Canada Lily At Akeley

Canada Lily photographed by Jeff Zablow at Akeley Swamp, NY

It is a rush, when you work a trail, a former railroad tracks sideline, that skirts Akeley Swamp, and then discover Canada Lilies. We’re here in very western New York State, not far from Chataqua. Late June.

You stop, stare, approach and marvel. All this is patent pending, a take-it-to-the-bank response to encountering these extraordinary lily blooms.

They hang, poised and confident, on those slender strong stems. Their color is formulaic for some guys, lipstick red, bringing out the 19-year old in some. Gently lift the blossom, and you’re treated to the startlingly beautiful tiger lily coloration hidden from view.

They are found in small groups, always few in number. They so evoke the girls back in high school, back in the day that some here will recall, and others will never know.

Kudos to the Cr-ator.

Jeff

What Do Fritillary Caterpillars Eat?

Downy Yellow Violet photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Fritillary Butterfly are those Brushfoot butterflies that come in oranges, browns and black. Most of us know and love Gulf frits, Great Spangled frits, Variegates frits, Aphrodite frits, Silver bordered frits, Meadow frits and Regal frits, if you’re east of the Mississippi River.

Now that I’m relocated to Georgia, the fritillary butterflies here mostly deposit their eggs on Passionflower vines, easy to grow Southern garden favorites. Passionflower also attracts other butterflies, including Zebra heliconians.

The most common hostplant for Fritillary butterflies comes as something of a surprise, and are in most gardens. Fritillary butterflies mostly lay their eggs on violets. it still seems incongruous, that their caterpillar hatch on and feed upon these tiny little plants, present in the early Spring, and not so much as 4″ above the soil.

Shown here are Downy Yellow Violets, that I spotted in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Holli and Leslie would surely have me remind you, urge you, to please delay your annual leaf raking of your lawns, until mid-Spring. Why? Because Fritillary caterpillars spend the winter as chrysalises each with a rolled leaf around them, right there in the leaf drop sitting on your lawn. Rake your lawns in October/November, and you may be removing (killing) dozens of Fritillary cats, they, awaiting the onset of Spring weather.

Jeff

 

Wildflower Meet-Up

Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Pigeon Mountain, GA

Sure I used to search for butterflies, and little noticed the wildflowers I passed. That was then, and well, this is now. I readily identify almost all of the the eastern butterflies that I meet. My search in 2019 will be a much more selective one, compared say to my field work in 2009.

Why? I’ve seen some thousands of Eastern tailed blues, Pearl crescents, Commas, Eastern tiger swallowtails, Great spangled fritillaries and Orange sulphur butterflies. Amazingly, I’ve now scored lots of Zebra swallowtails, Pipevine swallowtails, Gulf and Variegated fritillaries, Giant swallowtails and even Mourning cloak butterflies. When I see them, I don’t ignore them. What I do is run a 1/1,000th of a second scan of each and only stop if the results are fresh, handsome and complete (no wing damage or significant scale loss). This because my own library of slides and images now sports good images of a whole lot of butterflies.

All this allows me more time to stop and admire wildflowers, especially ones that I don’t know. Hauling field guides with me challenges the mule in me, and Jeff, TBTold, will never be adept with using his cell phone to ID wildflowers as so many do. Would that Barbara Ann, Angela, Ellen, Curt, Virginia, Roger, Dave and Phil were with me each time, for they know what they see . . .

This pert wildflower captured my attention on Pigeon Mountain, in the northwest corner of Georgia.  These meet-ups puzzle and challenge. (‘Have we met before?’) What say you to it?

Jeff

The Oh Wow! Lily

Canada Lilies photographed by Jeff Zablow at Akeleyi Swamp, NY

The old railroad grade has been wisely converted to a good use, a nearly straight mile-long trail through a very, very large swamp. Akeley Swamp in western New York State. Barbara Ann and I were there in June 2018.

She was looking for native orchids and wildflowers. I was looking for  . . . butterflies. Hundreds of Common milkweed plants were in peak of bloom. I have never seen such a sight, millions of individual milkweed flowers, set on the globular milkweed flowerheads. Those milkweeds were at the beginning of the trail, and I must have had a Big smile on my face = This will be good, very good. Hundreds of butterflies must await us.

Nuh uh. We saw very few butterflies those next 4 hours. But, but, we had no time for disappointment, for 5 minutes on the trail, on a gorgeous morning, with hundreds of acres of swamp to our right, and compelling treed swamp to our left . . . we saw these! Canada Lillies (Lilium canadense).

Stopped both of us, in our tracks. You stop, you make sure you are seeing what you are seeing (a ‘Pesci’ moment!) and you whisper, “Oh Wow!” I mean, can these be real, or has someone stuck handmade plastic masterpieces along the left side of the trail here and there?

Well, they are real and they are magnificent. Lacking a special clamp to hold these blooms with their inner face looking to us, I am not able to share their attractive spotted inner petals. You must take my word that they sweetly sing to your eyes. G-d’s superb work, Junaisha.

Jeff

Who Knows Shrimp Plants?

Shrimp Plant photographed by Jeff Zablow in Eatonton Georgia

I waited, and my time arrived. For years, living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’d heard of the great magnet for butterflies, the southern Shrimp Plant. It a native wild flowering shrub that pumps nectar, I was told, and well, Jeff, you won’t be able to cultivate it in your Pittsburgh yard, for it’s a southeastern wildflower.

With the annual icing of Pittsburgh, that year (was it 2014 ?) when the thermometer did not rise above 0 degrees F for an entire week, and those 2 or 3 bad falls when I was walking Petra on icy sidewalks, and Oh No! a dog or a squirrel appeared, and she abandoned the heel position, and her 96 pound heft left me sprawled on the sidewalk of Squirrel Hill. Yes, the very same Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh where Bowers slaughtered 11 innocent Jews just 2 days ago.

Friends had become ‘snow-birds’ and split their year between “Boca [Raton]” and Pittsburgh. Me? I’d been traveling to Georgia to photograph butterflies, and the Georgia Piedmont beckoned me. The thought of gardening in February/March/September/October & 1/2 of November was an elixir, it was.

I had long dreamed of southern natives gardening, those Shrimp plants, Mistflower plants, Passionflower vines, Hibiscus, Pawpaw, Hercules Club, Mountainmint, Hoptree, Pipevine and more, all growing robust and strong in the affirmative Georgia soil.

One year in, I have that garden and more on a fenced in lot, and Petra is ecstatic.

Remains the question . . . this, my Shrimp plant. It’s strong, luxuriant and always bears flowers. Virginia gifted it to me (Thank you! Virginia). After 3 months of fine production, I have not yet to see a butterfly on this, my Shrimp plant. Friends in Shellman Bluff told me of its butterfly prowess. Mine? Zero.

Who knows Shrimp plants? Phil, Kelly, Ellen, Melanie, Heather, Virginia, Cathy, Mike, Jill, Lisa, Marcie and Debbi?

Jeff