September Meadows, 2019

September meadows showcase a lengthy sequence of bloom and the nectaring insects  attracted to the floral display. Goldenrods dominate early, followed by a beautiful palette of asters. This season, monarchs and red admirals were the most common butterfly visitors.

Monarch on goldenrod

Red Admiral on goldenrod

By mid September, the goldenrod bloom begins to fade as flowers go to seed and earth tones replace the golden yellow of fresh blossoms.

Sulphur on the fading bloom of goldenrod

The aster bloom seems to occur overnight, magically, in places where you didn’t even know there were asters. It is a fitting finale to the summer wildflower season and a timely food source for countless insects.

Aster, standing tall in a sea of goldenrod

Monarch approaching an aster to feed

Monarch on aster, with a background of goldenrods

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Dew-covered aster on a chilly September morning

An anglewing on aster

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.

Swallowtail Delight

It wasn’t all that long ago that I walked late summer meadows, mesmerized by the colorful show of monarch orange on goldenrod yellow. The event was predictable, and I took it for granted. The monarchs are mostly gone now, the curtain nearly closed. In later years, I read of the threatened status of Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies in a more southern state but, this time around, I did not take my frequent personal encounters with the species for granted. I captured everything – food plants, caterpillars, perching adults, feeding adults, and mating adults. A lesson had been learned. Butterflies are indicators of environmental health, particularly habitat degradation and loss, and many species are vulnerable. I now feel a sense of urgency when observing butterflies, and am compelled to seize the moment with a visual recording.

Currently, Tiger Swallowtails, a common butterfly in areas with deciduous trees and shrubs, are actively feeding on the nectar of Dame’s Rocket, a garden escapee that has become very prominent and widespread in natural areas. I searched the bloom for butterfly activity in mid to late morning (prime time), trying to capture elements of the erratic, fluttering flight pattern and vibrant coloration of these beautiful butterflies.

Click on an image and let’s go nectaring!!!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Dame’s Rocket

It seems that whenever I search for flowering plants to photograph I find myself having to “man up” and admit that I’m fond of aliens. The blooms of Wild Domestic Apple, Autumn Olive, Black Locust and, now, Dame’s Rocket, have all been impressive — and not one of these plants is native to this area.

Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis; Mustard family) is everywhere now, especially on disturbed sites with moist soils – abandoned fields, forest openings and edges, the neglected borders of lawns, etc. Native to Eurasia and introduced over 200 years ago, it is now widely distributed across most of North America. Extensive, nearly pure stands are common and, in late spring, a dominant landscape feature.

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A naturalized stand of Dame’s Rocket, showing the wide range of flower colors typical of the species

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A nearly pure stand of Dame’s Rocket on the moist floodplain of a small stream

Dame’s Rocket is easily mistaken for a garden Phlox. An alternate leaf arrangement and 4 petals distinguish it from this plant group, which has opposite leaves and 5 petals.

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The Forest Invasive Plants Resource Center is keeping a watchful eye on the spreading Dame’s Rocket, monitoring the “invasion” to determine threats to native flora and fauna.  I monitor Dame’s Rocket for it’s natural beauty and, more importantly, the impressive array of colorful wildlife species that are attracted to the prolific, fragrant bloom.

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Giant Swallowtail nectaring on Dame’s Rocket, 9June14; an unusual, if not rare, sighting in the Northeast

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Flower Spider, an ambush predator, on Dame’s Rocket

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Tiger Swallowtail nectaring on Dame’s Rocket

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.