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Saturday, August 15, 2009

809 Bloom Day #2: the Fennel and the Katydid

Fennel? you say. Not often cited as a fancy eye-catching bloom, the tiny yellow flowers could be described as ethereal, even non-descript. Nevertheless, taken as a group the flat-topped umbrella shaped inflorescences make interesting patterns as they tower overhead on top of the six- to eight-foot tall stalks of this bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum').

Fennel is a member of the plant family I know as Umbelliferae, those of the umbels, the hollow stems, and the aromatic leaves and seeds; such noteworthies as dill, celery, caraway, cilantro, carrot, parsley, angelica, anise, and of course Queen Anne's lace, all of which attract lots of insects in a small unassuming way. Syrphid flies, assassin bugs, aphids, pirate bugs, katydids, smaller butterflies such as skippers and brush footed species, as well as the unnamed plant bugs all find these flowers attractive whether as a direct food source or a great hunting ground for those attracted by the flowers. This unidentified spider has been making an easy living off of the bloom of low-hanging aphids ripe for picking.

Katydids seem to like eating fennel flowers. This female Scudderia furcata nymph can and may eat her way through this entire inflorescence. Or she might get spooked and hop off to a different one nearby.

A much younger S. furcata investigates a fallen tecomaria blossom, both temporarily captured inside a dried fennel umbel, displaying the architectural beauty of these seemingly insignificant flowers.

And the fennel umbels make beautiful shadows on whatever is below, in this case a leaf of salvia madrensis, a species tall enough to cohabit the same airspace as the fennel.

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