Who’s Got the Button(bush)?

Buttonbush flowers and developing seed head

 

The children’s game called “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?” isn’t complicated. One child, carrying a hidden button, appears to transfer it into the waiting hands of every other child standing or sitting in a circle. Then, everyone tries to guess who actually received the button.

The flowers of buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis ) wouldn’t do so well for the game; they’re both too large and too delicate. Still, they’re as attractive as the plant is useful. Commonly found in wet open areas, low woods, thickets, swamps, river bottoms and stream or pond edges, buttonbush can live in up to 2 feet of water. This combination of blooming flowers and developing seed head was perched at the edge of a small lake near the Watson Rare Plant Preserve in east Texas; one of my own feet was planted in the water as I took the photo.

Though tolerant of shade, buttonbush blooms most profusely in full sun. The pincushion-like flowers — actually one-inch round ball-like clusters of white blooms — provide nectar for a variety of bees, butterflies, wasps, moths, and beetles, and an assortment of birds are known to visit. Its seeds are favored by waterfowl, and some mammals feed on its twigs.

Widely distributed across the eastern half of the United States, this easy-to-grow native makes a fine addition to gardens and landscapes where moist to wet conditions prevail, although some have found it capable of adapting to drier areas. Its fruits, deep red and sometimes glossy, will last throughout the fall.

Pond Creek Wildlife Management Area ~ Northwest Arkansas

 

Comments always are welcome.

Peek-a-boo!

 

I wasn’t expecting to see a black swallowtail caterpillar at East Texas’s Sandylands Sanctuary during a recent visit, but there it was: perhaps having a bit of a post-dinner nap on the same stem which had provided dinner.

The two-inch long creature had hidden itself nearly at ground level within a cluster of leafy plants. Had I not been attracted to the spot by some blue-eyed grass, I never would have seen it.

The slight green tint in the photos is a fair representation of how things appeared that afternoon. As the low, slanted sunlight filtered through the grasses and plants, even the air seemed green.

 

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.