Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata) - a Titan among nectar plants for N.E. Florida Pollinators in September and October

When scheduling Butterfly Holiday trips to all parts of the world, I always leave open the months of September and October. During this time, the greatest diversity and number of butterflies and many other N.E. Florida pollinators are attracted to  flowering plants in the Genera: Carphephorus, Liatris, Dalea, Vaccinium, Dioda, Elephantopus, Bidens, Lachnanthes, and  others.


Southern Dogface on Liatris pauciflora


When conditions are right, in the dry pinelands and sand hill areas in Julington-Durbin Preserve, Ralph E Simmons and Jennings State Forests, acres of Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata) can be in bloom attracting multitudes of butterflies and other N.E. Florida pollinators.


Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


There are eight native Dalea species growing in Florida. Three are vouchered in N.E. Florida, D. carnea, D. carnea var. albida, and D. pinnata, with D. pinnata being the most common.


Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Summer Farewell (D. pinnata) is a gangly 2-4 foot tall herbaceous perennial wildflower, with branching stems that are smooth and slightly woody. The white flowers are 8-9 mm in length, with 5 petals, and 5 stamens. Leaves are alternate; blades are once-divided, with 3-9 needle-like leaflets 5-8 mm long. Inflorescence is somewhat flattened with domed terminal heads having numerous leaf-like bracts.


Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Summer Farewell, also called Whitetassles and Florida Prairieclover in other parts of the state, is the host plant for the Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia) butterfly.
Migrating butterflies such as the Monarch, Long- tailed Skipper, Cloudless Sulphur and Gulf Fritillary depend on the nectaring power this wildflower provides.


Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Butterflies love to perch on the flower head continually stabbing their proboscus probing for nectar. Because of the weak stem structure swallowtail and other large butterflies need to constantly flap their wings to balance themselves for the nectaring opportunities this flower produces.


Monarch at Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


The thick clump-like nature of this wildflower also provides cover for pollinators to hide.
Summer farewell requires high levels of sunlight to bloom properly and good drainage; otherwise its taproot will rot.


Female Tiger Swallowtail Dark Phase at Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


The weather conditions this year in N.E. Florida have been highly favorable, providing acres of white flowers swaying in the breeze.


 
Eastern Black Swallowtail at Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Now is the time to get out and enjoy what Mother Nature has to provide. You can spend hours lurking around, marveling at the number of pollinators this wildflower attracts. Wait for a sunny to partly cloudy day with little to no wind for easier photographic conditions, as this plant can sway back and forth even in a light breeze.

   
 
Gulf Fritillary at Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Make sure to tuck your pants into your socks, spray with insect repellent around the sock and waist areas, along with other parts of the body. Wear a hat, use high ankle and double tie the laces on your boots. Use a high SPF sunscreen. Be aware of uneven terrain, gopher tortoise burrows, ground debris, fire ants, along with plants and vines that have thorns.
Bringing along a pair of binoculars will greatly enhance your in the field experience. Be sure to take a shower and check for  ticks when you get back home.

Text and Photos by Bill Berthet, Ixia Chapter, FNPS


Resources used:
Atlas of Florida Plants
Wildflowers of Florida and the Southeast: David W. Hall and William J. Weber

Native Wildflowers and other Ground Covers for Florida Landscapes: Craig N. Huegel 

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