Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

planting lupine

Here in Texas, the state flower is the bluebonnet. The bluebonnet is a variety of , lupine flower, which grows in great fields, all over the eastern half of the state. During this impressive Spring, fields of bluebonnets are at the height of their bloom everywhere. We "do flowers right" here in Texas, and we all enjoy the ones we see.

In the Great Lakes region, a different lupine flower grows.
On those lupies, a special butterfly dwells. It's the karner blue butterfly, an endangered species. Its caterpillars thrive on only a few things, principal among which is the lupine flower.

So many times in the farmland counties, native prairie or meadow is converted to invasive grasses or farmland. The restulting habitat destruction affects birds and butterflies which depend on the native plants to make their way in life.

Some birds, like the dickcissel, only thrive in tall grass prairie, among the wild flowers like lupine and the wild, native grasses. A few stretches of the original prairie remain, usually places in which a farmer did not till a field in order to reap hay from the tallgrass.

Prairie does not capture the imagination in the way that mountains and virgin forests and geysers do. I'm not sure that people realize that rural land is not always natural land. As farm efficiency increases, more land could be returned to native grassland prairie. Ultimately, the prairie could again be the wild paradise that it was when the people first arrived.

My part of north Texas can be termed "prairie transition", because prairie is admixed with little forests of scraggly woods. A little over an hour away, the Park Hill Prairie offers true unspoiled tallgrass prairie. There's not many things there, but flowers, herons, meadowlarks, dickcissels, the two best sunfish ponds I've ever fished, non-poisonous snakes and tall, lovely prairie grasses. Once a prairie habitat is converted to farmland, it's very hard to "convert it back". But the prairie birds don't really like the farmlands nearly as much as the original prairie, and the karner blue butterfly can't eat the plants that grow there.

Butterflies are so important to me, whether they are rare or commonplace. City and suburban dwellers can create habitat for them, merely by planting the things in front yards or in pots on apartment balconies that butterflies drink and caterpillars eat. Although the "butterfly bush" is the most famous such thing, one can find worlds of other plant ideas at the butterfly gardeners quarterly. Usually, it does not take any genius--most flowers can help do the trick, and in particular, native flowers can help native species thrive.

So many things in environmental life are beyond one's control, but butterfly habitat? That's a small way to make a big difference.

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