Will there be any Native Plants for Our Children and Grandchildren to See?

I’m now in my 3rd read of Wild America by Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher. They’ve made me think, and think beyond. When I opened our Media Library of hundreds upon hundreds of images, this one here leaped out to me.

Fisher was visiting the USA for the first time in that year, 1955. Peterson, America’s famed birder, was born here, and he describes and shares his displeasure with the abundance of alien plant species that their trip around the United States revealed.

The Georgia Native Plant Society often spotlights this problem in their Facebook posts. Bradford Pears, alien Privets, alien Wisteria, even the much beloved Buddleia (Butterfly bushes) will soon rival Kudzu and the other infamous alien problem plants. Garlic mustard so displeased me, that in early Springs, I’d walk Petra on those Pittsburgh Frick Park trails in Pennsylvania, pulling hundreds of those invasives, hundreds.

I love native wildflowers, and more and more I don’t get to see them, for aliens muscle them out, and those aliens don’t, they just don’t sustain our native wildlife, be they bee, chipmunk or goldfinch.

Here I am, looking closely at what’s growing trailside at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. It bothers me that some of what I’m examining is alien, originating in Asia, Europe, south of the border or elsewhere. I wonder if this mix here in America will remain as it is, or will our children see less of our natives and more of these alien plant species in the future?

Me? I puzzle as to why this problem is not presented to our kids, in our schools?


The Middle Class Butterfly

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 9/5/14

We saw dozens and dozens of Great Spangled Fritillaries last week in Adams County, Ohio. Just miles north of the Ohio/Kentucky border, they were just super! to watch. Butterflyweed was in full bloom, as were Black eyed susan, common milkweed, clover and just a menu of other native wildflowers. The vast majority of Great spangleds were totally fresh, few bird struck. Why, I asked of my new friends, were so few of these large frits bird struck? Largely because those open prairies were way too risky for birds to enter, what with so much open space, and the ever present danger of raptors, waiting along the treeline for hapless birds.

See, I noticed that my fellow hikers, determined to see orchids, wildflowers, butterflies and mushrooms took little note of this flight of Great spangleds. They went almost unnoticed. Several times over those 3 days I  mulled over this. Especially gorgeous Great spangled fritillaries were mostly invisible to my trail companions. They, like this instant one, treated the eyes, and really encouraged, for they were many, they were Fine! and that’s a good omen for this county, this part of Ohio.

It struck me then, that like red-spotted purple butterflies, and pearl crescents, and eastern-tailed blue butterflies, great spangled fritillaries were the ‘middle class’ of the eastern U.S. butterflies. That is, they largely get little attention and usually go unnoticed. We move right by them, not even breaking stride. We heed them not, and we don’t register that our hike past them will upset them and send them aloft.

Like us, they are beautiful, and at the same time, no light, no action, no cameras, no media, well just about like us, awake, get going, eat, work, and return to roost at the end of the day, with nary a compliment, and surely no  one to tell  us how good we look, how much we are appreciated, or how much our presence makes a whole lot of difference. ID one nearby as an Aphrodite Fritillary, and all come running, running past Great Spangled, as if the didn’t exist.

Great Spangled Fritillaries, the middle class butterfly.


I’ll Bet You Can’t Top This!

Head Start Class, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

“Pennsylvania man,” as I’m called in the fantastic March 9th front page newspaper feature story ( Eatonton Messenger newspaper of Putnam County, Georgia), urges all lovers of beauty and butterflies to visit the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton. Why do that? ? You have visited wingedbeauty for reasons: beauty, butterflies, eye-candy, nostalgia for images captures on  . . . film (real-time superior color), you like being an esthete and have to feed that habit, etc.. Some visit because they love and support Virgina C Linch, Bartow, Kelly, Cathy, Stanley, Sylbie, Lisa, Jim, Jim, Lynn, Susan and they love Eatonton, and hope that Eatonton’s leaders continue to support the Habitat.

Me? It’s the Best Place to see southeastern butterflies between Maine and the Florida Panhandle. My morning record was scored there last year, i.e., 29 different species seen in a single morning. The nectar bar for butterflies is so rich there, that hundreds fly, free and wild at any given sunny morning moment. I get it! I know and see how hard these handful of earnest supporters work there daily, to nurture it, water it in and husband it along, so that the word can go out: Virginia’s plea to plant native wildflowers in our home gardens, advancing the success of our sometimes beleaguered winged beauties.

Virginia (C Linch) always shoots for the future. Insure that our youngsters meet, watch, learn about butterflies. The good farmer that she and her Bartow are, she is ‘seeding’ the future, growing the legions of oncoming homeowners, who will remember that their hard earned home lots should, will, must, can have extensive flower beds with beautiful, hardy native blooms that bring butterflies, bees, beetles, flies and the birds, lizards and other animals that come along, too.

I’ve been there, photographing, when buses of school kids visit. It is too much fun, watching the children Ooh! and Ah! and watching dedicated, responsible teachers and teaching assistants enthusiastically show the kids butterflies, caterpillars, chrysalises and . . . eggs, often so easy to find in this extraordinary oasis for butterflies, blooms and wildlife.

Imagine the sheer magic! of this moment in time, a Headstart class, at the Habitat! Hey the scientists among you out there, quantify for me the excitement, awe and energy expended in just this one capture moment?

Virginia (SHHH! she is very modest/humble) does all this on a shoe string budget (SHHH! again, for . . . tho$e dollars often come out of her own . . . . . .!) I’ll bet you can’t top this!


Southern Dreamers: Miss P and Me

Georgia Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch habitat friend, Jeff Zablow and his happy sidekick, Petra taking a moment to enjoy the day. (photo by Virginia C. Linch)

Georgia Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch habitat friend, Jeff Zablow and his happy sidekick, Petra taking a moment to enjoy the day. (photo by Virginia C. Linch)

Petra and Jeff, happily enjoying the wonder that is the Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, right in the center of Eatonton, Georgia. April 2016, watching the volunteer crew from the nearby Ritz Carlton installing new features to this amazing butterfly destination, smack in the middle of this welcoming Georgia town. Just 1.25 hours east of Atlanta, Eatonton is the home of the writer of the Br’er Rabbit childrens’ books, that my mother read to me when I was a tyke, sitting on her lap in faraway Brooklyn, New York.

We are all smiles because this is our 2nd year, visiting the Briar Patch Habitat. We know that Eatonton and nearby Lake Oconee are for real, welcoming, friendly, genuine, law-abiding and aiming to please. Sounds a bit stuffed with feathers? Sorry, this boy and his dog have been around the block so to speak, and the Putnam County locale is all of the above.

Virginia and her volunteers created this butterfly destination from an abandoned, hardscrabble brownfield. It is now extensive beds of native wildflowers, chosen because they do it! They are 1) butterfly hostplants, nourishing fast-developing caterpillars 2) flowering plants that serve as nectar pumps for hungry butterflies, juicing them up with the requisite sugars & proteins that they need to thrive, fly and look shmeksy! to meet and greet new partners and 3) small and tall trees that offer blooms, shade, escape from predators and night roosts. On a sunny morning, hundreds, yes hundreds! of butterflies arrive . . . and that continues off and on through the day.

Petra (Miss P sometimes) my black Russian, loves this place, and did well (very well) on the 692 mile drive down and back. Truth be told, she loves Georgia.

Want to learn more about this unique destination? Virginia will be very happy to hear from you at Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch on Facebook.


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.