World Views: Sunflowers have a new meaning at the end of February 2022

“Put sunflower seeds in your pockets so sunflowers grow here when you die.”

Sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine, a country most had not given much thought to, has now become a symbol of resistance, unity, and hope. Sunflowers had been planted at a Ukraine missile base after the removal of nuclear weapons in 1996. Now, much of social media is sporting brilliant yellow sunflowers and the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine. We have a different view of these colors, these flowers, Ukraine, war, nuclear weapons, and our world.

Thinleaf Sunflower in UV

When I first started my “World Views: Pollinators & Plants project a few years back, it was to give a glimpse of what we humans see, or don’t see, and what many of the wild ones can see. I am not a fan of studio or portrait setups so the ultraviolet and high-key images have been a challenge. Maybe in seeing those other world views we can come to understand how important the world we often overlook really is. We have a lot to learn. About ourselves, others, and all life around us.

Finally, many are paying attention and seeing what bravery, kindness, passion, compassion, and solidarity are.

During this week, 2/28/22 to 3/4/22, of invasive species awareness and turmoil in Ukraine, plan on planting some sunflower seeds or plants this spring season. March 2, 2022 day 6 of the attempted invasion and war on Ukraine by Russia — as the world unites to support them in so many ways. Will it be enough?

Thinleaf Sunflower, Helianthus decapetalus is a native to much of the northeast to the central US, but there are so many wonderful Helianthus out there! The numerous species of bees, flies, butterflies, beetles, bugs, aphids, leafhoppers, grasshoppers, moths, songbirds, gamebirds, crows, voles, moles, groundhogs, deer, and others will appreciate the treats! If something isn’t eating your plants there is a problem!

Star-of-Bethlehem and Andrena in Early Spring

Star-of-Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum, are white flowers, a mere ¾ inch, with a pleasant scent that adds a two-week carpet of white to the mornings of the early spring garden. This aggressive little ornamental was introduced from its native range in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. A handful of bulbs were brought to my yard by a friend many years ago. I’ve been pulling plants out of my garden ever since.

Was it just pollen or also a nibble that this Andrena was after?

The name Ornithogalum means “bird’s milk” and a number of common names also hint at its significance with having been around dating back 2000 years. “Bird’s milk” and “dove dung” bring to mind a resemblance to bird poop, “White Field Onion” due to similarities to onion and garlic species, “nap-at-noon” as the flowers close in the afternoon, and “snowflake” because of the number of white flowers in the patch. It is said there are references in the Bible of trading bulbs during the famine, a source of food during the Crusades, or souvenirs of pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Star-of-Bethlehem also has uses in Turkish cuisine, medicines in India, and herbals in Britain. So just to make things confusing, this ‘edible’ plant can be baked into bread, used in aromatherapy, or as a treatment for congestive heart failure but it is also known to be toxic to humans and livestock. O. umbellatum also appears in Leonardo da Vinci’s Leda and the Swan painting. With such a long history maybe I should leave some in my garden?

I imagine the little mining bees of the Andrena species that venture out of their ground tunnels when temperatures reach between 40-50 degrees don’t mind. They do need a bit of sunshine and some lounging on a warm rock or pile of leaves to warm their bodies to 50-60 degrees for flight and going about foraging and pollinating the early plants. There are some 550 species of Andrena in the United States and 700 species in Europe and northern Asia. They range in size from small (1/4”) to medium (¾) and with colors from gray to brown to red. Some of these Andrena are generalists, some specialists, and some strict specialists in their flower or vegetation choices. There are those that visit trees, such as maples and willows, those that like only certain sunflowers or those that visit any species of sunflower, and those that visit the blueberries, apples, cranberries, and onions that we enjoy in our diets. I don’t know what species of Andrena may have been on my Star-of-Bethlehem and whether it was what took the bite of the petal. Possibly someday I’ll take some time to see if I can narrow in but until then I am okay with simply Andrena. I imagine since all my years of pulling have not diminished the density of the flowers in my garden, they need not worry about having some plants to visit in my yard. Now that I know I just may leave a few more bulbs for them to enjoy than I have in years past.

Star of Bethlehem in UV light
Star of Bethlehem is beautiful under ultraviolet light

Bee in Love! With Phlox!

