Cardinalia

The first time I ever saw a cardinal flower was when, as a boy, I was fishing for brook trout on the upper reaches of the Tiasquam River. I was in a  heavily shaded swamp maple wood, and had just pushed my head through a tangle of sweet pepper bushes at the edge of the brook, hoping that there would be a fish just downstream, at a place where water flow had cut a little pocket under a streamside boulder.

What I caught instead was the sight of flower of reddest red, spotlit by a solitary beam of sunlight.

You know how when you see something amazing for the first time you involuntarily have a sharp intake of breath?

That cardinal flower, that flash of red, that instant in time, brought that sharp intake of breath.

I’ve loved cardinal flowers ever since.

Late one summer, about ten or fifteen years ago, in the swampy area between West Tisbury’s Mill Pond and Parsonage Pond, I noticed a clump of cardinal flowers.

Each summer since then, in late August weeks, I look for the shocking red that signals their time of glory.

A joyful noticing.

Each year since then the patch of cardinal flower has gotten bigger.

They’re spreading, too. The old-timers say they’ve never before seen so many.

IMG_6371

What the original patch looks like, as of yesterday afternoon. (August 27th, 2013)

There’s almost always some joe pye weed in front of the cardinal flowers.

Joe Pye prefers the slightly dryer ground of the ground that rises up at road edge.

IMG_6368

The morning had brought over an inch of rain. The bumblebees were bedraggled, but happily feeding on joe pye weed nectar.

IMG_6370

Isn’t this glorious?

Over at Parsonage Pond, there was more joe pye weed, and more happy bumblebees.

IMG_6392

Bumblebee does not know are care about all the cars passing by.

Extend your focus from the near to farther out, and see the cardinal flowers.

IMG_6383

Turn around, and there are more, growing around the pond.

Not just cardinal flowers…mallow/hibiscus flowers have established themselves around the inlet to this pond.

IMG_6374
 
IMG_6378

Interior of mallow/hibiscus flower.

Mallow buds and seed pods have beautiful forms.

IMG_6386

Nearby, the crimson of cardinal flower elbows its way through mallow leaves and stems.

IMG_6376

The bursts of color are as good as any fireworks.

IMG_6387

Boom!

What I did not know until today is that cardinal flower does not have an insect pollinator.

The pollinator of the cardinal flower is a bird.

IMG_6380

No insect pollinated this flower, no insect is responsible for these devoloping seedpods.

Who is this bird?
The ruby-throated hummingbird.

Advertisements

One response to “Cardinalia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s