Who? What? Where? & When?

Turk's Cap Lilly Wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Rector, PA, 8/1/05

Turk’s Cap Lily in all its finery at Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, Pennsylvania. Meeting this spectacular native lily, at peak of bloom, stops you. You simply stop and stare. Stark beauty, headier than the work of Heade or the most accomplished Japanese or Chinese masters. Hairstreak butterflies must also be moved by the artistry of  these flowers and by the elixirs that they exude, because Grays and Corals can be found positioned in these sizable flowers.

Now, I have recently read more than a handful of excellent books, written by and about the most renowned lepidopterists. More than impressive is their knowledge of the behaviors, locations and diet, mating and intricate life histories of many, many butterfly species. Yet I have noticed something that we should know, and want to know, eludes us.

At the same time, I  have come into contact with more and more biologists, horticulturists, landscape designers and butterfly enthusiasts. Still, it’s still missing.

I began thinking about it in Israel, on that agricultural road between the fields of Binyamina. It was when those Caper Whites and Large Salmon Arabs would appear, 3 to 5 individuals at a time, nectar furiously on Camphor Weed, and then they’d be gone…only to reappear 15 or so minutes later. They reappeared together, at the same time. What clock, signals, sun angulation…why, how, who…? I wondered. Wondered about what I was seeing.

Amazing. It is 2014, we have been noticing and studying butterflies for more than 100 years. We have elevated gardening, and most recently, gardening with native wild flowering plants, to such an extent, that 10’s of millions of home gardens are now including plantings that nourish local fauna. But, it’s still missing.

We have no idea when our regional butterflies will fly in to feed. We have no idea why they will appear as they do. We have no idea which butterflies will be there at this time or that. Don’t know where they will fly to. If it is 10:10 AM in your garden, whom might you expect to come to visit, from that nearby stand of trees?

Wouldn’t it be 2014-ish if we, any of us, knew these things? Are our winged beauties programmed for such things…or do they fly by circumstance?


4 thoughts on “Who? What? Where? & When?

  1. I love to buy and read very old books on plants, bird and butterflies. They seem to be full knowledge. I have to adjust to the slow and elaborate writing, which was the writing style of past times, but slow reading is amazingly satisfying. It allows you to understand a text better, deeper and the knowledge stays with you much longer. Do we know more or less than past time botanists, ornithologists or lepidopterists? I dare not say, but sometimes it seems so. Therefore it is important you keep your blog and hopefully one day you will make a book of it.


  2. One of the exciting mysteries of nature is the unknown. Our garden plants are mostly native to the island. The wild and honey bees, hummingbirds and butterflies love the nectar in their small blossoms. The birds enjoy the wild berries and build their nests deep into the branches. The deer enjoy the leaves of the native plants causing the plants to die and then grasses and other noxious plants start to take over. The birds can no longer make their nests w/o the native plants. Our island has become more populated and difficult for hunters to kill the deer to eliminate the deer population. Consequently the deer population keeps multiplying and eating more of the native plants!


  3. I’ve wondered the same thing about birds. A mixed group of birds will appear all at once at our feeders, and there will be jockying for position at the perches. Then, twenty minutes later, they’re all gone. Lots of mysteries in nature! Fran


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