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Friday, February 08, 2008

Cloudless Birthday

So I'm sitting on the stoop in the sun, contemplating my navel and the state of the front garden on my special day. My daughter joins me in chitchat about plants and stuff. I begin to expound on my observation that few if any insects favor the feathery cassia (senna artemisioides) now in full bloom, and how weird that seems since the plant blooms through winter when few others do, and blooms with a fiery ferocity at that, and it smells so sweet there must be nectar, blah blah blah; when a large yellow butterfly flitted by and landed on the cassia. She (the offspring) remarked dryly on how much time this butterfly was spending on the bushes, going from blossom to blossom. Hmm, she (the butterfly) seemed to be laying eggs. After the butterfly moved on across the street, I walked over to the cassia to confirm the egg-laying (yep, I saw a couple single conical greenish eggs on some buds) as she (the offspring again) cautioned me about the numerous honeybees nectaring there among the cassia flowers. Whatever.

It is easy to be wrong when generalizing about insect behaviors and at my age I've learned to relish being found wrong. The cassia is blooming later this year, and we had a spell of summer-like weather just now. The butterfly, a cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae marcellina) is not especially common around here, but uses members of the pea family, notably sennas, as larval food plants. So it would be right and natural, as evidenced by actual events, for this butterfly to frequent my once-lonesome feathery cassia. I'm glad we were able to offer home and sustenance to this lovely creature and am really excitedly awaiting the beautifully colored caterpillars of this species.

As for the bees, they seem to prefer the acacia cultriformis bloom which is just beginning to break, and they really like the gomphrena, but I wouldn't deny they at least sniff at whatever else is in bloom including the feathery cassia. We're happy to help with their nectar and pollen needs.

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