Dateline: July 13, 2012*
Central Florida. I guess most of my property would be considered a huge rain garden. During rainy season large sections are inundated with water, the pond spills out over the banks and the garden takes on a beauty all its own as nature provides endless amounts of native wetland offerings and the insects those natives provide for. As I sloshed around the other day in my clunky boots, I wandered toward a patch of Winged Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum var. lanceolatum) and was enthralled by the abundance of diversity contained within.
I can always count of a bounty of honeybees at the Loosestrife and although bumblebees are few and far between these days in my neck of the woods, if they are around, you can be sure they will be hanging around close to the Loosestrife.
Now don’t get in a tizzy…it’s PURPLE, and it’s LOOSESTRIFE, but this isn’t the horrid exotic Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) which has invaded most of our country. Surprisingly, Florida is thus far unscathed.
While the maddening horticultural industry insists on creating “sterile” versions of invasives for some unknown reasons, they would do better to cultivate and get people to embrace the perfectly functional and beautiful species that are already NATIVE to our locales.
L. alatum is a nice wetland plant native to most of the country east of the Rockies. Dainty, pretty and amazingly attractive to numerous creatures that hide within the pretty green foliage. Although it has a “weed” symbol on part of the USDA map, I don’t find it to be overly aggressive. I’ve moved some around my place and it seems to stay within the immediate confines of the new location. It also appears to be threatened in some parts of its range.
I was eyeing a skipper butterfly, intent on getting a photo. He flitted around quickly and then I saw him rather sedate so I zeroed in for the snapshot. AHHHHHHAAAA! I found why he was so subdued. Caught in the clutches of a Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). Well, a “man”tis has to eat, now don’t he?
I spotted a couple of Green Lynx Spiders (Peucetia viridans), one with a bee in a “doggie bag”. There was a bagworm munching away.
In a different section there was a Scoliid Wasp (Campsomeris plumipes) which is beneficial not only as a pollinator, but also as a parasite on grubs.
I’m not sure what is the main attraction of L. alatum but you can always be sure to find multiple pollinators…be they bees, flies, spiders, moth caterpillars or butterflies. A worthy addition to your rain garden sure to attract a crowd of arthropods which will in turn bring in a crowd of our avian and reptilian friends.
*This is an update from an article originally published by Loret T. Setters on July 13, 2012 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.