Monday, April 28, 2014

Flowering Shrubs

Two weeks ago we had snow on the ground.  Since then we’ve had several days that have reached 80 degrees and the plants are working hard to make up for lost time. I was out yesterday checking on the progress of the flowering shrubs.  Fragrant Sumac usually begins the show and attracts a wide variety of pollinators.  This year is a slightly different scenario.  The sumac is blooming later than usual and several other shrubs have developed competing blooms.

Redbud has reached its peak bloom.  I can’t remember ever seeing the Redbuds go so quickly from bare branch to full flower.

Viburnums are keeping pace with the others.  We haven’t had much in the way of cold nights to slow these guys down.

Sassafras seemed to go from bud to bloom in just a couple of days. 

Wild Plum is making a marvelous showing.  Development of fruit still depends on weather conditions yet to come.

Shrubs along this field edge are entering their third year without any competition from invasive exotics.  They are doing a nice job of filling in the holes left behind when the Autumn Olive and Multiflora Rose were removed.

Shrubs are a primary nectar source for many of the early butterflies and visiting the blooming shrubs is the easiest way to spot a few of the rarer butterfly species.  In a typical year the blooming periods of the various shrub species are slightly staggered.  This tends to concentrate the butterflies onto one species at a time.  With this year’s smorgasbord of blooms, the butterflies are more widely scattered.  Many of the flowering shrubs have now grown to a quite respectable height, so besides being spread out, the butterflies are high above my head.  This Henry’s Elfin is a species that deposits its eggs on the flowers of the Redbud.  I saw several high in the tops of the Redbuds, but none came within range of a decent photograph.

The most common small butterfly species is currently the Spring Azure.  I found these everywhere I walked, but they couldn’t manage to stay on a shrub flower long enough for me to get a photo.

This was the problem.  Juvenal’s Dusky Wings had claimed territories on every shrub around the edge of the field and were chasing away the Spring Azures whenever they came near.

Bumble Bees were taking advantage of the abundant flowers.  Princeton University Press just released the new Bumble Bees of North America Identification Guide and I thought I would do some work on Bumble Bee identification this summer.  The guide is full of great information, but it seems that many Bumble Bee species have a wide variation in color patterns and several common species share similar patterns, so simple visual observations may prove unsatisfactory for identification purposes.  I’ll give it a try anyhow.