Pollinators Plain and Fancy

It’s National Pollinator Awareness Week — a time to celebrate all of the bees, butterflies, beetles, bats, and bugs that contribute so much to our gardens and our tables.

While the Monarchs may be stars of the show (along with their equally flashy companions, the Queens and the Viceroys) there are multitudes of other pollinators that deserve to be noticed. Some are beautiful; others are quite plain. Some we can’t help but notice; a few seem reluctant to be seen at all. Nevertheless, all have a role to play in our world, and all have something to teach us.

Here are three delightful butterflies I recently found at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. They’re just a token of what’s waiting to be seen, if we take the time to look.

Salt Marsh Skipper (Panoquina panoquin) on twisted-leaf goldenrod (Solidago tortifolia)
Black swallowtail  (Papilio polyxenes) on Texas vervain (verbena halei)
Possibly a common checkered skipper ~ Pyrgus communis

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Fabulous Two-Course Meal

There once was a beetle named Bill
who found pollen to be quite a thrill.
But the petals appealed,
so he sat for a meal
and proceeded to eat to his fill.

 

Comments always are welcome. Thanks to Blaine Mathison at BugGuide.Net for the identification of the beetle: a member of the genus Strigoderma. The flower is Argemone albiflora, the white prickly poppy.

What Lindheimer Saw – Gaura

Flannery O’Connor’s conviction that “the writer should never be ashamed of staring; there is nothing that does not require his attention,” applies equally well to botanists.

Ferdinand Lindheimer — a German immigrant who arrived in Texas in 1836, equipped with amazing energy and obsessive curiosity — clearly had mastered the art of staring. Laura Deming, a great-great-great-granddaughter, recounts a family legend about the father of Texas botany:

Once, when He came upon a chief and a war party, he had a staring competition with the chief. Because he won, they allowed him to live.”

Whatever the truth of the story, when it came to the flora of Texas, Lindheimer’s propensity to stare served him well. In 1839-1840, he visited George Engelmann, a friend from Frankfurt who’d settled in St. Louis. After seeing the samples of Texas plants Lindheimer brought with him, Engelmann mentioned his work to Asa Gray, founder of the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University and author of Gray’s Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States. Gray was impressed, and interested.

Over the next years, Lindheimer provided Engleman and Gray with thousands of specimens, and left us a correspondence rich in references to discoveries made as he roamed Texas. Today, nothing delights me quite so much as finding one of the plants that bears his name, like this pretty Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri), and then finding it mentioned in Lindheimer’s own letters to Englemann.

Lindheimer’s gaura buds ~ Nash Prairie

“What I may find in the Guadalupe Bottom, where we shall be in the course of a week, I wonder… If the Gaura Lindheim grows in the west, you shall have seeds. I did not find it last year between the Brazos and the Colorado. It grew commonly four miles east of Houston.” (written from a camp on the Agua Dulce, 22 January 1845)

 

Lindheimer’s gaura bloom ~ Nash Prairie

Gaura Lindheimeri seems to appear no farther west than the Brazos, and scarcely west of the San Jacinto-Buffalo Bayou region; otherwise, [Thomas] Drummond surely would have found it.” (from New Braunfels, 5 February 1846)

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Encounter In A Public Garden

“This is a snail shell, round, full and glossy as a horse chestnut. Comfortable and compact, it sits curled up like a cat in the hollow of my hand. On its smooth symmetrical face is pencilled with precision a perfect spiral, winding inward to the pinpoint center of the shell, the tiny dark core of the apex, the pupil of the eye.”

“It stares at me, this mysterious single eye — and I stare back.”

from Gift From The Sea ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Comments always are welcome.

 

In Flanders Field

Poppies at Wildseed Farms ~ Fredericksburg, Texas

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
                                                   ~  John McCrae

Comments always are welcome. For more information on the poem, and McCrae, click here.