Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Take an insect view...."

Henry D. Thoreau said, "Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain." I try to do that in most of my photographs and be influenced by it in my drawings and paintings. I get a similar feeling when I look over my home town of Quincy from the top of Mt. Hough. From up there, the town looks insignificant. An 18-wheeler is but a speck, much like the insect viewed from human height. Coming into town from the mountain top is similar to getting on the ground and taking an insect view of a particular plant and the bugs that may be living in or on it or visiting. And, what do I look like to them? Probably frightening.
So, today's photos - taken yesterday - involved different perspectives than the usual. Columbine is nearly always viewed and photographed from the side. I found the views from above and below (top two photos) intriguing. The view from below - top photo - in particular helped me imagine being an insect and tempted to enter one of the tubes.
The third and fourth photos from the top are of the Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, and show that it is just beginning to bloom around Quincy. A beautiful flower, and when fully bloomed they have a fragrance that reminds me of peach cobbler just out of the oven. It reminds some people of pineapple. I find the unopened buds just as beautiful as the blooms. I've seen one of their favorite visitors, the Red Milkweed Beetle, land on the buds and try to pry them open to get at the nectar. Haven't seen those beetles yet this year. Probably are still larvae living within the stems. I look forward to seeing them again - if the road crews don't mow them down beforehand.
Next are a Cranefly on Cow Parsnip and some sort of caterpillar on Showy Milkweed. Most of the campers I'm working with call the Craneflies "mosquito eaters" and insist that they eat mosquitoes. Not so. They feed off plant nectar and also love humidity and lapping dew. You'll find them in abundance along shady creek beds and around dripping water faucets on the north sides of houses. Basically, the same environments where you might like to grow peppermint.
The last photo is Pineapple Weed, Matricaria matricarioides. These are often called Chamomile which they resemble. It's not a native, but seems to be well established on roadsides and other disturbed ground. A nice fragrance resembling pineapple.

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