Shadow Play

Blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

 

Although written for children, Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem titled “My Shadow” would be nearly as appropriate for this dragonfly. Dragonflies may or may not recite poetry, but they’re able to cast remarkably large shadows.

 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.
He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
                                              

Comments always are welcome.

 

 

Life Among the Dewberry Vines

For humans, the good points of Southern dewberries (Rubus trivialis) are obvious; they provide pretty flowers and delicious fruit. Unfortunately, berry pickers, nature photographers, or walkers cutting across vacant lots or fields inevitably encounter the plant’s most obvious bad point: remarkably thorny vines seemingly intent on ensnaring anyone who wanders within reach.

For the bees, butterflies, skippers, and various flies that suck nectar or collect pollen from the blossoms, the thorns pose no problem. They simply go about their business, flying among them with ease. But nectar and pollen aren’t the only reasons for insects to stop by a dewberry flower.

Here, a common, non-biting midge (probably Chironomus plumosus, named for the feathery, plume-like antennae of the male) rests on one petal, while a pair of hover flies do their part to ensure the continuation of their species. Remarkably, the one-inch long petal on which I found them provided more than enough space for the happy couple to enjoy themselves. 

As an interesting side note, Shakespeare referred to dewberries in Act 3, Scene 1 of his comedic fantasy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The fairy queen Titania, having fallen for weaver Nick Bottom after imbibing a love potion, tells her fairies:

Be kind and courteous to this gentleman. Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes; Feed him with apricocks and dewberries, with purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.

But, she might have added, watch out for those thorns.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

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.