Yesterday we went on one of our bug hunts. And while we are out, we cannot help but take note of all the other things going on in the habitats that we visit. I have mentioned it many times in previous nature-themed diaries, the Monarch Migration. I am concerned that there will be inadequate food for their migration to Mexico as they pass through Oklahoma and possibly everywhere else as well. I am concerned, due to the fact that so many nectar sources are blooming off schedule, often so early, that in my area, some will have gone to seed before the main body of the migration will reach us.
Monarchs, like the bees are suffering due to loss of forage, habitat, and being relentlessly exposed to chemicals and GMOs.There may come a time when I and my children have to convince future generations that butterflies of any kind, migrated at all.
The same things that we can do to help our bees, will also help our monarchs and other pollinators as well. In fact, I think it's time to introduce you to the concept of Guerrilla Gardening.
It's yet another way, to [dare I say it?] Occupy our Habitat! My favorite is purchasing indigenous wildflower seeds and making seed-balls, and then launching them out the window onto road sides. Others refer to these as Seed Bombs.
In my area, we would buy seeds for Indian Blankets, Tickseed, Sunflowers, Milkweed, Asters, Iron Weed, Phacelia, and Bee Balm.
I like to gather some wild. I often gather Spotted Mint, Gold Waxweed Seeds, an indigenous morning glory, and Golden Crown and Beards [a kind of Aster]. What you gather for your area may be different.
Just don't use invasive species! Try and find local species that will thrive in your area and not upset the what little balance we have left in these green spaces.
In my fantasy word, I want to encourage Pollinator Corridors to be created in communities nationwide. This can incorporate roadsides, and medians, yards of private citizens, protected areas, and public spaces that could be green and floral if only for a little bit of effort in choosing hardy, local plants that are right for local climates.
I am worried that even if many of us took such measures, that with our changing climate, that may not be enough.
This is iron weed. And it's very early and already going to seed. This plant and it's neighbors, peaked some time in the middle of last week. This is bad. Because Ironweed is normally a very important food source for migrating monarch butterflies and of course bees in the height of summer.
The photo below, also Iron weed, was taken last year.
Only this photo was from July 25 and not June 22nd. That is quite a discrepancy in bloom dates. These photos were taken of plants in the same area. One thing this year has taught me, is that some plants are triggered by soil temperatures and others by the passage of time. Most seem more sensitive to temperature than time when it comes to producing blooms which is why so many plants have been early this year.
It is going to seed. This is also an important source of food for monarchs. I also see it visited by carpenter bees and sweat bees. But more importantly, because it's a milkweed, it is also an important host plant for monarch larvae.
This photo is from 2009, right around the same time of the year, June 12. This one has newly opening flowers, and some aging seed pods. Normally the plant produces 2 to 4 branches that bloom at slightly staggered times. This didn't happen this year.
They seemed to mostly go to seed all at once. Even the individual plants usually bloom and go to seed in staggered intervals. As I walk the roadsides, I see only empty seed pods, no blooms. I am hoping that with the adequate moisture, that perhaps these and other plants will produce an second bloom, like we saw with some Black Locusts this year.
This is a photo from the same time of the year. You can tell the blooms are new, by the delicate lavender color of the bracts. As the flowers age, the spotted tongues turn a darker beige and shrivel, and the lavender bracts turn a dirty yellow to off white. This flower is favored by Bumble Bees and Wasps. And it seems extremely drought resistant. This was one of the few flowers you could blooming last year, when everything was dead or dying. Still, it is peaking early.
All but one kind of sunflower have peaked, some have died back and already gone to seed this year. This photo is from July 24th 2011.
In the wild places, I don't see many Sunflowers right now. I did about 2 weeks ago. When I returned yesterday, I saw nothing. Like they had never been there. In one area, I did see some clumps of seedlings, so we may yet get a second bloom in the fall. How big that second bloom will be is anyone's guess. But there is good news.
I saw many sunflowers [many more than usual] being grown in yards in the urban and suburban areas.
To give you an idea, I had a bird feeder that dropped some seed. A volunteer sunflower sprouted, grew to about 5 feet and them bloomed, a month ago with no cultivation. The head on it, is about half seed now. The rest of the sunflowers I planted at the usual time, are just now blooming, and some are peaking. so wild Sunflowers appear to be about a month ahead. But perhaps with all the urban and suburban plantings, there might be a glimmer of hope along with the possibility of a second crop if our fall is a long season.
There is one unique specimen that isn't wildly early. I always called it Woolly Sunflower, but an online search indicates that is not the correct name. I called it that, because there are bits of "silk" that come off of this plant during the blooming season. It only grows to about 2 to 3 feet in height, and produces 3 to 5 flowers per stalk vertically. The Bumble Bees and Butterflies love this flower.
It is only just beginning to bloom.
The following picture is from August of 2012.
The butterfly visiting the flower is a Grey Hairstreak.
The St John's Wort is right on time.
It is known for blooming at the Summer Solstice. And the Passion flowers are also blooming along with the pale white Rose of Sharon.
Next week, Central Oklahoma is expecting triple digit weather. So I will be getting out the shade cloth for the Tomatoes, because I want to keep them from burning up and I want to encourage pollination. With shade cloth and a mister, I can lower the temperature so that the pollen will still be viable.
My melons and pumpkins and squash though, they will love this heat and should go nuts!
Another flower that appears to be on time, indigenous morning glories. Their blooms are larger and they are the palest pink or white with a magenta center.
I recently gathered seeds from some roadside clumps. I want to see what pollinators will visit these blooms.
The lizards are out in force. I see a lot of these little guys all over the place. So food must be plentiful this season.
This appears to be some kind of Whiptail Lizard. I am Still hoping to see the once common, Horny Toad in these parts. So far, we have been looking for years and seen not one at all. Hard to believe I used to see them everywhere. They live on ants, and guess what local lawn enthusiasts like to kill as often as possible, in order to maintain the illusion of control over nature?
I often get loads of comments from people reporting similar oddities regarding bloom times in their areas, from coast to coast. Honestly I would like to encourage you all to write a diary about it, you can name the region in your state, [I am in Central Oklahoma] and if you can compare photographs and dates, do so. It will deepen the conversation. Even if everything is right on time, we need to know that too.
If you like to take photographs of flowers, especially wildflowers, then you might have more documentation to examine than you realize.
9:51 AM PT: I have had a crazy and possibly, unrealistic idea. What if people started stratifying Milkweed, and then threw it out side in areas to take root, when they are supposed to emerge, so that we get two crops, one that is early because of climate creep and one that is cultivated to ensure food for the monarchs?
On a parallel track with the theme of this diary:
"The bloom has implications for the Arctic ecosystem of migratory species of whales and birds. Phytoplankton are eaten by small ocean animals and are at the base of the food chain. The smaller animals are eaten by larger animals in the food chain. A significant change to the timing of these phytoplankton populations can have important consequences on the larger animals up the food chain. "It could make it harder and harder for migratory species to time their life cycles to be in the Arctic when the bloom is at its peak," Arrigo said. "If their food supply is coming earlier, they might be missing the boat." "
"If their food supply is coming earlier, they might be missing the boat. "