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: https://www.sophiezylaphotosz.com/…/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. https://portal.ct.gov/…/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 http://www.earthtonesnatives.com/ or order seeds from such as Prairie Moon where you can see a map of natives for your area. https://www.prairiemoon.com/spring-bloomers

Explore the Native Plant Trust website where you can find so much information! http://www.nativeplanttrust.org/

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.

Willow’s World: A bit about parrots

Willow is a White-fronted or Spectacled Amazon, Amazona albinfrons, from Central America but you may have opportunities to check her species off the list here in the United States. The only endemic species to the USA were the Carolina Parakeet, shootings made it globally extinct, and the Thick-billed Parrot, a Mexican species that extended into Arizona and New Mexico area was extirpated from the USA due mainly to shooting, logging, and development. The Green Parakeet and Red-crowned Amazon are possibly endemic as populations may have been and presently are found in southern Texas.

Parrots and parakeets are not migratory so the majority of them arrived with the commercialization of the pet trade during the 1960s and many managed to escape and became established in entry places such as Miami. Our desire to include exotic flowering and fruiting plants in our habitats and for agriculture allowed tropical species to survive when they discovered some of their preferred fruits, nuts, and vegetation. Captive birds have lost their species’ communications and flocking behavior that would normally help them survive in the wild. Chances are Willow would not survive even if released in Miami, Florida where four pairs of White-fronted Amazon’s had at least six successful fledglings in 2001 or areas of California or Texas where they have been sighted but not known to breed. Phrases I find so endearing such as “Thank you” and “Love you” or “Love you too” would simply not help her find friends to flock and roost with! Willow was imported into the US in 1992 and after 28 years of captivity has little agility or awareness of exactly how to move about the bars and perches of her cage. I continue to move her to the third level of perches from which, after some contemplation, she will find her to level two and ultimately level one. A snack bowl at level three is what entices her as she has no desire to explore otherwise. This 9-10” parrot has 6 bowls scattered on her three levels to keep her waddling across those perches regularly. My way to encourage this little senior to keep moving as she does need her exercise and a variety of perch dimensions for her arthritic feet!

As many of you know, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is underway! I will be out there on very early on Sunday with binoculars, a camera, and a notebook. Data from the CBC and ebird during the years of 2002 to 2016 indicated sightings of 56 species in 43 states with 25 species breeding in 23 states. There were 118,744 unique observations in 19,812 unique locations. Here in CT we have the Monk Parakeet that many like to see and others despise for the noise and large and heavy nests the colonies build. This brings up the complex discussion of introduced, invasive, and naturalized species and whether to manage them or not. There are many who hate European Starlings and House Sparrows that empty the feeders and kill some of our native breeding birds. During the 1970’s wildlife officials, fearing agricultural destruction reduced the Monk Parakeet population by half leaving them to continue to increase. The other commonly seen parrot in the US is the Red-crowned Amazon, a species that is on the IUCN Red List due to its decline in its native range and leading to possible endangered listing in the US.

For the curious, this is the link to the research paper with the species information and a lot more data that can be read for free online: https://link.springer.com/epdf/10.1007/s10336-019-01658-7…

World Views: Cinquefoil in Ultraviolet

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

Cinquefoil attracts small bees and flies for pollen and nectar. Rabbits, groundhogs, deer, and livestock sometimes visit to nibble on the foliage. Cinquefoil is a member of the Rosaceae, or rose, family. A number of native and non-native species are found in New England.

Natives in New England include: Potentilla canadensis or dwart cinquefoil, P. litoralis or coast cinquefoil, P. norvegica or Norwegian cinquefoil, P. robbinsiana or Robbins’ cinquefoil, and P. simplex or common cinquefoil.

Natives to areas of the United States include: P. gracilis or graceful cinquefoil, P. litoralis or coast cinquefoil, P. norvegica or Norwegian cinquefoil, P. pulcherrima or soft cinquefoil, P. rivalis or brook cinquefoil, and P. simplex or common cinquefoiol.

Non-natives include: P. alba or white cinquefoil, P. anglica or English cinquefoil, P. argentea or silver-leaved cinquefoil, P. inclinata or ashy cinquefoil, P. indica or Indian-strawberry, P. intermedia or downy cinquefoil, P. recta or sulphur cinquefoil, P. reptans or creeping cinquefoil, and P. verna or spring cinquefoil.

Does it matter which you plant? That depends on your intent, food for a pollinator, decorative, or fits your particular habitat and garden plan, and whether a plant turns out to be considered an invasive species in your area.

For images, range maps, and more information on each species visit Go Botany: https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/genus/potentilla/

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