The continuing discoveries of a 21st century artist and naturalist …
No, I’m not writing about the Peter, Paul and Mary song of the same title. I’m writing about what we might end up saying one day.
I had planned to write a piece next week about ‘Silly Superstitions’ as they relate to certain types of wildflowers but something I learned yesterday changed my mind. Instead, I’m going to highlight some endangered or threatened North Carolina wildflowers.
The wild Tiger Lilies are in blooming abundantly on the mountain this month and I had mentioned to my husband a couple of times that I was surprised I hadn’t seen any ‘butterfly weed’ (Orange Milkweed). They are usually blooming at the same time. I know this because In the late 1980’s, long before my ventures into nature studies and a full-time art career, I would often stop on my way to my job and pick a few of each for a bouquet on my desk – the bright oranges in them almost a perfect match. Yesterday I learned of a potential source of this anomaly.
There is a continuing decline in the Monarch butterfly population attributed to the loss of plants on which it feeds due to extensive herbicide use. What is one of those plants? Yes, it’s the lovely Orange Milkweed. I stayed in a funk for the remainder of the day after finding out about this danger. If you are familiar with my work, photography and fine art, you are aware of my affinity for butterflies – I even included them in the tag line on my home page.
So this post is to bring attention to some of the lovely plants we are losing for various reasons. I’ll never understand our rush through short-term defenses to environmental dangers and then, once they seem to be under control, go back to the same habits – even adding more devastating ones. Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring over 50 years ago and we are again fighting the same battle. This is my small contribution to increasing awareness to the flowers and plants that are disappearing and taking with them one of “the sweetest passions known to man.”
In previous posts in this series I have given medicinal uses of plants where possible. With these plants I am not going to do so because they are already either rare, threatened or endangered. Please take the time to look at the plants – their nuances of structures, colors, and patterns. Unfortunately, I do not have a photograph of the threatened Orange Milkweed but I do have, thankfully, a photograph of its declining suitor.
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain
Family: Orchidaceae; Genus: Goodyera; Species: pubescens
Rare: Do Not Harvest; Too Scarce to Harvest
Up to 16″ when in bloom
(Relative: American Speedwell on Rare, Threatened and Endangered list for North Carolina)
Family: Scrophulariacae; Genus: Veronica; Species: officinalis
To 8″ – Flowers Tiny
On Rare, Threatened, Endangered List for North Carolina
Recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bees
Family: Commelinaceae; Genus: Tradescantia; Species: virginiana
1′ to 3′
The U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service provides information on Federal Endangered Species and you can run a specific search for your home state there as well.
You can find more information at The Way-Too-Long List of Rare, Endangered and Threatened Vascular Flora of North Carolina which provides a list of those wildflowers and plants that are in decline in North Carolina alone….the number is staggering.
If you are interested in trying to protect the Monarch Butterfly from additional, proposed herbicides you can show your support in signing a petition to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.
Lastly, For those interested in wanting to learn more about pollinator conservation The Xerces Society.
So as you explore nature step softly and leave a small footprint and you may help leave a rich legacy.