nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

swallowtails and Alexanders

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Last week we did the first of our forays to get material for a new set of poems I am working on. Our drive took us to the area north of Stanley, and some two-track roads where settlements and home-sites have been abandoned.

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the road to Mavis Mills, an abandoned community

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The main road was busy with butterflies: Papilio canadensis, Canadian tiger swallowtail.  These are familiar butterflies, very similar to the eastern swallowtail, and once considered the same species. The males are yellow with black-rimmed wings (with a dotted yellow stripe in the margin) and four black tiger-stripes on the upper part of each fore-wing.

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The butterflies were congregating on the road near water puddles. They were interested in the muddy areas rather than the water. This behavior is called “puddling” and is a way for the butterfly to get sodium ions and amino acids.

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We took an old, two-track road to the abandoned hamlet of Mavis Mills and found the old settlement house sites. The once-cleared areas were populated by a pretty yellow composite flower, a member of the parsley family: Zizia aurea, golden Alexanders. These plants are usually under 30 inches high, with three serrated leaves (or three leaflets divided further into three’s) and a flat umbel of yellow flowers. The stems are red and the whole plant appears red in the fall. It is a host plant for the caterpillars of species of swallowtail butterflies. The plants grow in wet meadows and abandoned fields.

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field of golden Alexanders in an abandoned settlement

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We had an enjoyable drive, looking at abandoned homesteads and settlements. Since I am a botanist, I am interested in what has happened to the plants that once grew in the gardens of these homes. Some of the plants have vanished, but a few persist at the home-site and a few escape to cover ditches and countryside in bloom.

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an old lilac bush continuing to thrive near an abandoned house

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All my best!

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

June 25, 2018 at 2:59 pm

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