Sunday, July 24, 2011

Down by the River

   We live about a half mile up from the Roanoke River and Greenway. The Greenway is a paved recreation path that follows the river as it bisects town, and when complete, will be approximately 35 miles long. From my house, I can walk down to the river, walk a few miles out and back, and see a very diverse ecosystem much different than the one at my house or at Dean. It's great exercise and a great nature fix all in one.
   On my last walk, I discovered quite a few swell things, one being a plant I'd never seen before other than in books or online...

Ironweed, not Boneset, Eagle Scout

   This is Ironweed, aka Vernonia. It's a native that favors moist areas. Hence, here it is along the river and not in my dry yard.

   Since I'm just learning to identify trees, I was excited to find so many Paw Paws growing along the river as well. Now I know why I saw dozens and dozens of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies along the river back in the spring, the Paw Paw is their host plant! Sadly it also favors moist areas and is not likely to find it's way onto our property. Judging by how many I see along the river, I don't think it's necessary anyway.

Paw Paw leaves

Paw Paw fruit

   This butterfly landed on my shoulder, then flew up onto this tree, it looks to be an American Lady. I can add it to the ever increasing list of butterflies that we've spotted lately.

   When I go for a walk I'm always interested to see what plant is most attractive to the pollinators, as a possible consideration to add to my landscape. The hands-down winner was this mint...

   I'm pretty sure it's one the "bad" mints, non-native and escaped from captivity. I couldn't locate it in any of my wildflower books. However, it was literally covered in every kind of pollinator you could imagine, especially honey bees.

Honey Bee and Mint

   Just 10 feet away from the huge mint there's a patch of native Joe Pye (Eupatorium). Not a single pollinator on any of it. What does that tell us?

   I think the Joe Pye is leaning over because it's sad...

   Well, my walk was short and that's about all. Plus, my camera battery died.

   *Click the photos above to enlarge them, if your browser allows.


  1. We have ironweed in our rain garden since it likes moist soils and periodic flooding. I don't think another perennial that comes close to that purple flower color. It grows easily from seed and we've multiplied ours quite a bit.

  2. I just saw my first batch of Ironweed last week while on an extended tour of the backroads of Floyd county VA. I have to agree that it is a beautiful bloomer!

  3. Julie,

    We have a lot of ironweed in my rural community as well as boneset. We also are seeing more examples of antler deformation in deer who have unknowingly been fed genetically modified corn by well meaning tourists. You're probably in the clear on that though.

  4. I love Ironweed & Joe-pye Weed. They're both usually covered with butterflies when I find them; I hope to plant some in a new flowerbed in my yard soon.

    Nice photo of the Lady. Could you tell whether it was a Painted vs. American Lady? I see way more Painteds locally. A friend once taught me a memorable way to tell the two apart-- check how many eyespots there are in the underwing. Americans have two, Painteds have four. So the mnemonic is "American ladies have two big ones." :-D The header image on my blog is a Painted Lady on Ironweed.

  5. DoctorNature,

    No worries, I only use free-range corn from Montana. That means it has to be good!


    Thanks for the lesson about the Ladys, I love it! I use little sayings like that all the time. Although down here in the south, we'd say "big 'uns" instead of "big ones". ;)

  6. Haha! Julie, you nailed it-- although I'm now in Maryland, I come from Massachusetts, and the naturalist who told me about the saying was from Connecticut. Too funny.