Wings

Wings are things year-round in my garden. Even in winter, there are, minimally, honeybees and Red Admiral butterflies zooming and flitting during those shorter days. But late summer and into autumn, winged insects are a constant source of activity, adding an “experientially rich” dynamic that is always present in a garden, but heightened in the latter months of the growing season.

As the days grow noticeably shorter (though not cooler) I’ve been out and about in the garden, and some of those times, remembered to bring the camera along.

The Southern Pink Moths are familiar in the garden, very often resting on plants in the salvia genus like this White Tropical sage, Salvia coccinea.

Southern Pink Moth, Pyrausta inornatalis

It’s nearly always sometime in July that I spy my first Bumble bees in the garden. They zoom in, buzzing like miniature planes, intent on working a set of blooms before departing for new territory and fresh flowers. This one worked the blue blooms of Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’ for several minutes. The bee was never still enough for me to capture a good shot, but it did its pollination duty, its proboscis stuck deep in the bloom for maximum slurping.

American Bumble Bee, Bombus pennsylvanicus

Zexmenia, Wedelia texana, is a pollinator magnet and attracts a wide variety of native flies and bees. This bee is probably a bee in the “hairy legged” category like a minor or digger bee. My best guess is that it’s a longhorn bee, but in this photo that’s hard to confirm, as its antennae are hidden, bee head buried deep in the bloom.

Native Apidae bee

There’s a whole crew of yellow and white butterflies that become very active in July and downright ubiquitous in the following months and they are all fast flyers. This Little Yellow cooperated with me while dining on another Zexmenia bloom. Have I mentioned that Zexmenia flowers are pollinator favorites?

Little Yellow, Pyrisitia lisa

Late summer is also when the hummingbirds are most active. Males, females, and juveniles are ramping up for migration southward and feeding on the abundance of flowering plants. This cutey fussed at me as I bumbled around, initially unaware that she was feeding nearby. She dashed to a branch and scolded me; I snapped a few shots. After moving to a more remote spot, I waited until she’d rested and felt comfortable enough to return to the Turk’s cap that she’d been feeding on before I rudely disturbed her.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris

The Monarchs are coming through! It seems like the migration is early, but I welcome visits from these iconic butterflies. Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, is a preferred source of nectar for many butterflies and bloom in time for the autumn Monarch migration.

Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus

Not pollinators, but predators, damsel and dragon flies got a late start this year, probably due to the winter storm in February. They’re everywhere now! A number of species visit my garden, mostly, though not exclusively, hanging around the pond. Their flight patterns are similar to those of bees rather than butterflies: less flitting, more zooming. They also rest for periods, like this one perched on a leaf of Pickerel Rush, Pontederia cordata.

Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis

And this one, sitting pretty atop unopened blooms of Texas craglily, Echeandia texensis.

A Queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus, nectars on a Gregg’s mistflower–just like its cousin the Monarch. I have Queens in my gardens on and off throughout the year. Smaller and more polka-dotty than Monarch, they do look similar enough that they’re often confused with Monarchs.

Queen Butterfly, Danaus gilippus

Another winged summer thing is the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. A colorful butterfly–cheery orange with white and black spots–this is a bright adornment in the garden. These feed on a variety of flowers, though I think this one had hatched from its chrysalis shortly before I found it on the spent blooms of a Lyre-leaf sage. The green in the background of this photo is the host plant for Gulf Fritillaries, passionflower vine, specifically Passiflora incarnata. This particular vine grows messily in a pebbled negative space with a surrounding garden. I leave the “weeds” in the space because…butterflies!!

Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae

I do have one “official” passionflower vine, purposely planted and growing on a trellis–a set of three seedling Passiflora caerulea which I transplanted a few weeks before the snow/ice storm in February. The seedlings weathered the storm, grew, and have produced several generations of fritillaries. Currently, those three vines are nought but stems, the foliage having been eaten away by ravenous caterpillars. I’m not worried about losing the plants; the vines should survive and with some autumn rain, flush out fully for further fritillaries.

