As I was leafing through my calendar/journal for 2011 I came across small notes about new and interesting things I learned. Undoubtedly I learned many things in 2011, but these are just a couple of things I learned that broadened my appreciation of the natural world around me.
1 – Regal fritillary caterpillars eat only Birdsfoot Violets (Viola pedata) and Prairie Violets (Viola pedatifida).
I’ve enjoyed the beauty of of the flowers in the spring, but never really appreciated it as a food source.
2 – Some types of Swallowtail caterpillars rely on Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) as a food source.
While we don’t try to eliminate all the Prickly Ash on our property, we have been keeping it out of the prairie. I often think of it as a vicious plant with large thorns that scratch up your legs through your jeans.
3 – New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) is a great attracter of humming birds.
We introduced New Jersey Tea to our prairie for its value to the prairie, but during a gardening show I was listening to someone called in to recommend it as a garden plant. He noted that the one he put in his garden always has humming birds on it. I will be watching ours more closely from now on.
4 – Chickadees rely on Poison Ivy berries for winter food.
We have large patches of Poison Ivy in our prairie. People have suggested getting rid of it and we’ve considered trying to remove some of it. (But not all.) After learning about how important it is as a winter food source I think we should just leave it be… you know leaves of 3 leave it be. As long as you’re cautious around poison ivy it isn’t really a problem.
Now that I’ve learned more about the roles these plants play in the environment I look at them with more appreciation. Even plants that I once thought of as foes have become relished plants.