I got a small twig to nudge them.
Portia Tree, Thespesia populnea, leaves and seed pods
Mating pair of Dysdercus andreae beetles
Beetle ball of Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae beetles
Portia Tree, Thespesia populnea seed pod
They were all over what seemed to be a big seed pod
...so I looked up to see where the pod came from. There were several trees near each other above me, but only one had similar pods.
I plucked a pod and a leaf, and took them to Curt Liner and his friend Tim to find out what kind of tree it was. Thanks very much Curt, for letting me know it was a Portia Tree, and Tim, thanks for loaning me you pen so I could write that down!

I've since looked up the black and red beetles and discovered that they are Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae. I wonder how many people walking past have stepped on the beetles without ever noticing them under foot?

I'll keep an eye on the Portia tree to try to catch it in bloom so I can update this page with flower pictures.

....and last, because I'm sort of sad to have to say it since I had the seed pod in my hand, this Portia tree isn't a Florida native plant.

Portia Tree Leaf
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