While I was photographing the first fritillary, a butterfly buddy (also newly hatched?) joined in the fun, wings spread wide to dry–and maybe show off?

The Mexican orchid tree, Bauhinia mexicana, attracts lots of bees and big swallowtail butterflies. As I watched, this Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, fed at the flowers, lumbered off, came back to the tree, flew off again–but returned to the luscious offering of the blooms.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio cresphontes

I grow White-veined pipevine, Aristilochia fimbriata, a lovely shade tolerant ground cover and a host plant for Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, Battus philenor. This year, there has been a bumper crop of butterflies, chrysalises seemingly attached everywhere in the back garden. I’ve been fortunate to observe a couple of these beauties as they emerged from their cocoon and entered the world as winged adults. Pipevine Swallowtails are fast flyers and, while I observe their nectaring everyday, I’ve been missing to opportunity for a photograph until I found this one enjoying a Basket flower, Centaurea americana, and had my camera ready to shoot.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor

I’m fortunate to live in a place with a long growing season, so watching winged wonders is almost a year-round adventure. I hope you have some winged things in your garden, too! If not, maybe it’s time to get cracking and plant some nectar and host plants for butterflies and moths and a variety of blooming things for bees and hummingbirds.

Diggin’ In

The little honeybee was all in as she worked the center of the Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua.  Surrounded by glorious orange walls, with an extended garden of grey-green, she exhibited single-mindedness toward her important pollination work.

As I watched, she crawled around the pollen-laden center of the bloom, oblivious to me and anything else that might disrupt her concentrated efforts.  Her movements were frenzied, focused solely on the pistils of the flower.

Eventually, she worked her way out of her orange office, flew to another bloom, pollen grains speckled on her various parts.

Celebrating her dedication to task, I’m joining in with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.  Check out her beautiful Flutter and Hum for musings of various sorts.

June Pollinator Blooms

Here in Austin, Texas, the weather has settled into the summer pattern of boringly bright days, warm-to-hot-temperatures, and plenty of humidity;  the solstice is now a memory.  There’s just no way around it–it’s summer, and as writer Al Bernstein said: Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

So what’s in the garden reflecting the shimmering June days?  In a word: Daylilies.  I say that, though I have only one type of daylily, planted in only one spot.  Their cheery orange is, for me, a June thing every summer.

My mother-in-law gave to me a couple of daylily leaves with attached root 20 some-odd years ago.  She wasn’t a gardener and I have no idea where she got hers, but they hadn’t bloomed alongside her driveway in many years.  She insisted that they were lovely.

And she was correct.

Full and ruffly, I look forward to the blooms every June, though sometimes they appear as early as May or as late as July.  I believe they’re a form of the Asian variety Hermerocallis fulva.

For years, I didn’t notice any pollinators at these blooms, but as I have paid more attention, I see a species of native bee who visits when these flowers open.  A small, iridescent blue-green bee, it’s probably a Sweat bee, Genus Halictidae.  The bees dive deep into the flower and it’s usually several minutes before they emerge;  I have to be quick with the camera button!

 

The Purple coneflowersEchinacea purpurea, opened for business in May, but have achieved their zenith of beauty in June.

An excellent pollinator plant, there’s always something working these happy flowers, like this Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor.  I wonder if Ms. White flower spider is sizing up the butterfly for a meal?

 

YarrowAchillea millefolium, is a pretty plant year-round, mostly due to its foliage.  But in May, it sends up flower stalks and by June, those stalks are topped off with white flower clusters, adding their particular charm to bright June days.

I’ve seen all sorts of pollinators at Yarrow, from common, everyday flies, (great pollinators!),

…to large, dramatic bees, like this Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis.

By mid-July, the snowy blooms will turn toasty, and will then attract little finches and sparrows who flit through the garden.

