Friday, July 29, 2011

Absent Monarda

Things always change. Sometimes it’s a slow gradual change that allows you to adjust to the new conditions. Other times it’s a quick change that leaves you wondering what happened. The Monarda fistulosa has given me both this year. At the slow end of the scale is another slight increase in the size and numbers of Monarda populations.

The quick change took place here at the site of my oldest and largest population of Monarda. The level center section of this small valley has always provided an almost solid blanket of Monarda blooms that brought in swarms of bees and butterflies. As you can see, the flowers are not here now.

This area was solid with Monarda blooms last year. Now Monarda is completely absent; not just the blooms, but also a complete absence of plants. There is some Monarda growing in the background where the ground begins to rise from the valley floor. During the late winter and spring, the level part of the valley was frequently inundated and was almost constantly saturated. This amount of moisture is uncommon, but it has happened in the past without loss of the plants.

The fact the slightly higher and drier ground around the perimeter of the site still contains a good stand of Monarda, makes me think the water was somehow a factor in the disappearance. This same site suffered a Monarda die-off about seven years ago when the plants were all killed back by a late freeze. It took a couple of years, but the Monarda eventually returned. I expect that the plants will once again reclaim this area.

The most disastrous effect of the Monarda disappearance is the loss of a prime gathering area for the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. There are still plenty of flowers scattered around, so the moth population shouldn’t be hurt, but I’ll really miss the spectacle of dozens of these magnificent moths buzzing around the same small area. Maybe with no moths to distract me, I’ll see something even more wondrous.


  1. Perhaps they learned the vanishing /reappearing act from your penstamons? ;)

  2. It wouldn't surprise me, Michael. I think my plants keep a lot of secrets from me.