It took years for Blazing star(Liatris) to really get going in my seed meadow gardens. For years I saw no sign of the plant but lately I’ve noticed not only many of them but lots of butterflies and skippers feeding on them. I was at the farm yesterday doing insect survey work for a couple of hours and there were hundreds butterflies flittering back and forth through the field: sulfurs, fritillaries, a few species of swallowtails and several species of skippers, all sporting big grins. It was pretty distracting actually since I am all enamored with them and would stop and photograph occasionally. There were lots of species of bees and wasps and other assorted nectar fans. And there were predators, waiting in the flowers for a meaty delight to come fluttering along. I will never for get how I saw once, a butterfly gracefully flying from flowers to flower and then he began acting kind of oddly as it landed on a nearby flower. On closer inspection, I found a praying mantis devouring that sucker like it was a barbecued rib! yum yum! creepy, actually.
Most people don’t realize how very little vegetation is left to support these specialized critters. Most of the “wild” areas that you think are “wild” maybe be so, but the species diversity is most often on a level that would be considered poor to awful, and support very little wildlife diversity. We humans(some of us) are just getting the fact that, despite biologists talking and writing about it for nearly 100 years, our natural areas are in dire need of our help.
I saw a recent presentation by local author Charlotte Seidenberg at the Longue View House and Gardens and she quoted Mark Plotkin, the famous ethnobotanist and ecologist and native New Orleanian, who said “Conservation is not just about protecting exotic species in distant national parks–it should begin in our backyard.” Charlotte’s book on this subject is a wonderful piece of work(off the chain, as the youngsters say) and one that applies specifically to Louisiana and the immediate central gulf coastal rim. check it out…”The Wildlife Garden: Planning Backyard Habitats”. http://www.amazon.com/The-Wildlife-Garden-Planning-Backyard/dp/0878058354
(click on photos to enlarge)
above: swallowtail butterfly nectaring on blazing star at Meadowmakers Farm, Pearl River County, Mississippi
We ecologists are slowly making some headway in bringing-awareness in this department. Over the years, I have seen people find interest and enjoyment in the “wild things”, and that is encouraging.
What’s particularly encouraging for me is the interest that folks have in restoring the complex systems of habitat that once were, on properties big and small. This subject has been a passion of mine for many of years, as it is for a whole slew of folks that have guided and helped me in my work and in building my business.
above: many folks showed up for the filed trip at the Farm this past May 4. It was a combined trip with the Louisiana and Mississippi Native Plant Societies. click on photo to enlarge. photo by Dr. Tammy Greer
Dr. Charles Allen showed up for the field day and was kind enough to lead us through the fields, interpreting what he saw. People and critters came from near and far to make the proverbial scene.
above: one happy upside down nectar-sucking bee on antelope horn milkweed, at the Farm