Monday, July 16, 2012

Early Summer Blooms

Bees visit American Bellflower in both sunny
and shady locations
Now that we are getting into the hot days of summer, blooming of many native plants and the associated pollinator activity are picking up.  Here at home I saw my first Monarch Butterfly in many years.  You'll have to take my work for it, since it was gone by the time I got my camera.

One plant that has been blooming for awhile is the American Bellflower, Campanulastrum americanum.  This is particularly attractive to a medium sized black bee, probably a Miner Bee.  This plant blooms nearly as well in the shade as it does in the sun.

This Miner Bee is the primary visitor to the Bellflower
This Miner Bee draws nectar from the open face of the flower.  To do this it lands on the stamen and style of the flower.  Apparently the flower's stigma is situated to receive pollen from the bee as it makes its approach to the flower.

Nearby, on the sunny side of the driveway the Echinacea is in full bloom.  These attract a variety of pollinators, such as this Green Sweat Bee.  The Meadowsweet, Spiraea latifoia, has finished it's first round of blooms.  This year I cut some of the plants back significantly to keep the growth in check.  (I'm pretty sure it will put out a second growth.)  So for now the bees will be visiting other flowers for pollen and nectar.

It's interesting to note that with all the activity on the native flowers, I have seen very few insects visiting the flowers on my nearby shrub rose (other than a couple of Japanese Beetles).

Another early bloomer in the dry shade of my Norway Maple is Rosin Weed, Silphium integrifolium.  I chose this species of of Silphium because it does not get as big as the more familiar Cup Plant, S. perfoliatum.  This plant has slowly been expanding its mass, but I have not seen it show up in other parts of the garden.

A Hover Fly monitoring a cluster of Rosinweed blooms.

The flowers on this particular plant tend to form on the shady side.
This makes for a difficult photograph.

A new native annual that I'm trying out this year is Partridge Pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata.  This plant will grow in poor, dryish soils.  So far I'm favorably impressed.  One grouping that I planted near a highway is growing and blooming, despite receiving no additional moisture, other than the small amount of rain this summer.  Like its relative the Sensitive Plant, its leaves will fold up when the plant is handled roughly.  The leaves also fold up when it gets dark.  I wonder if this behavior helps it to survive under dry conditions (by limiting transpiration).

Some drifts are still intact, like the lavender-color Beebalm, Monarda fistulosa;
the orange Butterflyweed has blown over from another part of the
Wildflower Meadow at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
A Monarch Butterfly passing over
some Beebalm and Hoary Vervain

Over at Mount Auburn Cemetery, in Cambridge, MA, there is a good sized native wildflower meadow installed about 5 years ago.  Here I have seen many more butterflies than in my urban backyard.  This meadow features a number of native grasses as well as many showy flowering plants.  The original planting had the plants arranged in drifts, but the management plan is to let the plants move around as they will, to create a dynamic garden with plants finding there best locations.

In another part of the cemetery I noticed this Bottlebrush Buckeye, Aesculus parviflora, in full bloom.  While native to the Southeastern US, this shrub is very attractive to the bees up in the Northeast.  I spent some time watching how the bees interacted with the flower.  It was more like a mugging than a gentle approach to sip some nectar.  The bee grabs onto to the outside of the flower and extracts nectar from between the petals and the calyx.  In the process the bee's abdomen rubs all over the anthers and the stigma, thus achieving pollination of the flower.  

This bee on the Buckeye flower is about 1.5" long.

Other flowers are about to open up here, like the Scarlet Sage, Woodland Sunflower and Prairie Coneflower, so the show has only just begun.

1 comment:

Karyl said...

Bottlebrush buckeye is a personal favorite. I love love love this shrub. I don't have any on my new property and have been hunting for it but looks like I will need to order it over the winter. That's a nice specimen you photographed.