Late Summer Gold, 2019

Wildflowers are the perfect bookends to the growing season! Spring ephemerals like trillium and bloodroot introduce spring, while late summer beauties like the goldenrods and asters provide a colorful transition into the dormant season.

Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) dominate fallow fields, forest edges and waste places. There are dozens of species and variations in size and form, some as tall as seven feet. In full bloom, showy clusters of tiny flowers form plumes, wands, clubs and spikes, depending on the species.

The goldenrod bloom creates endless photo opportunities as it frames, attracts and enhances subjects of interest in a single glance. These examples made me smile, and illustrate why I embrace seasons of change.

As August gives way to September, chilly nights and the approach of autumn, the uniform sea of golden yellow is enhanced by the arrival of a vivid palette of asters. And summer’s curtain call is complete.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

 

 

A Closer Look at Late Summer

Sometimes I need to saunter, camera in tow, with no particular destination or photographic agenda. My only serious goal is surviving attacks from biting insects, mosquitoes and deer flies in particular. The slow pace shifts my gaze from distant subjects to the detail landscapes in front of my nose.

I’ve been fascinated by Jewelweed or Touch-me-not forever. Morning dew on Jewelweed blossoms is a late summer event in macro world. A friend calls the plants “poppers” because, like many of us, she remembers squeezing and exploding the mature seed pods as a child. Eventually, I came to fully appreciate the late summer Jewelweed bloom when I watched hummingbirds feeding on the tubular flowers….fueling up just weeks before their lengthy migration.

Knapweed is in full bloom now, preceding the goldenrods and asters by several weeks. It’s a magnet for nectaring insects and adds a little spice to the monochromatic greens of a summer meadow.

Monarchs have been few and far between this summer (?), so I was thrilled to have this specimen pause long enough for a portrait!

A meadow hawk dragonfly at rest on an unopened knapweed flower bud, with knapweed blossoms as a backdrop.

Our common White Admiral, at rest on a spruce branch in morning sun after a crazy,  erratic flight around the yard.

Wild thistles deviate from the norm, flowering and fruiting simultaneously on the same plant. Goldfinch food!

Tiny frogs and toads are now exploring new territory, eating and trying to avoid being eaten. This little Wood Frog could rest comfortably on the end of your thumb.

Cottontails are everywhere this year. These daytime foragers are often seen together and lead me to think they are survivors from a litter that I started photographing in May. Scenes like this one, on my weedy sidewalk, are the main reason I stopped using commercial weed killer a long time ago.

Photos by NB Hunter (August, 2019). © All rights reserved.

Milkweed: plant it and they will come!

In recent years milkweed has received much attention as habitat for dwindling populations of monarch butterflies. Most of the more than 100 species in the Americas are tropical, but one species in particular is a staple of monarchs in the North: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

My backyard milkweed project started in 2015 with a few transplants from a nonproductive, roadside location. Establishment was slow, but they’re now flourishing. Vegetative reproduction by root sprouts has created a colony of about 30 stems and the large, fragrant flower clusters are insect magnets (according to the US Forest Service, over 450 insects are known to feed on some part of the plant, including flower nectar). I focused on the Lepidoptera, attempting to document the variety of butterflies and moths that benefit from flowering milkweed. Multiple benefits from a single management action is a best-case scenario. The value added from a colony of milkweed is much greater than monarch habitat.

I’ve observed 9 or 10 species of butterflies and moths thus far, as well as countless bees, flies and other insects. This is a sample!

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Honeybee

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Monarch

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Tiger Swallowtail

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Cabbage White

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Ctenucha Moth

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Fritillary

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Tiger Swallowtail

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White Admiral

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Monarch

Photos by NB Hunter (early July, 2018). © All rights reserved.

Meadows on Fire: Monarchs and Goldenrods

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Many of the goldenrods are going to seed now and temperatures are falling 20 – 30 degrees at night. Fall is arriving .. and butterfly season is coming to an end. Monarch sightings in September are now a special treat. Warm, sunny afternoons find them nectaring with a purpose and sense of urgency, fluttering from flower to flower, goldenrod to aster, in a fast-paced and unpredictable manner.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Goldenrod Meadows and Summer’s End

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Goldenrod honey in the making

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White Admiral

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Cabbage Whites planning ahead

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A Cabbage White butterfly caught in the web of life; one of two

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Monarchs: a species at risk; one of two

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.