My neighbor, naturalist Patrice Gribble-Fetter, was on TV this week, sharing about the Monarch research and support going on at Old Maryland Farm.
The farm grows milkweed expressly for the Monarchs. See how they tag the butterflies, and also film clips of the huge migrations to Mexico.
I also learned about the Baltimore Checkerspot, a threatened Maryland butterfly with similarly gorgeous coloration.
They like stream fed wet meadows and are found in the western uplands of Maryland. They like to eat milkweed but their key plant is the white turtlehead, I flower I see in the wetlands of Southern Maryland. Alas these beauties aren’t thriving around here anymore. They have a really striking chrysalis.
The iconic Monarch butterfly certainly made an impression on my young self. Late in August we’d be out floating on the pristine marsh rivers of Ontario, picnicking after a swim, and in the balmy afternoon breeze a flutter of orange would catch my eye, brilliant against the teal green water.
In those days I didn’t realize the Monarchs traveled from Canada to Mexico on their monumental migration. I was impressed enough it would head out across the 30-mile span of Lake St. Clair.
These beautiful and inspiring creatures are facing multiple survival challenges from commercial agriculture, deforestation and climate change.
What you can do:
•Create a habitat in your own garden and in your community. Plant milkweed (Asclepias L), the only species that Monarch caterpillars will cocoon upon. Invite and protect the flashy caterpillars and their homesand you can enjoy the Monarchs rebirth in late summer.
Please do not use pesticides or herbicides in your garden or lawn. These chemicals have a devastating effect on not only monarchs but all pollinators, the creatures that make our food grow. For assistance with organic gardening practises click HERE.
And, tell me your Monarch stories. I’m sure you’ve got some!
This is a reblog from the NewYorker.com. Please follow the link to read the complete article. Who knew fig reproduction was so unusual?
Bite a fig in half and you’ll discover a core of tiny blossoms.
All kinds of critters, not only humans, frequent fig trees, but the plants owe their existence to what may be evolution’s most intimate partnership between two species. Because a fig is actually a ball of flowers, it requires pollination, but because the flowers are sealed, not just any bug can crawl inside. That task belongs to a minuscule insect known as the fig wasp, whose life cycle is intertwined with the fig’s. Mother wasps lay their eggs in an unripe fig. After their offspring hatch and mature, the males mate and then chew a tunnel to the surface, dying when their task is complete. The females follow and take flight, riding the winds until they smell another fig tree. (One species of wasp, in Africa, travels ten times farther than any other known pollinator.)
When the insects discover the right specimen, they go inside and deposit the pollen from their birthplace. Then the females lay new eggs, and the cycle begins again. For the wasp mother, however, devotion to the fig plant soon turns tragic. A fig’s entranceway is booby-trapped to destroy her wings, so that she can never visit another plant. When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.
The fig and the fig wasp are a superlative example of what biologists call codependent evolution. The plants and insects have been growing old together for more than sixty million years. Almost every species of fig plant—more than seven hundred and fifty in total—has its own species of wasp. But codependence hasn’t made them weak, like it can with humans. The figs and fig wasps’ pollination system is extremely efficient compared with that of other plants, some of which just trust the wind to blow their pollen where it needs to go. And the figs’ specialized flowers, far from isolating them in an evolutionary niche, have allowed them to …
Baldwin describes the act of drawing as a powerful means to know something on an intimate level, whether it be a single flower or an entire landscape.
In an increasingly disconnected and attention-deficient world, sketching the veins on a leaf or the mountains out the living room window can help ground us in place and time, train our gaze towards the ordinary beauty we would otherwise skim over.
While her finished illustrations are stunning, Baldwin stresses the importance of process over product. “Regardless of what the final drawing looks like,” she writes, “I always see more when I draw.”
Do you sketch when you travel? Document flowers and bugs in your garden? Tell us about it, share your work!
At this moment of Equinox (latin ‘equal night’), the Northern Hemisphere crosses out of winter. Preparations for Passover and Easter are underway. Dormant buds are preparing, or indeed bursting, into bloom. I’m poised for my annual cherry blossom painting frenzy. The ospreys returned last Thursday, immediately busying themselves with nest-building.
All living creatures respond to the change. Bob Wells, long time van dweller, (he writes the blog Cheap RV Living) heard that Death Valley was experiencing an unusual ‘Super Bloom,’ and earlier this month pointed his mobile household west.
From Bob’s Blog:
“Once you’ve spent some time in the desert and opened your soul to hear it’s unspoken message, you quickly come to see how very tiny and puny we are in the grand scheme of things.
“The desert has stood in one place with very little change not just for tens of thousands of years, but for thousands of millenniums. It’s ancient wisdom laughs at our insignificant discoveries. In a moments time it could snuff us out like the locusts we are.”
“When I step out of my van in the morning and look around in a 360 degree circle, the sheer immensity of it’s size humbles me. It would take me days of walking to reach the distant mountains and many more days of walking to reach the next distant mountains. To reach them all would take me many months of walking and I would be dead before I reached them unless I give the desert the respect it demands and learned and followed it’s ways.”
There’s a big red tailed hawk sitting in the oak tree on the edge of the bay. I’m across the road, but from here I can see her cock her head, look from one side to the other. She’s rosy in the morning light, and fluffed up in the cold, looking like a small chicken, kind of sweet, or at least innocuous. But she’s there watching my neighbor’s big bird feeder that hangs about 15 feet away. This beautiful bird, soft feathers, warm breast, and bright eyes, is a ruthless killer.
If you haven’t read Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk, you should. Especially if you’re a fan of raptors, or someone who’s grieved a parent. But it will forever dash your romanticism about the noble hawk.
The book is Helen’s personal saga of raising and training Mabel, a goshawk. The process of training this fierce creature to come to her command after hunting is not for the squeamish. Mabel eats frozen dead chicks at home, but her preferred meals involve lots of fresh blood.
So I understand the calm, focused, vigil of this bird. She keeps glancing right, eyeing that bird feeder for her best moment to grab breakfast. I know the folks who live in that house; if they see the event, they will exclaim in horror, ‘oh the poor little birdies!’ But I’m cheering for the hawk; it’s worth knowing she will, for one more day, sit somewhat sated in the afternoon light, preening those ruddy feathers.