Yes, I’ve posted “Bee in Love” before but it fluttered by as I was doing a cleanup this morning. I do like this image! Phlox is a plant that can be found in many gardens. It is enjoyed by butterflies, skippers, moths, Syrphid flies, some beetles, caterpillars, possibly a rabbit, groundhog or deer, and yes bees. Take a look at the varieties listed on Go Botany and see the native and non-native to CT varieties. When I first decided on planting native I found it harder than I’d imagined. I often found myself extending out to include those varieties in nearby states and those possibly moving on up as our climate changes to include the warmth they enjoy. Stay well!

Phlox on Go Botany:

To see some additional insect images visit my website. Excuse the messiness as I’ve let it go without updates and organization for too long. Oh, the list of images “to file” is still long, so visit again as they will be uploaded soon! SophieZylaPhotoSZ: are available as prints on assorted papers and in a variety of sizes as well as greeting cards. Message me for info or order from my website. Sophie Zyla/All rights reserved

Star of Bethlehem: Beautiful Alien

Star-of-Bethlehem came into my garden when our swimming pool first came down and I was in need of some plants. A gardener I’d known brought these invasive little beauties over. I’d told her I really wanted native and things that would not take over but she claimed the bulbs are so easy to simply pull up. Well years later they continue to spread and I continue to pull. Pretty? Yes, but possibly they should remain in Europe and the Mediterranean where they originally came from.

Star-of-Bethlehem is not part of my ultraviolet exhibit as the focus is on plants that are native to New England, or at least the adjacent states. It sure is pretty and it is thought bees are the pollinators. While that may sound good keep in mind not all nectar is created equal. We would not consider orange juice and soda to have the same nutritional value. Nor should we assume it attracts all or at least some beneficial insects as they can be fussy about what they want to taste.

I will have to gather my camera gear and take a closer look at visitors in April when these once again take up their mission of conquering all the open garden space they can.

It is always a surprise to see the world through the ultraviolet light that our wild ones would see. The commonplace green foliage and white flower transform into something hard to predict or imagine.

I am presently in the midst of a website overhaul and updating so excuse the messiness. If you would like to see a few more of the series they are found at:…/G0000ARKh.ktD_Z0

Prints are available on a variety of papers. For the exhibit, I used a Hahnemuhle metallic cotton rag baryta because of the way the brilliant flowers stood out against the black and the edges tear nicely into jagged edges. Message any questions.

World Views: Jacob’s Ladder & Pollinators

If only we could see the world as wild ones do, would we dare to care?

Jacob’s Ladder is such a dainty beauty in a color I love. Plant it and they will come I’ve heard. That early and still a bit chilly May morning when I first sat with this plant I watched as the tiny bees did make their visits! Not all bees visit all plants. There are over 300 species of bees in CT so getting to know them all is a challenging task, especially with sizes ranging down to so tiny they are hard to distinguish. Yet, they are such an important part of keeping an ecosystem going, and unfortunately, they are declining. To learn more click on the link to “Pollinators in Connecticut” from the DEEP.…/Lear…/Pollinators-in-Connecticut

Some of the visitors to Jacob’s Ladder include honeybees, bumblebees, little carpenter bees, mason bees, cuckoo bees, Halictid bees, Andrenid bees, Giant Bee Fly, butterflies, skippers, moths, and aphids. Think Spring! Plan your gardens with at least some native perennials to enjoy through the changing seasons. Shop native at places like Earth Tones Nursery when they open in the spring or order seeds from such as Prairie Moon where you can see a map of natives for your area.

Explore the Native Plant Trust website where you can find so much information!

This morning I’m sitting at my computer by my second-floor window listening to the Red-shouldered Hawk call in the distance and watching the birds at my bird feeders. There is so much in our immediate area to keep us busy, safe from covid, and distracted from a world that has gone mad which we have little control over. Stay safe and well and enjoy all our blessings.

World Views: Red and Black Chokeberry

World Views: If only we can see the world as others do. Would we dare to care?

Red, and Black Chokeberry are just a lovely welcome of white flowers to see in April, for both me and the numerous early small bees and flies as well. August to November brings lovely red berries and red leaves. Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Bobwhite, Ring-necked Pheasant, Black-capped Chickadee, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing, Common Grackle, and Eastern Meadowlark are a few. It is never too early to think of spring plantings! Red Chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia under Ultraviolet light

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