Backyard Wilderness Blog
June 2012
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The photo right shows Great Mullein, (Verbascum thapsis,) in full bloom on the edge of a marsh. I started to crop this view to highlight the plants, but realized that by so doing the peaceful feeling of spaciousness created by the open field in the background would be lost. Here it is, exactly I saw it through the lens. This distinctive biennial plant, so vital to a variety of insects was buzzing with honey bees! It is not native to the Americas, but was rapidly adopted as a respiratory medicinal by Native Americans once it arrived.
Returned to the Blandy Farm, (see page 2 of our July-August 2010 Blog,) near Winchester, Virginia for a short walk on the 11th of June. Confirming what I have known about foraging for a long time, the differences observed here during this visit were drastic compared to previous trips, reminding me that one must return often to the same area to see seasonal and even weather related changes in plant life. This is even more important when looking for mushrooms, as they can come and go in just a matter of days.
The special relationship between ants and peonies is a wonderful example of the amazing interdependencies that have evolved in nature. In the past few decades many discoveries have been made revealing astounding ways in which plants, insects, bacteria, fungi, and other microbes communicate, cooperate, and interact with each other synergistically, for mutual benefit and survival.
Peonies are one of more than sixty plants known to produce a sweet nutrient solution through special glands to attract insects. Ninety-five percent sugar and five percent trace minerals, the secreted nectar of these pink peonies is irresistible to a certain species of black ant, which is turn protects the peonies from harmful insect pests. For you flower gardeners out there, finding ants on your peonies is a good thing. Attempting to eradicate them with pesticides is bad for all!
Photo taken 06-09-12 in Middlesex, Vermont.
With a fragrance that's a little thicker and "perfumier" than that of its cousin Northern Bedstraw, this is Yellow Bedstraw, (Galium verum.) Photo above taken 06-11-12 at Blandy Farm.
Compare the unripe berries in the two photos above. The ones on the left, with flower petals still intact and growing on reddish-brown, thorny stems, 5 to 6 feet long, are blackberries. The one on the right, growing very low to the ground, like a wild strawberry, is Dwarf Raspberry. Both photos taken 06-09-12 in Middlesex, VT.
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