Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reflecting on the Meadowlark Nature Festival

Bombus bifarius on Okanagan Sunflower

Ever since I found out there was an early-blooming Okanagan sunflower, aka arrowleaf balsam root. about 4 years ago, I have longed to see it in person. This week my dream came true as my friend Jasna and I headed to the Meadowlark Nature Festival in the South Okanagan. "I see arrowleaf!!!!", I exclaimed on the highway west of Princeton. Jasna found a place to pull over and we risked our lives crossing the busy roadway to explore the beauty.  We found arrowleaf balsam root, wild strawberries, Oregon grape, and some mystery wildflowers we'd never encountered before.

Hydrophyllum capitatum

We walked up a steep deer path and found this lovely specimen, which is ballhead waterleaf. Isn't it adorable?

Imagine my delight when I found one right at roadside level that was in bloom! There were about three flowers, and two were being worked voraciously by bumblebees.

You can see the resemblance to phacelia, which is what the flower used to be classified as, but it has since been moved by botanists to the waterleaf family.

We found the bones of what we can only guess was another overzealous botanist come to a bad end.

I was excited to see this painted lady sunning herself on a suitably hued rock.

Saskatoons were in bud and newly opened here, but the roadside at lower elevations was abundant with flowering Amelanchier. There were many plants getting ready to bloom.

We reveled in the scents and textures of this roadside stop.

This looks like an interesting critter nest.

Snags are an important source of nesting material for cavity nesting bees and a host of other plants and insects. Please do not carelessly burn these habitats for campfire wood.

Lithospermum ruderale

This was our first encounter with lemonweed, which we now know is an excellent spring bee plant.

Okanagan sunflower loves steep slopes. Here, it is best buds with the low-growing form of Oregon Grape.

Wild larkspur in all its glory. (This is the larkspur you want to plant for bees, NOT the tall cultivars which are lacking the pollen and nectar rewards.) You can buy seeds from local wildflower growers.
You must check out artist Jasna Guy's blog post on Menzies' Larkspur, with a stop animation of her drawings!!!!

When I was reviewing this photo of Bombus bifarius on dandelion, I noticed that yellow bit on her thorax. Can you see it?

Move in closer . . .

And closer . . . . What is that? I thought it was a piece of petal, but something made my spider senses tingle. I asked Jasna what she thought it was. "It looks like pollinia," she said, "The pollen mass of an orchid." Later on I asked bee scientist Lincoln Best what it could be. He confirmed it is likely the pollinia of Calypso bulb orchid which blooms at this time of the year. "Sometimes you see bees with more than one pair of pollinia, he explained." These are carried from the bumblebee to the sticky female parts of another calypso bulb orchid. So cool!

Our trip to the Meadowlark festival was off to a great start, our appetite whetted for adventures to come. Stay tuned for more blog posts from us as we reflect on our photos and memories.

In the meantime, check out this awesome stop animation of a calypso orchid flowering and going to seed.

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