Not Only Butterflies

Along with other contemporary perils, a remarkable habitat in South Texas is threatened by the irrational and incorrect belief that America is being invaded.  It’s not only that a uniquely diverse environment will be demolished, but that ecotourism, which is a huge economic driver of this region, will be seriously impacted.  The National Butterfly Center, as well as Native American gravesites, a historic church, the La Lomita Chapel, and a state park are in the direct pathway of the proposed–and funded–border wall along the Rio Grand River between the United States and Mexico. Sure, cute ‘lil butterflies and birds will lose their habitat and die, and yeah, the endangered Ocelot and Jaguarundi will have difficulty finding their former water source and die, but also private property will be seized and land benefitting many will be fragmented and obliterated for the foreseeable future.

Check out this sweet video of  a Rio Grande River tour with an accompanying explanation of this beautiful and rare area:

 

Our section of heaven on the banks of the Rio Grande River is on the line, threatened by the Border Wall. This once thriving, recreational area has become the center of a battle for a fully militarized zone between Texas and Mexico.  Please enjoy this tranquil and beautiful sunset cruise, as filmed just downriver from the National Butterfly Center, from aboard Captain Johnny’s Riverside Dreamer in Mission, Texas.

To join us in fighting the border wall, which will place the region’s only source of fresh water behind 30 feet of concrete and steel, please go to our GoFundMe page where you can make a donation to our cause. Here is the link: https://www.gofundme.com/protect-the-national-butterfly-cen…

Help us preserve the Lower Rio Grande Wildlife Conservation Corridor and the incredibly rich biodiversity of threatened plants and animals that live here!

Did you know nearly 150 species of North American butterflies can be seen only in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas, or by traveling to Mexico?In fact, more than 300 species of butterflies may be found in the LRGV, and more than 200 species have been seen at the National Butterfly Center, including a number of rarities and U.S. Records! Incredibly, almost 40% of the 700+ butterflies that can be found in the United States can be seen in this three-county area at the southernmost tip of Texas, where the subtropical climate makes it possible to enjoy the outdoors year ’round.

Even if you choose not to donate to the GoFundMe campaign, click and read, as it explains well the travesty of this border wall nonsense.  If nothing else, the list of federal laws being waived for this horror is illuminating– and horrifying.

For more information about how the wall will affect the the environment, the residents, and the immigrants, please read these articles from San Antonio Express-News  , The Washington Post another from The Washington Post, penned by the videographer of the above video and an employee of The National Butterfly Center, and The Guardian.

The Purpling

Days are noticeably shorter now in late August.  Darkness greets my morning alarm and birds are quiet until well after I’m up and about.  Nightfall appears earlier, much more than a mere few weeks ago.  Autumn is palpable, though certainly not with cooler temperatures, at least not here in Central Texas.  Our daily (today marked number 43) century-plus numbers are still in play, but seasonal change is afoot.

This cluster of beauty berries showcases the transformation from green to purple.  The bird poop on the leaves is extra decoration.

In the last couple of weeks, the American beautyberryCallicarpa americana, has slipped out of its summer wardrobe and donned its hooray for autumn swag.  Eye-candy for the gardener and nutritious fruits for birds, the green, clustered drupes, grown since June from the remains of dainty pink blooms, have morphed to brilliant, metallic purple berries.

Green fruits,

…to purple.

This particular shrub in my back garden is about 3 years old and finally exhibiting its graceful arching form.

Berries are cream-to-green, but purple-up over 7-10 days .  Triggered by the maturity of the drupe (and maybe light?), it’s a seasonal change I look forward to each hot August.

It gives me hope for the autumn to come.

Berries gather like bunches of party balloons along the branches of the shrub, the purple overwhelming the green, ready to pop in some lucky bird’s beak.

 

This beautyberry will grow larger, eventually filling the area of this small garden.

 

This beautyberry is the same age as the one above, but I transplanted it to a different spot in my front garden exactly one year ago.

Beautyberry is a good shade plant, though this one receives more sun than the back garden beautyberry. I’ve noticed that it’s grown more quickly, but has also required more water.  In fact, the slight droop of the leaves in this photo indicates a thirsty plant.  Since June, I’ve watered this shrub once per week, significantly more than the back garden beautyberry, which grows in shade.

In my garden, Blue Jays and Mockingbirds are the main consumers of these berries.  Some years, the beautyberry greedy birds descend and devour the berries just as they turn color; other years, the berries remain on the shrub well into winter, the birds obviously getting sustenance somewhere else.

And that’s fine with me.

I prefer those years when the birds let me enjoy the beauty of the berries, at least for a time.

Purple Reign

Purple is the color of the week in my garden.

A purple Spiderwort flanks a potted Ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense), setting the mood for a reign of purple.

 

Oh sure, there’s yellow, red, and orange too, all vying for attention with their look at me! petals and am I not gorgeous? spring-green foliage.  But it’s the purple array of Spiderwort–demonstrating pollinator-driven color and petal variations–that is stealing the wildflower show at this moment in my March garden. 

Some Spiderwort flowers are darker and suggest an affinity for geometric arrangements.

The petals are curling, heralding afternoon heat.

 

Other Spiderwort flowers trend pink, though purple is definitely a part of the petal pedigree.

 

Still other Spiderwort are shy and soft in color, with hint of blue and only a suggestion of exhibitionist purple.

 

The pollinators are busy, busy, busy and Spiderwort blooms are a favorite dining spot!  This diminutive syrphid fly caught my attention as I was chasing a significantly larger butterfly.  I failed at photographing the butterfly, but I followed the syrphid, or flower fly, as it visited several Spiderwort blooms.  The syrphid was a work-horse pollinator at the flowers, spending more time at each bloom than the flighty butterfly.

 

Part of the honey for next season will come from this Spiderwort and its farming honeybee.

Check out Ms. Honeybee’s pollen pantaloons.  The proper name for this part of the honeybee is pollen basket or corbicula, but I prefer my own addition to bee etymology:  pollen pantaloon.

 

Purple reigns in the garden, though it–in the form of Spiderwort–hasn’t quite taken over.  If I want a diverse garden community next year, I’ll need to cull a fair number of these randy Spiderwort plants–they’re rather a promiscuous bunch!    That’s fine, I’ll be donating some to plant swaps and cajoling neighbors into planting some of my extras.  (But will those neighbors ever speak to me again, after they, too, reap the bounty of Spiderwort?)

A stalk of purple passalong iris photobombs the cluster of spiderwort.  In time, this iris and  its compadres will likely  assume the mantle of purple.

Spiderwort: a reign of purple and a prince of flowers.