Sunday, August 8, 2010

Flowers and Insects

Summer is a time of flowers and insects. Everywhere you look there’s an abundance of life. The entrance to the trail is flanked by nine foot tall Ironweeds and Wingstem. The plants lean in to the open area created by the trail and crowd the pedestrians.

A cicada buzzes away among the Ironweed blooms. I think Ironweed is one of the most spectacular of the summer blooms. I was once in a field with someone who asked me how to get rid of Ironweed so they could grow wildflowers. I just bent down one of the Ironweed stalks and stuck the flower head in their face.

Many of the Wingstem flowers are too high to see. I’ve seen blooming Wingstem range in height from one foot up to ten feet depending on the soil and growing conditions. When I first saw tiny Wingstems, I thought I was looking at a different species. It increases the chances of species survival when species growth pattern can adjust to its environmental conditions.

When Wingstem grows alongside other flowering plants, many of the pollinating insects tend to pass it by. The plants always produce an abundance of seed, despite these low insect visitation rates. This bloom is definitely not for people who like symmetry in their flowers. The flowers of the central disk always seem to open in a lopsided manner and the rays are usually unevenly sized and randomly scattered around the disk.

A couple of weeks ago I was wondering where the Robber Flies were. Now their numbers have surpassed even last year’s abundance. This individual decided to use my pant leg as a perch while it consumed this small fly. It didn’t seem much disturbed by my walking around and stayed with me for quite a while as I photographed flowers.

This pair is busy making more Robber Fly food. These look like Picture-winged Flies, but they could be a type of Fruit Fly. The differences between these two groups are in wing vein patterns and other small characters that can’t be seen in the photo.

Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida, is sometimes referred to as Brown-eyed Susan. This is one of my favorites. It’s an extremely hardy perennial that spreads easily by seed. The blooming season runs through the summer and up until heavy frost. Orange Coneflower is a favorite of many species of insects and always has something interesting crawling around on its flowers or leaves. I’ve scattered a lot of this seed around the field and now have an abundance of this plant.


  1. The combination of yellow and purple wildflowers this time of year is a real visual treat! I am not familiar with ironweed or wingstem, but I will be on the lookout for them now. Do either of their ranges extend as far north as Minnesota?


  2. Wilma - According to the USDA PLANTS Database, Minnesota has two species of Ironweed and no Wingstem. The Ironweed is found mainly in the southern half of the state. Hope you see some.

  3. Ahhh, Ironweed has a special place in my heart, too. There's a contest for tallest flower going on along our road between Ironweed, Wingstem and Joe Pye Weed. I'm not sure who's winning. How funny that I also ran into a cicada on an Ironweed plant recently. I tried to get a picture, but my lens was all fogged up. Robber Flies have also been making appearances at our place. Glad we're seeing so much of the same thing!