Success by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jeff Zablow's Perennial Beds Pittsburgh, PA, 7/10/07

I have read this often, and attempt to emulate it in my own life, whether gardening to attract winged beauties, or with family and friends, in my spiritual life, and in the field, as I attempt to capture ever more beautiful images of butterflies, darners, wildflowers, whatever . . . .


To laugh often and to love much . . .
To win the respect of intelligent persons
and the affections of children . . . To earn
the approbation of honest critics and to
endure the betrayal of false friends , , ,
To appreciate beauty; to give of one’s self . . .
To leave the world a bit better whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch, or
a redeemed social condition . . .
To laugh and play with enthusiasm and to sing with
exultation and to know that one life
has breathed easier because you have lived –
. . . That is to succeed . . .

–Ralph Waldo Emerson


This perennial garden that I loved brought butterflies from great distances, nurtured scores of butterflies, bees, moths and ruby-throateds, the latter coming every hour on the hour. It brought joy to family, though concealed from the world, as it grew behind the house, and remained unknown to most.


Why do we marvel at Praying Mantis’ Egg Masses?

Mantid egg case photographed by Jeff Zablow
Who can resist? June 2014, and there in Doak field, in the field, we discover . . . a Praying Mantis (Mantis Religiosa) egg mass. Butterflies are why we’re out there, but, who can resist stopping for a moment to examine this wonder of wonders?

What is inside? Eggs. What is the outside material? A substance produced by the female, that hardens, and . . . and serves many roles, one of them is it repels birds. It discourages birds from eating the eggs within. Impressive.

When it is 0 degrees F in that field in January 2015, those eggs remain viable. Suspended on this twig, the entire egg mass never comes in contact with the snow that covers the field, again and again throughout the winter.

Spring arrives, and the eggs hatch. The tiny mantids chew their way through the outer covering of the egg mass, and grow, and grow and grow.

A native species? No. The consensus is that they originated in  southern Europe, and escaped from horticultural shipments.

What did they do from minute 1? Eat insects. That made them very warmly received, as insects were considered universally undesirable.

Finally, why don’t they vacuum up all the insects in their habitat? Insect numbers are very impressive, and these mantids eat one another aggressively, reducing their own numbers.

Has Jeff ever experienced the grip of their spiny forelegs? Yes, and it hurt. Alot. Now Jeff has respect for their formidable equipment.


Texas and Israel

Eastern strawberry tree photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Meron, Israel

Really! I was now on page 101 of Looking for the Wild by Lyn Hancock (Doubleday Canada Limited, 1986), one of several books that retrace the 1953 trip that Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher took. Peterson and Englishman Fisher spent 100 days monitoring the health and breadth of what was left of American wilderness. Hancock, a native Australian, was following their route, and reporting how the U.S.A.’s conservation had progressed since ’53.

You remember that I’ve posted 3 images of the Israeli Eastern Strawberry tree (Abrutus Andrachne) because this tree is just . . . drop dead gorgeous!

Hancock, touting the wonders of Texas’ Big Bend National Park, writes, “The most surprising and personally satisfying tree for me was the Texas Madrone (Arbutus Texana). Its shiny brown peeling bark, glossy leaves and red berries were so familiar because it is closely related to the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus Menziesii) which on the West Coast we call simply the Arbutus Tree.”

Look again at this image, especially at that bark, at those leaves and remember another image here of green berries. Cousins, so to speak. Striking trees that bedazzle esthetes from Israel’s Upper Galilee, to southern Texas to sunny California.

Texas and Israel, connected in so many ways . . . .


No Butterflies, No Wildflowers, No Bees

Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

I keep staring at this August 2014 image, captured at Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania. For our many friends abroad, this is almost an eight-hour drive, due-west, from New York City.

The critical elements are all there, hardy wild- flowering plant, Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis Matronalis) an alien, member of the mustard family, verdant plant life, and that tiny bee, on its way to gather nectar from the depths of the flowers. Viewed on my Porta-Trace lightbox, this mini-bee is sharp, and healthy. It is 1 of 2 bees in the photo.

Boy, do I wish that I could go there tomorrow morning and take it all in. Can’t do that, so instead I continue to plan for travel in 2015, headed to new, far away, sunny (?) butterfly destinations. Georgia, Colorado, Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Ontario and Israel. Car, plane, foot, horseback (?) and sampan. Well, horseback and sampan . . . .

I’ve also substituted by reading, lately those have been sequels to Wild America, the fab read about Peterson and Fisher’s 100-day sprint through 1953 American wildlife. I’m now ⅓ through one of those sequels, Looking For The Wild by Lyn Hancock. Before that, Return To Wild America by Scott Weidensaul. These accounts fill in so many questions that I’ve had about the state of the Land in these United States.

Yes, no butterfly to be seen in the accompanying image, but that bee has its own winged beauty.