Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cycles of Life

In front of my parking spot at the college, I was greeted by this bright blossom of Yellow Salsify, Tragopogon dubius, also known as Western Salsify, Goatsbeard, and Oyster Plant, among other names.  A Eurasian native, it has become naturalized over nearly all the United States and Canada, which accounts for the varied common names.  I rather like the sound of the scientific name, too.
These first two photos were taken with different backgrounds, just for the artistic adventure.
When I came back to my car just after noon, I couldn't find the flower for a while.  Turns out it had closed for the day (below), and blended well into the surrounding wild grass. 
Here's what the scene looked like in the afternoon.  Can you pick out the Salsify?  Click on the photo for a closer view, and see if you can find a tiny red spot just to the left of the center.
When I saw the red spot, I knew I had found the Salsify, so I came in for closer photos of the Convergent Ladybird Beetle. 
Click on this next one and you'll see why the beetle landed here.  Its favorite food is aphids.  In the coming weeks, the aphids will increase and will be herded into tight clusters by ants that feed on their various excretions.  Meanwhile, the daily cycle of the Salsify will continue for several weeks.  Open in the morning, closed in the afternoon, until one day it won't open.  It will stay closed and look much like the third photo from the top for several days while the yellow petals dissolve and the seeds grow their little "parachutes."  Then, one day it will open and reveal a huge puffball of seeds ready to break loose and be carried by the wind.  The ball of seeds looks much like that of a dandelion only coarser and bigger.  I've seen them up to four inches in diameter.
While taking several more shots of the Ladybird Beetle, another beetle lower down on the plant caught my attention (below).  That's the female of the Dimorphic Flower Longhorn Beetle - pictured a few posts ago mating on a Daisy.
With the advent of whale lamps, then the electric light bulb, it seems that most indoor Americans have lost their connection with nature's cycles.  Watching the daily rhythms of many wildflowers is a great way to get back in touch, and possibly re-establish more sensible rhythms in our own lives.

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