A few weeks ago, the wolfberry was in bloom and covered with insect visitors.
Today the Texas sage is blanketed with flowers.
We had a lot of rain this month, and Texas sage plants bloom in response to humidity and rain.
The insects respond, too.
The thumb-sized carpenter bees caught my eye, but they were too fast for a close up.
Does this look like a honey bee?
Surprise! It is a syrphid fly. It was more cooperative and sat still for its photograph.
Here’s another smaller syrphid fly (sometimes called a flower fly.) It also posed.
The honey bees looked strange. Instead of the usual golden brown, most were covered with white pollen.
Would you believe the thorax of this sweat bee is bright green?
It looks like it is covered with snow.
All these insects are pollinators, which means they carry pollen from plant to plant and help many types of plants produce viable seeds. Some recent reports have shown that pollinators may need extra assistance in order to survive and thrive. Check out a recent article which suggests being messy in the garden is a good way to provide places for pollinators to shelter over winter.
Week before last we must have had a spike in humidity levels because all the Texas sage bushes in the neighborhood started flowering. They were so pretty, I thought I’d add a plant of the week this week.
Also called purple sage, or Texas silverleaf, the scientific name of this Texas native plant is Leucophyllum frutescens. They appear gray because their leaves are densely covered with silvery hairs. The flowers may be white, pink, lavender, purple, or blue, depending on the variety. Texas sages characteristically bloom after a rain, or at least a local rise in humidity levels. This interesting trait gives them the common name of “Texas barometer bush.”
Check out the white and contrasting spots in the throat of the flower.
Texas sage and other related species are widely planted as water-conserving ornamentals in the southwestern United States. They can get quite big if watered occasionally and allowed to spread to their natural form.
It isn’t uncommon to see them pruned as well. Pruning does cut down on the number of flowers, which are at the stem tips.
If you are interested in butterfly gardening, you might want to consider planting some of these shrubs. It turns out that they are also hosts for caterpillars, (although I’ve never seen any on ours.) Further south in Arizona there have been reports of caterpillars of the Theona Checkerspot (Chlosyne theona) using the sage as a food plant.
Caterpillars of an attention-grabbing moth called the Calleta silkmoth (Eupackardia calleta) also feed on Texas sage. If you live in an area where they are found, you should look for them. Check the map at the Butterflies and Moths of North America website linked to the name of the moth.