Wow! A Revelation Revisited

We’re now solidly through 2017 . . . A re-read of this Important Post would be good, very good, for very many, we think. I’ll bet Leslie, Virginia, Angela, Barbara Ann and Cathy would vote with me on this!

Winged Beauty Butterflies

Hibiscus Flowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA, 7/29/10
This flawless, magnificent Hibiscus bloom was growing at the entrance to the Phipps Conservatory’s Outdoor Gardens in my hometown, Pittsburgh. The earlier post we made, with this same flower, shared that despite alot of time spent posted right there, there were no insect visitors. None, and I was there in the middle morning, when flies, bees, butterflies, beetles and others are at their busiest. Nothing flew or walked or crawled to get the nectar of this stunning giant of a flower.

Recently, a visit to Kathy at Sylvania Natives, a Pittsburgh nursery that devotes itself to selling native plants, led to her recommendation that I read Douglas W. Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home (Timber Press, 2007). It was slow getting into it, then . . . . Wow! The Revelation? It was something that has puzzled me for much of my life. I remember the gardens, carefully coiffured, of the…

View original post 323 more words

Wow! A Revelation.

Hibiscus Flowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA, 7/29/10
This flawless, magnificent Hibiscus bloom was growing at the entrance to the Phipps Conservatory’s Outdoor Gardens in my hometown, Pittsburgh. The earlier post we made, with this same flower, shared that despite alot of time spent posted right there, there were no insect visitors. None, and I was there in the middle morning, when flies, bees, butterflies, beetles and others are at their busiest. Nothing flew or walked or crawled to get the nectar of this stunning giant of a flower.

Recently, a visit to Kathy at Sylvania Natives, a Pittsburgh nursery that devotes itself to selling native plants, led to her recommendation that I read Douglas W. Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home (Timber Press, 2007). It was slow getting into it, then . . . . Wow! The Revelation? It was something that has puzzled me for much of my life. I remember the gardens, carefully coiffured, of the thousands of homes that surrounded ours in Long Island, New York. Green gardens, expansive lawns, few, few flowers, and leaves untouched. 100% of the leaves of those garden cultivars were in perfect form. Nothing missing, not a leaf tip missing. Then too, my own flower garden attracted few butterflies, bees, wasps, etc..

Tallamy explains that those gardens, and much of American suburbia, are planted with alien species that are  foreign to the U.S. His own research concluded that after many, many decades, insects and other herbivores here will not eat most of these leaves and stems. They will not nectar at most of these flowers and will not place their eggs on most of these plants. Sum total of these findings? Gardens without native plants do not attract and nurture our butterflies or our moths or our bees. His plea (it really is a plea) is to begin to intersperse native trees, bushes and annuals amongst our existing ornamentals. When an azalea bush fades, replace it with a native plant known to host our own insects.

Yes, then, this Hibiscus takes your breathe away, but it is alien to our region, if not to the United States. Pennsylvania bees, butterflies and moths do not recognize it as a food source. To my knowledge, no insects lay eggs on it, because it does not register as a food sources for their larvae. There is no re-education for most species of insects. They don’t know it, their genes don’t connect it to anything known to them. Nada. Nothing.

Since that visit to Kathy weeks ago, we’ve planted American Hornbeam (tree), American Plum (tree), Green-headed Coneflower (perennial), Monkeyflower (perennial), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), and Chokecherry trees in our new garden. Yes, we do find that some leaves are getting munched-on (eaten for our international friends) here and there, but that is natural, the way it was and always will be. A pleasant revelation, even now.

Jeff

Heinz Ketchup and the Phipps Conservatory

Gray Hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA, 8/25/10

Here we are 3 days into Spring, and Pittsburgh thermometers read 38 degrees F, plus or minus. Most of the U.S. shares the same mood, popularized by those Heinz TV commercials, not long ago. A..N..T..I..C..I..P..A..T..I..O..N, there awaiting the tasty ketchup, born in this city and consumed nationally, and here, the retreat of wintry cold weather, and replacing that, beautiful moments like this one, Gray Hairstreak butterflies, nectaring peacefully on tall verbena perennials, Outdoor Gardens of Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory…one of the greatest botanical destinations in the world.

Verbenas are native to the U.S., though I’ll need feedback as to the origin of tall verbena. We’ve pictured this garden favorite several times before, noting how it is so easy to grow, produces flowers from June to October, and PUMPS nectar for just about that whole time span. Oh, and it is pretty, quietly, elegantly  pretty.

Strymon melinus is also a native butterfly, and it’s found across most of the United States. When fresh, like this instant one is, it is a gem, offering any who will lean in to examine it, a richly red patch with built-in black spot, against a fashionable gray fedora colored background, complemented by that tri-colored post median dash line, and those tails, those tails that often are moved this way and that.

The tail thing is fascinating. We see hairstreaks like this Gray, with birdstruck hindwings. Birdstruck? Some time in the last several days, a bird or mantid or lizard has attacked the butterfly. Concluding that the tails and red patches (with black dot = eyeball?), twitching this way and that, are the nutritious head, thorax and abdomen, the bird strikes! What does it often get? Just the posterior ends of the hindwings. The butterfly loses a bit of hindwing, but retains 90% of its ability to fly…so it goes on to live…

Heinz Ketchup, Yummy. The Phipps Conservatory Outdoor Gardens, Yummy. Gray Hairstreaks, Yummy. Spring and all of the above? Right, around, the corner.

Jeff

10 Reasons for the absence of Monarchs in 2013

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA

What are 10 reasons for the absence of Monarchs (Danaus p.) in 2013?

Jeff