Friday, June 10, 2011

It's a Prickly Life

When we drove a local gravel road the other day the visuals quickly changed from small town shops and restaurants to scrub desert, hills, ravines, endless views if you're up high . . . typical in rural Arizona.  

Wildlife was plentiful.  Hawks and golden eagles looked for mice and squirrels, and lotsa snakes that didn't like human companionship went about their business,  pushing these same mice and squirrels back into their burrows.

Flowers provided a carnival of color...prickly poppies, penstemons already tall, prickly pear in bloom.   

Prickly Poppies grow anywhere there's disturbed soil . . . roadsides, old garages, abandoned houses.  The attractive blossom belies the rest of  the plant. . . stems, leaves, and seed pods are covered with spines.
True to the poppy family the seeds provide a slight narcotic effect, if you're willing to endure working with the spine covered seed pod ( above,left....below, right/left).
Despite the wind that curled the petals a small butterfly negotiated its way to the flower, looking for nectar in all the meager places. 
 It doesn't take much to sustain a butterfly, but it was a lucky photo opportunity.  

Nectar attracts these pollinators but the attraction is momentary until they travel to the next flower . . .maybe another prickly poppy.
But...maybe not.
Next for the butterfly was another plant with spines.  Unlike the prickly poppy, the prickly pear has a stem that has morphed into a spongy, water storing pad and "leaves" that have evolved to water conserving spines.  The pads carry a waxy coating that prevents water loss.  Shallow roots absorb the minimal desert rainfall, exaggerated reproductive characteristics (flowers) attract pollinators.  
The drive for life takes many forms.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Nectar Is Sweet Stuff

We took a mini-trip over a local, seldom traveled gravel road in rural Az just for the helluvit. The road takes you into whatever still exists of undeveloped acres in rural Arizona. . . hills, scrub grassland, grease wood, brittle bush, and solitude. Just a dusty road and endless views.  
It's the type of environment that suggests you should change your auto air filter at the next opportunity.

These bees ain't Odysseus responding to the Sirens call and facing destruction.   In fact, there doesn't seem to be a risk to their activity.  They want nectar.
Bees of all kinds were having a play-day among the anthers and filaments of the flowers.

Going head-down for nectar, a bee actively stirs the anthers.  It's premature...the flower hasn't matured sufficiently for pollen to have been produced.  Usually you can see the grains spread around the petals.  But, the nectar is there and the bee wants it. 

Mellifera ligustica has a long proboscis (tongue) which extends to draw up nectar and water.

Belly down in stuff , a bee takes the hard way to its goal.

We often don't see the "little ones" that make life possible.  Our life is crowded with irrelevances.

After a long day of activity the cycle will begin again.  Probably fertilized...bees continued...our auto air filter not replaced.  Life is perpetuated by small things.
However, the irony may escape our view.  Some bastard will use a fly swatter and an innocent perpetuator of life will bite the same dust that clogs my auto air filter.  

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