A Monarda Few Have Ever Seen

Rare Monarda Wildflower Plants photographed by Jeff Zablow in Hard Labor Creek State Park, GA

2015, fast slipping away from us, could be remembered as the year of the Milkweeds. Hundreds of thousands of us sought to learn more about milkweeds, asked advice about milkweeds, searched for them online, at nurseries and quizzed their friends: Do you have milkweeds that you are willing to share? This army of Monarch lovers planted milkweeds in their gardens and in promising other locations, by the millions. Did all this bring dividends? Sure looks like it played a role in the good numbers of Monarchs that took off and headed down from the East and Midwest, down to Mexico.

Milkweeds, in many US households, are now synonymous with Mom, Apple Pie and Santa Claus. They bring joy, fulfillment and a sense that America is working to fix itself.

Here’s another member of a worthy family of wildflowers. I know Monarda and I know Bergamot. Phil brought me to this exotic member of the same family that Bee Balm belongs to, here in Hard Labor Creek State Park, in central Georgia. Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata) I can say that I spent many minutes captivated by this Monarda, it looking almost otherworldly. A new one for me, and for almost all of you.

Monarda’s blooms nourish ruby throateds, fritillaries, swallowtailsskippers and a host of other butterflies. These Georgia blooms stuck out as different, and refreshingly so.

Thanks Phil and Thanks to the beautiful Georgia State Parks.

Jeff

The (My) Scream . . .

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow as it perched on Bergamot flower at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 7/31/14
You should have seen it. Thousands of Bergamot blooms carpeting Doak field, Raccoon Creek State Park, Southwestern Pennsylvania. I’d been there several mornings that week. Bergamot in bloom means summer butterflies. Lots of them. Bergamot and Bee Balm are true nectar pumps (my own term) and their aroma must really travel, because they are a serious butterfly destination.

And that’s the way it was that July 31st day, 2014. Tiger swallowtails, Great Spangled Fritillaries, Spicebush Swallowtails, Hawkmoths, a Monarch, some Skippers, legions of Bumblebees and other fliers mobbed the Bergamot. I moved from the center of the 100+ acre field to a spot I knew along its margin. I chose a robust looking Bergamot plant and remained there for many minutes.

A large blackish Swallowtail Butterfly flew in. Wait, this was different. Can it be? Turn, turn pretty lady, let me be sure. She was nectaring and moving her wings violently, as she hovered over each bloom. The field guide in my brain was working at super-high speed until . . . Yes! Pipevine Swallowtail. OMG! it is! It is! She was fresh, Very shmeksy . . . . That iridescent blue field extending forward from those coral orange spots, all flashy bright. I shot slides on my traditional film camera: Pop, pop, pop . . .

I know my scream of Joy! could be heard in Pittsburgh. Maybe even in Cleveland. Did y’all hear it at Madison and East 57th Street in Manhattan?

I share.

Jeff

Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

It’s July 22nd in Raccoon Creek State Park’s Nichol field.  Some 90 or 100 acres of that rare habitat is an open field. Monarda Fistulosa prefers dry fields. That contrasts with closely related Bee balm (Monarda Didyma) which we find in moist habitats. Two related species but they live two different habitats.

Wild Bergamot  is open for business mid-mornings, attracting fritillaries and swallowtail butterflies. Their nectar must be tasty, because these butterflies hover over these blooms for many minutes at a time. This behavior continues for several weeks, until there are few blooms and there is no use in the butterfly making a stop there.

At 4 feet tall or more, wild Bergamot presents a great subject for photographing. It’s the right place and time. It’s time to slow down, savor and reflect on native wildflowers.

Jeff