Summer’s For Sharing

A pair of great spangled fritillaries (Speyeria cybele) atop a yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) at Burr Oak Woods conservation area, Blue Springs, Missouri

Echinacea paradoxa, commonly known as yellow coneflower, is the only species in the genus Echinacea to have yellow flowers rather than purple, pink, or lavender: hence, the “paradox” suggested by its name. The genus name is rooted in the Greek word for hedgehog or sea-urchin, echinos; it refers to the spiny center cone which these butterflies are enjoying.

Found primarily in glades and prairies of the Ozark regions of Missouri and Arkansas, its large, daisy-like flowers bloom from June to mid-July, although flowers may appear throughout the summer. This eager little bloom had appeared by May 27, which no doubt delighted the butterflies.


Comments always are welcome.


57 thoughts on “Summer’s For Sharing

    1. I’d never heard of the echidna, which I learned is quite different from the more typical anteater — and everything else, for that matter. When I saw that one of the four species is named Zaglossus attenboroughi, I knew in a flash who it was named after.

      I was lucky to capture that translucence, but it wasn’t entirely luck. While the rest of the household slept, I managed a couple of hours at Burr Oak not long after sunrise, and it was great fun.

      (Add: It was great fun to finally catch my own spelling error in the caption, too. It’s fritillary, not frittilary.)

      1. Thanks! Believe me, I was delighted to be able to photograph the pair on the same flower. They made me think of some high school dates: one soda, two straws. Of course, in this case, each butterfly brought its own “straw.”

    1. Thanks, Gary. I often see our Gulf fritillaries, but I’d never seen this one; it certainly is pretty. If the light’s just right, the silvery patches on its wings look like the sequins my mother used to sew on my dance costumes.

  1. Next time I hit my thumb with a hammer and am tempted to curse, I’m going to yell “Great Spangled Frittilaries!” instead.

    What a great shot! I can’t get one butterfly to hold still, much less two, back to back. Very cool.
    And I never knew that about the coneflowers – – I’ve even seen little hedgehog-type creatures in the zoo, called echidnas, but never made the connection. Now I won’t forget.

      1. I just was thinking about you today when I read an article about the iguanas overtaking south Florida. I hope they’re staying south of your territory.

    1. I hope you don’t hit your thumb often or soon, but if you do, I’d love to be around to hear such creative cursing. It’s clearly in a fine tradition that includes “Dagnabbit,” “Jumpin’ Jehosophat,” and “Consarn it!”

      The “spangled” part of its name kept nagging at me. Then I realized that the only other time I hear the word used is as part of the national anthem: “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

      The echidna connection doesn’t work for all of the coneflowers, since some are in other genera, like the Texas coneflower (Rudbeckia texana). But I think all of the purple ones are part of Echinacea, and the butterflies don’t care what we call their flowery treats.

    1. There were a lot of them flitting around that morning, Pit, but only this pair seemed inclined to share the flower heads. I just kept shooting, and hoped for the best — you don’t really pose butterflies!

  2. What a great capture, Linda. 2 butterflies on the one flower.

    (I’ve also got some Coneflowers that I’m not sure are Coneflowers, if you know what I mean. I know the pink Echinacea well enough, but not sure about the yellow coneflower image I have).

    1. Two for one always is a good deal, Vicki — especially with butterflies.

      As for your yellow coneflowers, they might be Rudbeckia. The Texas coneflower and clasping coneflower both are in that genus, and both are yellow. It’s another example of the confusion that can set in with common names and scientific names. The Texas coneflower also is known as brown-eyed Susan, and the clasping coneflower also is known as Dracopis amplexicaulis. It’s enough to give me a headache!

      1. I get a headache every day, what with health matters and trying to scroll through Google flower images, Linda. The Coneflowers are a mystery to me.

    1. You made just the right connection, rethy, since this flower’s in the sunflower family. Its petals droop more than a sunflower’s, but the color is just as vibrant and clear. It is a beautiful flower, and seems to shine even on cloudy days.

    1. Sometimes, things just work out, Judy. Speaking of the symmetry, I didn’t notice the antennae until today. With their horizontal spread, they really help to put the focus of attention right in the middle of the frame, where the vertical split between the butterflies lies. Of course that’s pure luck, but it’s fun to see it after the fact.

