the late season flower rush

Fall is definitely here. Leaves are changing. Temperatures are dropping… though not by much yet it seems. But there’s a good chance of our first freezing temperatures Friday night.

For many creatures who make their living during the “growing season,” the rush is on. Time to fatten up, migrate, mate, and/or reproduce ASAP.

You can now see the last of the late-season flowers on the landscape. Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) and Asters (Symphiotrichum spp.) are two abundant native taxa. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is our last woody species to bloom, usually in late fall but their subtle blossoms have been reported as late as Christmas time. Heck, my apple tree even flowered last week! I think it’s confused.

The blue-winged wasp (Scolia dubia) is a beautiful and common late-season insect, feeding here on some Riddell’s Goldenrod (Solidago riddellii) in my front lawn in late 2017. The mamas lay eggs on Japanese Beetles grubs, which their larva will consume.

I’ve been watching insects frenetically mob these decreasing-number of flowers and plants. Lots of bumblebees, blue-winged wasps (photo above, plus see this great link), and last night, a couple migratory Monarch butterflies (who flew away before I could get a photo).

But anyway, the flower that inspired this post was this beautiful red Dahlia:

Bumblebee nectaring on Dahlia flower, Oct 9, 2018.

Now, I am very passionate about my ecological beliefs, but I try not to be “fundamentalist” about it. I like to extol the many benefits of getting native plants on the landscape, plants which evolved complex relationships with the rest of the web of life, but non-native plants certainly provide a level of ecosystem services.

I like Dahlias for several reasons. They are beautiful, require little care, need no fertilizer, and don’t seem to spread or seed. They have long and late bloom periods, and I always find bumblebees on them. This perennial is not not cold-hardy in our area so I just grab the tubers before the hard frosts come and store easily in a bucket in the garage. Come spring, I just lazily plop them in spare spots around the yard and wait for them to pop up and surprise me! This is just a little extra work, but beats having them spread out of control where I don’t want them I suppose.

Fall is a desperate time for pollinators, so I really like the consistent and abundant blooms of the Dahlia. Bumblebees don’t seem to much mind which flower it is, as long as the nectar and pollen are available.

As one last aside, I had a student worker gather acorns recently, which we’ll sow on some degraded land. I came into the office this Monday to find these little grubs crawling all over my office. Apparently there was some insect that had laid eggs inside the acorns of this White Oak (Quercus alba).

Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice (Ps. 96:12)

2 Replies to “the late season flower rush”

  1. Sr. Linda Volk

    Dave Fehrer who works in Grounds was telling me the other day about how he prepares for ice-fishing by gathering acorns and waits for the “grubs” to come out of them. According to Dave they make excellent bait to use when ice fishing! It was good to see a great picture of what he was referring to.

    Reply

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