THE BOTANICAL BLOG
Monday, June 25, 2012
This last week in June was approved five years ago by the U.S. Senate as “National Pollinator Week”. Pollinator week has now grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles. Concern about our pollinators is real, and I feel proud that our park is encouraging the process. Our butterfly program expands almost by the week, and I daily find myself explaining the reason for the white bags on our host trees. They are an integral part of our butterfly farming in the park being hatcheries for eggs that produce caterpillars that then voraciously eat the leaves of their host tree without spreading to the rest of the tree. They then give us the opportunity to easily move those caterpillars into the butterfly house where they become chrysalides and pupae before allowing butterflies to emerge in the house. Our Butterfly Garden provides much nectar for butterflies in the wild—and a few escapees from the house! I am also pleased to note that the Chaste trees in the Butterfly Garden, now that their blue flowers are forming, are attracting many honey bees. The English Garden, with its profusion of current blooms is also attracting bees and butterflies. (I sustained a bee sting this week while dead-heading in the English Garden, which would actually make me joyful except it followed hard on multiple hornet stings I sustained just three days before while working at home trimming periwinkle groundcover!).
On tram tours around the park I often also point out the extensive areas of the park that we intentionally leave as natural habitat for birds. The Greater Ozarks Audubon Society are important park partners. They have been completing breeding surveys in the park and tracking the Purple Mountain House beside Drummond Lake just south of the Hosta Garden. According to Charles Burwick with the Audubon Society, chicks are fledging there as I write. By the way, purple martins are the only natural predator of the pesky Japanese beetles. Speaking of the beetles, they arrived earlier this year, which was no surprise, but that will probably mean that they will depart earlier, too! From my observations, I feel they have been less destructive so far in the park than over the past three years. The roses and crepe myrtles are not as decimated, although the beetles have done a fair job on the canna lily leaves. I feel confident, if we can get through the next two weeks relatively unscathed, recovery will be swift.
Summer is now official, and if the past weekend’s temperatures are a benchmark of what is to come, we are in for a long, hot, dry one. This could be brutal on our gardens and our trees. Let’s hope for a good rain soon to balance it out.
By Peter Longley
Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center and Gardens