    1. What a neat observation, Terry. That hadn’t crossed my mind, but it’s perfect, and true. I’ve noticed that early spring and fall seem to be the best times to find multiple butterflies on flower heads. With fewer plants available, they tend to cluster. There were a lot of flowers available to these, though. Maybe coneflowers just taste better.

    1. Aren’t they lovely? I’d never seen one before — Texas and Florida are outside their range, but they’re one of the most common in the eastern U.S. They seemed more approachable than many of our butterflies, too — all to the good, as far as I was concerned.

    1. Lucky you, to have the fritillaries in your neighborhood. Our Gulf fritillaries aren’t so large, and not quite so spangled; their name certainly suits these. It was fun to see them “tasting” the purple coneflowers, and then moving on to the yellow, where they lingered. I couldn’t help wondering if it was color or flavor that attracted them to one species of coneflower over another.

  3. “Fritilary” is such a wonderful sounding word. It seems like “fritilary” must be a “one who” noun formed from a verb, which would obviously be “fritilate.” So, in my silly etymology, these gorgeous butterflies must have been named for their habit of fritilating from flower to flower. All aglow in the summer sunshine, these stunning butterflies have such gorgeous color. Wouldn’t one with spread wings make an excellent centerpiece for a stained glass window?

    1. I think you’re right about the stained glass window. As soon as I read your suggestion, I remembered the great Tiffany designs with dragonflies in the same open-winged poses: beautiful, for sure.

      Now your fanciful “fritilate” has me remembering my mother’s constant admonition not to fritter my time away. And, in the middle of the night, I remembered the word for a certain kind of material used in glass-making: frit. It looks as though frit and fritter-the-fried-bread are related, while the fritterer who wastes time and the fritillary have different roots, etymologically — even though I’d agree that the fritillary certainly does fritilate. That’s quite a useful word, actually. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding it to the lexicon.

  4. That is a treasure of a moment captured, to behold and marvel at again and again… thank you!!!

    I have a type of echinacea in my garden that is a mix, reds, oranges, and I think yellow…? Those haven’t started blooming yet this summer. But after seeing this one I must try to find the species name of what is here….

    1. Your comment reminded me of this, from an article about Echinacea paradoxa: “This is the only species in the “purple coneflower” genus that doesn’t have purple flowers – at least until the more brightly-colored E. purpurea hybrids were developed recently. E. paradoxa was a key contributor in breeding programs for those new coneflower cultivars such as the Meadowbrite™ series and others.”

      So, perhaps that will give you a starting point. I did read (but can’t locate) some comments about E. paradoxa sometimes taking on orange or reddish hues, which no doubt have been emphasized by breeders. Do you know Tony Tomeo’s blog? He’s roughly in your area, and I suspect you’d find his archives interesting and useful. I’ve certainly learned a good bit about gardening and plants from him.

  5. Wow! Magnifique. As an aside: Saw a great TV coverage of Crystal Springs and Bentonville. It took in many of the galleries. I looked for O’keeffe but it was probably filmed some time ago. I was surprised at the way some were hung. So many on the wall. Also the placement of various types of art side by side. Certainly explained a lot for the many groups of school children viewing art for perhaps the first time. Quite a lovely venue.

    1. Aren’t those butterflies a cute pair? Sometimes, things just work out.

      I’m glad you got to see the Crystal Bridges documentary. During my current visit, I didn’t go into any of the main galleries, but spent more time on the trails and in the O’Keeffe exhibit. I was a little disappointed in the grounds, where the flowers seemed to be “between seasons,” but it certainly wasn’t a loss.

      I went through the Frank Lloyd Wright house that’s been reconstructed on the grounds, and will be writing a bit about that, as well. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house, but there are plenty available through museum publications. There was a lot to like about the house, and it was interesting to hear Wright’s rationale for various features, but I’m not sure I’d want to live in it. The kitchen certainly wasn’t what I’d call functional.

      On the other hand, I laughed at his rationale for no attic and no basement. It was all a plot, to keep people from accumulating clutter!

