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.

 

Dew Light

Dew-heavy Gulf muhly in Arkansas’s Ouachita mountains

 

The death of poet W.S. Merwin (September 30, 1927 – March 15, 2019) has taken another creative and compelling voice from our world.

Pulitzer Prize winner, seventeenth Poet Laureate of the United States, and author of over fifty books of verse, his changing style and changing commitments have been among the most interesting in American writing. Increasing attention to the natural world, combined with his practical transformation of a failed Hawaiian pineapple plantation into one of the greatest collection of palms known to exist, shaped both his verse and his life.

In the late 1970’s, Merwin began a nearly 40-year journey toward redevelopment of his land. As described by the Merwin Conservancy:

The palm collection, set on nineteen acres on Maui’s north shores, boasts nearly 3,000 individual palm trees, representing over 400 taxonomic species, more than 125 unique genera, and 800 different horticultural varieties.  According to experts at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, the collection is “a living treasure house of palm DNA.”  This significant botanical and horticultural assemblage is now preserved forever through a deed of conservation easement held by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.

Impressive as his work with the palms surely was, his reflections on that work are equally important. As he reminds us:

One can’t live only in despair and anger without eventually destroying the thing one is angry in defense of. The world is still here, and there are aspects of human life that are not purely destructive, and there is a need to pay attention to the things around us while they are still around us. And you know, in a way, if you don’t pay that attention, the anger is just bitterness.

Just as “Wild Geese” became one of her most reprinted poems after Mary Oliver’s death, Merwin’s “For The Anniversary of My Death” is appearing everywhere. Appropriate as it surely is, I prefer to remember him by these words, even as I imagine him wandering among the morning palms, and happy.

Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk out through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age
“Dew Light” ~ W.S. Merwin

 

Comments always are welcome.
For more information on Gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), please click here.
For biographical details about W.S. Merwin, this Poetry Foundation article is useful.

 

The Butterfly that Didn’t Fly

When I spotted this lovely, pinkish spiderwort blooming along a roadside outside Palacios last Sunday, I had to stop for a closer look.

Most spiderworts I’d seen that day had been purple, like this impressive clump of prairie spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis). At more than two feet tall, it was larger than anything I’d seen outside a garden, and definitely eye-catching.

While admiring the pink spiderwort, I noticed that the stem held two blooms, not one. As I circled the plant, trying to focus on both flowers, I found myself seeing them them as one creature: a sweet, pink butterfly far more willing to pose than most of the fluttery ones that tease me with their flight.

 

Comments always are welcome.