 

Barbados cherryMalpighia glabra, a hardy Texas native, serves as a privacy screen in my front garden.  It’s a large shrub which may be hedged, though I prefer its natural shape of arching branches.  After rains, the plant bursts full of sweet pink flowers, eventually producing, juicy, red fruits favored by birds and mammals.  The fruits are called acerola cherries and are used to make juice.  I’ve tasted the fruits and they are sweet, though it would take quite a few to squeeze into juice.

The pink flowers are small and dainty, borne in clusters along the branches.

Eastern Carpenter bees, Xylocopa virginica, visit whenever the blooms appear.  These bees are fast fliers–I was lucky to get this shot!

 

Zexmenia, Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida, provides a sparkle of yellow in my garden.  A low growing, deciduous shrub, Zexmenia loves abusive heat and blooms best in the heat.  In fact, with our wet late spring, mine haven’t bloomed quite as well as usual, though the yellow still sparkles-up the garden.  The yellow flowers are companionable with many plants.

Another flower which attracts many types of pollinators, it’s also a host plant for three different butterfly species:  Bordered Patch, Sierran Metalmark, and Lacinia Patch.

Here a Ceratina bee sips nectar.  It looks like others before it have nibbled at the petals.

 

Pretty in pink are Rock rosePavonia lasiopetala.  Another shrub with twinkly flowers, I utilize Rock rose as a staple plant in my garden.  It grows and blooms in shade or sun (better in sun), and is a tough customer in our long, hot summers.  I prune it back a few times during the growing season as it blooms best on new wood and will seed out prolifically if allowed.  I like this little shrub planted in a mass to amplify the its pink power!

Small, hibiscus-like blooms are favored by pollinators like this Grey Hairstreak, Strymon melinus.  

 

Red yuccaHesperaloe parviflora, is no yucca, but in fact a gorgeous plant in the Agavaceae family.  From late April until late October, Salmon-pink, tubular flowers with creamy yellow interiors, adorn tall, arching bloom stalks.

The base of the plant is fleshy, dark foliage and a nice structural element, especially in winter; the showy blooms are a cherry on top.   Typically, I can’t look at these flower stalks without seeing some pollinator going about its business:  bees of several varieties, some smaller butterflies, and hummingbirds are all are drawn to Red yucca.  Alas, I seem to have missed catching any pollinator in my recent photos. Drat!

 

Late spring blues segue–just for a bit–into June with Heartleaf skullcap, Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata.   A perennial groundcover, which is low to the ground during late autumn and winter, the plant rockets upwards in spring, developing beautiful lavender-blue flowers, which make gardeners swoon,

…and bees work.

The foliage is a lovely blue-grey, soft and slightly sticky, but a perfect partner for the salvia blooms.

 

I like oregano–a lot.  Pollinators like oregano (and other herbs) blooms–a lot.  The teeny-tiny, frothy white flowers of oregano are in full bloom mode right now and pollinators are all over them.

My honeybees are especially fond of oregano flowers.   I wonder if their oregano-derived honey can be used on pizza?

 

Big red sageSalvia penstemonoides, started blooming this month and will bloom throughout summer.   My camera doesn’t quite catch the beauty of the magenta coloring of this salvia flower, but it’s a show-stopper.    Native only to the Edward Plateau of Central Texas, this plant was thought to be extinct, but was then discovered blooming in south Austin in the 1980s.  Fortunately for Austin gardeners, it’s easy to grow from seed and some local nurseries have made plants available.

During its summer blooming period, hummingbirds, mostly female Black-chinned and Ruby-throated, visit mine.

 

Happy June blooms and many thanks to Chloris of The Blooming Garden and her celebration of monthly blooms.  This ends National Pollinator Week  here in the United States.  Readers from elsewhere–you were probably wondering why I was beating the pollinator drum! Gardeners are usually close to and aware of their  environment, so I’m probably preaching to the choir, but if you don’t plant for pollinators–do!  You’ll be amazed at who shows up and pleased at how pollinators and all wildlife bring life to your garden.

From left to right: Red Yucca, Yarrow, Rock Rose, Big Red Sage.