Zenfolio | Bruce Fellman | Ironweed exploiter

Ironweed exploiter

August 20, 2017  •  1 Comment

I had a little bit of free time in the late afternoon, and I had an agenda: with myriad patches of Joe Pye Weed in full and glorious bloom, I needed to find another signature plant of the beginning of the end of summer: New York Ironweed. Vernonia noveboracensis is an enormous—Ironweed can top seven feet in height—member of the Aster family that likes to grow in old fields with lots of sun, and I had just the place in mind for a reliable habitat: the Miner preserve in Stonington. Much of Miner is a hayfield maintained as a meadow, and sure enough, lording it over the spent grasses and growing along the edges of the field was my quarry, now displaying its dramatic dark purple flowers. Clearly, I wasn't the only visitor who found the blossoms attractive. While I focused in on the Ironweed, numerous butterflies—Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, American Ladies, and the like—zipped in to these sought-after filling stations. My hoped-for visitor, a Snowberry Clearwing hummingbird moth, did not disappoint. I'd seen these members of the Sphinx Moth family on Ironweed at Miner in other Augusts, but you never know with these miraculous hummingbird mimics. Sometimes they appear, sometimes they don't. Praise the Lord, my good luck, and these blossoms, there it was: Ironweed and Hemaris diffinis, a natural history two-fer.


Laurie Gorham(non-registered)
Wow! Spectacular photo!!
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