Monday, July 19, 2010

VICEROY ON CULVER'S ROOT

The sun was within minutes of slipping below the horizon, the last of its warm golden light washing horizontally across the tops of the coneflowers and big bluestem. Already I could feel the air temperature starting to cool. Wading through thick stands of tall vegetation under a hot July sun is sweaty, stifling work when the mercury tops the 90˚F mark and there's not a breath of breeze to be found. After an hour of poking about with my camera, I was grateful for the smallest measure of relief.
A Viceroy butterfly on the white bloom spike of a nearby Culver's root caught my eye.
Viceroys are those Monarch look-alikes. The two butterflies are dressed in almost identical markings of orange-and-black, with similar black wing edging patterned with white. The easiest way to tell the difference is by a black band which runs across the hind wings of the Viceroy, but is lacking in the Monarch. Also, Viceroys flutter while Monarchs, being larger and stronger, tend to flap and glide.
I know this and still occasionally get it momentarily wrong at first glance when I'm not really paying attention—once again reiterating to myself that looking and seeing are two entirely different things.
Incidentally, Culver's root, a native plant, was once used as a strong purgative—both as a laxative and an emetic. Indians used the plant to help cleanse the blood. Herbalists employed it to increase the flow of bile from the liver. I've read that in 1716, Puritan leader Cotton Mather requested that Culver's root be used as a treatment for his daughter's tuberculosis—which some historians think may actually have led to the little girl's death soon thereafter.
Nevertheless, Culver's root in bloom is a pretty plant…and prettier still with a Viceroy butterfly perched on its top.
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10 comments:

George said...

Beautiful shots of the Viceroy, Grizz. As a photographer, I have to ask if you used a tripod or hand held the camera for these exposures. They are quite crisp and clean. I also appreciate the informative discussion about the differences between the Viceroy and the Monarch.

Shen said...

A lovely bit of escapism. Thank you for sharing the images and descriptions. I linked to your page on my post today.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

George…

Thank you. All shots were taken hand-held, at max zoom, with an old Nikon 70-210 mm lens which, when used on a digital body, becomes a 300 mm plus; the ISO was set at 400. They'd doubtless be sharper done off a tripod, but I'm getting lazy in my dotage.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Shen…

I'm glad you made your way to riverbank today and enjoyed the post…and I hope you visit often and always find it a place of quiet and solace, or at least momentary escape. You're always welcome.

Thank you for the link.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

Oh such wonderful pictures - the detail and clarity are breathtaking. And I never knew the word "Viceroy" was a butterfly nor did I ever know what Culver's Root was. I learn so much from you and you teach it so graciously.

"A Viceroy butterfly on the white bloom spike of a nearby Culver's root caught my eye." - What a great line. :-)

I could also feel the wet hot day in which you ambled and I remembered why I stay in the A/C :-)

I am managing my surroundings - big storms here today - Gracey and I are safe inside. I took a few steps without the rollator - painful but bearable. Each day is a surprise on so many levels.

I loved this psot and all it offered in beauty, creativity, style and information.

Love you
Gail
peace and hope.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Viceroy butterflies are so named because of their resemblance to Monarchs. Huh? Okay, a monarch is a king, a ruler, a sovereign—the big kahuna. A viceroy serves under a monarch, usually being a sort of governor or deputy representing the king's rule and authority in some far-flung colony—a smaller kahuna. Monarch butterflies are BIG butterflies; Viceroy butterflies are smaller butterflies. But they both look/dress alike. Hence: monarch and viceroy. So there's the name story.

Now, re. your story…I'm glad you are feeling better enough to try a few "painful but bearable" steps, but just don't push too hard too soon. (I can give this advice, but would be the first to admit I'd have a hard time taking it.)

Live in the moment as best you can. And take care of yourself. Besides, it's too hot to be gallivanting around much, on a rollator or on foot.

Bernie said...

I'm not sure what I enjoyed the most the nature lesson or the beautiful photos. Thank you my friend for sharing......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Hey, I hope you most enjoyed another visit to the riverbank! The words and photos are just there to encourage you to stop by. :-D

Rowan said...

What a lovely butterfly and great photos, butterflies aren't the easiest thing to take good photographs of. It sounds as though you are sufferin with the heat and humidity, it's showery here and temps are pleasant low 70s.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

I depend on luck and persistence more than skill for most of my photography—especially for butterflies, birds, bugs, and most living creatures. Gear matters only minimally except when you need a long lens, say for birds, or a macro for serious close-ups. But really, the overall secret quality is the light itself; capturing lovely light is the difference between a mediocre and a really nice photo. These butterfly shots wouldn't have been half as nice in so-so light.