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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces A New Exhibition, John James Audubon and the Artist as Naturalist:
August 21, 2014
Jan Hagan is a Guest Services Associate at Crystal Bridges.
A Very Special Trip to the Museum
August 23, 2014
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Gardening up Close

American Basketflower

American Basketflower

I’ve always been a detail-orientated kind of person, which is good because my job is centered on details:  individual plant health, plant inventory, weeding, plant identification, etc.  Our grounds are beautiful because of the detail work that is done by the Trails and Grounds team to ensure the guest experience continues (or begins) on the outside.   I’ve always had a hard time with seeing the “BIG PICTURE”—however, one big-picture area that has always interested me and inspires me each day to continue the fight for native plants is biodiversity, particularly regarding plant and animal relationships.

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed plant near the Museum's south entrance.

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed plant near the Museum’s south entrance.

To me and many others, it’s easy to see the beauty in hungry little caterpillars eating our milkweed, golden Alexanders, and spicebush. We see the beauty because we understand the effects that these plants have on our local ecosystems and what will be lost if native plants are not included in residential and commercial landscapes.  To some, however, these leaf-munchers may be seen as just pests destroying our flowering perennials and shrubs.

Spicebush Swallowtail Larva

Spicebush Swallowtail Larva

For this blog, I just want to show those folks what many of us “detail people” see.   To help me capture these details, I always put my olloclip (a camera phone attachment) in my pocket each morning because I never know what I’ll witness while working in the garden.

What may appear to be some sort of tree snake is actually a tiny spicebush swallowtail larvae.  The black markings are not its eyes, just a defense mechanism to trick birds into thinking they are looking into the eyes of a tree snake.

The black swallowtail larva feeds on members of the carrot family, such as golden alexanders.  The beautiful striping on this caterpillar is best viewed up close.

Black Swallowtail larva in defense mode.

Black Swallowtail larva in defense mode.

When aggravated, the caterpillars launch their defense:  a two-pronged, bright orange appendage shoots out and emits a foul odor

Button bush

Button bush

The button bush and American basketflower are best observed up close.  The button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a medium sized shrub that has sputnik-like, white blooms in mid-summer.  It is a hummingbird and butterfly magnet!

The American basketflower (Centaurea americana) is a native wildflower annual that seeds easily when allowed space.  It blooms in early summer and attracts many species of pollinators.

I hope by seeing the beauty of our native plants and insects, we can all become more detail-orientated gardeners!

American Basketflower

American Basketflower

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