Weeds and Butterflies

The beautiful, tangled profusion of foxtails, sickleweed, grasses, morning glories and other wildflowers  – all this strip along the edge of the field where I’ve watched butterflies this past week – was mowed by the county yesterday afternoon. Though I understand that most neighbors appreciate the neater, cleaner look along the road, it’s really a shame. No tangle of weeds – no butterflies. 

Well, there still are butterflies around, but they’re more widely scattered and harder to find. And any butterfly eggs laid on the sickleweed or other plants in this area now are gone. This was just one very small spot, in the big picture of butterfly survival, perhaps not significant. But at a time when so many butterflies – as well as moths, honeybees and many other insects – are disappearing so rapidly, it seems important to realize that every small loss like this matters. 

Now there’s just a very wide stretch of low, dry, rough brown vegetation that spreads from the edge of the field to the road – about 10 yards, I think. I walked across it this morning, stepping around fire ant mounds and watching for snakes, and stirred up a happy eruption of grasshoppers in some spots – little ones, medium size, and a few larger ones, some green, some brown – snapping as they hopped. And then I walked all along the edge of the field, from south to north.

Along this edge now, ragweed, goldenrod and pokeweed all grow taller than my head, with horseweed, dogfennel, camphor weed and other yellow-blooming weeds that I can’t name, and very tall grasses. And behind them, huge, dense stands of privet, with some honeysuckle and blackberry vines, kudzu with its grape blossoms and big green leaves, and other, hairy and thorny vines, chinaberry trees – and beyond them, the young pine woodland that has grown up in the south end of the field. And right along the edge of the field, low-growing horse-nettle still spreads, with its spiky white flowers. In the field and in the power cut that runs through it, I saw four Gulf Fritillaries, several widely scattered Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs, and one Variegated Fritillary. 

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