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

 

The Wait for Butterflyweed

Large Clump of Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

My grandson and I reveled in one of the world’s finest stands of Butterflyweed this past June. I revisited Doak field in Raccoon Creek State Park with him, and I told him how much I loved those 2 weeks or so each year when the Asclepias (milkweed) was in bloom. More than that, I told him how this was the first time that one of my grandchildren ever, ever joined me in the field, of how Happy!!! I was to be with him there, then.

Eureka! We found the most luxurious clumps of Butterflyweed that I’ve ever seen, anywhere, let along Doak field in southwestern Pennsylvania. We were there early, very early, and now the wait. We waited for that time, usually around 9 A.M. when the butterflies sense these spectacular blooms, sense that those flowers are set to pump nectar, sugary nectar to support their athletic flight.

We we wait, and wait, and now it was 10 A.M. and few butterflies appeared. 10:45 A.M. arrived, and this is usually the time when no butterflies return to these deep orange flowers. The numbers for those hours? Disappointing.

We discussed how such things cannot be predicted, as this was surely a good example of lush bloom with good history, yielding scant swallowtails, monarchs, fritillaries or skippers. I must share that the usual suspects, Silver -spotted skippers, could be counted on one hand.

My take away? What I know is I must wait to next year, 2019, and hope to again see Coral hairstreaks here, on Butterflyweed.

My grandson, all of 7 years old, understood that day, that flora and fauna cannot be comfortably predicted, that a lesson in and of itself.

Jeff

24 Years of Adoring this Wildflower

Butterflyweed at Doak Field photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

I’d visit the same spots in Doak Field, often just at the right time! What was I checking for every year? I was hoping to find Butterflyweed in peak of bloom, in this more than 100 acre meadow in Raccoon Creek State Park, 45 minutes west off Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

We went there in the last week of June 2018. I vividly remember leaving the Nichol Road Trail and entering Doak Field. A 5 minutes hike through the cut paths in the meadow, and I arrived at the main ‘spot.’ Look here what I saw! The Butterflyweed plants were numerous and lush. In those last 24 years, there, I cannot remember a finer, more beautiful population of this milkweed.

I adore these flowers, for they often attract squads of butterflies: Tiger Swallowtails, Great Spangled Fritillaries, Monarchs, Silver Spotted Skippers, the hardly ever seen Aphrodite Fritillary, various Skippers and my favorite, the Coral Hairstreak.

I’ve come to understand this amazing Asclepias (milkweed). It took those decades for me to fathom its puzzling behavior. I only visit it in the morning, a total of some 24 years of observing Butterflyweed.

I’ve learned that it only ‘pumps’ nectar for a very brief time in the morning, perhaps for 45 minutes or less, and that applies to the 10 or 20 or more found in those 100+ acres. Butterflies visit much when it is producing nectar, and then, usually around 10-ish in the morning, they stop coming.

I’ve come to expect to not see my beloved Coral Hairstreaks, for they often completely skip a year, even a year with a rich crop of Butterflyweed. I love those Corals, for they remind me of those good times, when Frieda A”H was with us, and how she loved Coral, and scoured here and there to find jewelry with richly tinted coral, she explaining that wealthy Chinese love fine Coral, and will pay a premium to the market to acquire it (reminds me of those many visits to Sotheby’s and Christie’s, especially Christie’s).

What happened this day, here? Did the Corals fly in, the others? No. Nary a single butterfly was seen on any of the Butterflyweeds. I went here again the next day, with the same disappointing result.

So Butterflyweed’s Big Mystery remains. Full, lush, gorgeous flowerheads, peak. Peak, yet it is clear that they are not the sirens on the rocks those days, drawing few if any butterflies to their full flowerheads.

I had my grandson with me this morning, and on the drive to Doak Field, I told him how I hoped to see just such Butterflyweed, told him how when they pump they resemble Grand Central Station in NYNY, and I forewarned him that we might see Corals, and that would be Wowwww! It was kind of sad that we didn’t see our Corals, or most other butterflies, but we did see prize-winning Butterflyweed, albeit very lonely Butterflyweed.

Jeff