  6. What a great capture, Linda! You’re either the luckiest photographer around, or you’ve got that patience thing down to a T. Twin butterflies atop a coneflower — wow. Just wow!

    1. There’s no question that luck was involved, Debbie. On the other hand, I did have plenty of time to follow the butterflies around, so I took advantage of it. These two were on separate flowers for quite some time, but eventually, they decided that this one looked too good to pass up — so they shared!

      I’ll look forward to see what surprises you find during your little “vacation.” Say hi to Domer, and have fun!

    1. I know the Gulf fritillary, but I’d never seen this species. They’re quite large, and when the sun catches them just right, their “spangles” really shine. I’d read that early morning is the time to try to photograph butterflies, since they’ll often fly more slowly, or spend time on flower heads, while waiting for things to dry out. These were active, but not “flitty,” and that helped a good bit.

  7. Excellent image of the nectaring pair. On fritillary as a word: the brief etymology I read suggested that it comes from the Latin fritillus ‘dice box’. Spots are about all that the fritillary flower, the butterfly, and dice have in common. The English adopted fritillary as the common name for similar Nymphalidae to our North American fritillaries, the 19thC entomologists who named our butterflies followed suit.

    Great Spangled Fritillary was the butterfly that got me into butterfly photography – I haven’t seen any yet this year, they should be flying soon in my area.

    1. Thank you, Tom. I’m glad you enjoyed the image; how interesting that it was a great spangled fritillary that enticed you into butterfly photography. I can understand why.

      I’d read about the association with dice, but didn’t know that there also are flowers called fritillaries. I looked on your site to see if you’d ever posted an image of the flower, but I couldn’t find one. I did see some photos on other sites, and got the idea that they’re a northern/northeastern flower. The shape is wonderful.

      I hope your winged fritillaries are flying by now; we’re awash in Gulf fritillaries these days.

      1. No, I know the frittillary flower from other people’s photographs mainly from Europe. An unusual flower, hard to forget. I love Gulf Frittilaries, too, but they aren’t native to the northeast.

    1. Of course I thought of you when I learned about the hedgehog connection. If I ever were to send a get-well bouquet to one of your hoglets, I certainly would include coneflowers!

    1. No matter how hard I try, I don’t get myself out and about as early as I’d like — at least, most of the time. But when I do, I always remember what a good idea it is. There’s not much great backlighting at high noon, that’s for sure, and the early morning light did set off these butterflies nicely.

    1. A tango — or perhaps a tangle. I did once see a pair of little Texas butterflies get into what seemed to be a butter-fight atop a thistle. I need to find that photo, and see if I’m remembering it as it was.

      I hope the German’s doing well, or as well as can be expected. I’ll watch for updates — keep cool, and don’t let the dust get you down.

  8. What a gorgeous, summery image that is! I miss seeing those butterflies – they do range to the west, but not this far north. The idea of the yellow coneflower reminds me of finding yellow lupines on a cliff, an island out here a few years ago. It was hard to wrap my head around for a minute, but yellow is so joyful….

    1. I finally understand that many of the coneflowers I see are garden plants: cultivars that have been developed in a whole rainbow of colors, from white to scarlet. They’re very pretty, but I still love the experience of finding the natives in the middle of a prairie. It has occured to me that another meaning for that fun initialism DYC (“darned yellow composite”) could be “delightful yellow composite.”

      I just once found an honest-to-goodness yellow Indian paintbrush a couple of counties to the west. It was hard to wrap my head around that one, too.

    1. It took me a while to sort things out in my mind, since we have several yellow “coneflowers” that actually are in other genera, like Rudbeckia and Dracopis . What a treat it was to find this yellow Echinacea — which also is known as Bush’s purple coneflower. How that happened, I don’t have a clue. I did read that E. paradoxa is the species most often hybridized to create the strangely-colored coneflowers marketed through the nursery trade.

      Regardless, butterflies and coneflowers certainly do go well together — it was pure delight to see these.

        1. I certainly am (of two minds). It’s been interesting to read the thoughts of Tony Tomeo about such things. I always remember that well-worn but wise saying that I first learned from the medical field: just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do something.

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