The Story of a Flower

Blue clematis caught my eye this spring when I found a few patches on Snake Hill. I checked back over the coming weeks to watch the changes.

Blossoms about to open

Shady Lady

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This perennial vine is beautiful at all stages but like many members of the buttercup family it’s poisonous. (Especially for dogs, apparently.)

Should you be inclined to pop leaves or flowers into your mouth expect a strong burning sensation et cetera. Handling or inhaling parts of the plant can also cause irritation though I’ve handled the plant several times and haven’t noticed any effect. Forewarned.


Blue clematis   Clematis verticellaris var. columbiana

 

An Afternoon sans Snakes

In town the other day with time to spare I climbed up Snake Hill. Once home to several garter snake dens, the hill hosts few if any snakes now but perhaps on such a warm day I might find some.

I visited the spot where I found the gorgeous clematis early in June. Now the seeds heads are unfurling, like mop-haired cartoon characters, the feathery plumes just beginning to show.

Blue clematis seed head

Blue clematis

Next I set off on one of the trails that crisscross the hill to see what I might see. On my climb I found a couple of cow parsnips. On the pungent white flowers insect sex was, so to speak, in full bloom.

Yellow velvet beetles

The participants were yellow velvet beetles aka flower longhorns. A new beetle to me. They were so busy making little beetles I couldn’t get a good photo of the pile on, but when the heat of the moment passed several quieted down enough to have their picture taken.

Yellow velvet beetle on cow parsnip

What I took to be pollen on this beetle turned out to be very fine yellow hairs. Its species name, chrysocoma, means gold-haired. Good choice.

Walking back to the main trail I spotted a grasshopper. Another find. Not an adult yet (no wings — just stubby bits that foreshadow what’s to come). Best guess? A two-striped grasshopper. The eyes are gorgeous, warm and brown-filled with tiny tan spots.

Two-striped grasshopper

Further along the trail another cow parsnip and another new beetle — a round-necked longhorn. Several of them of varying sizes were wandering around the flowers. No sex this time (but perhaps I came late to the party).

Round-necked longhorn beetle

The striking pattern, reminiscent of a sad face, made it easy to ID. In side view you can see the rounded, almost hump-like neck which gives it its name.

Round-necked longhorn beetle

The black and yellow colours, reminiscent of wasps, means it’s sometimes mistaken for a wasp. But no worry. The adults don’t sting or bite, preferring pollen and nectar.

I found no snakes on my rambles. Still, it was a lovely afternoon on the hill. Gotta do that more often. 🙂


Blue clematis   Clematis verticellaris var. columbiana
Cow parsnip   Heracleum lanatum
Round-necked longhorn   Clytus ruricola
Two-striped grasshopper   Melanoplus bivittatus
Yellow velvet beetle/Flower longhorn   Lepturobosca chrysocoma
(formerly Cosmosalia chrysocoma)

Shady Ladies

A walk up a wooded hill on a recent sunny day brought beauty — pale blue clematis, twining around the base of an aspen.

Trailing through the woods

They love shaded woods, trailing along the ground or winding gently up a tree trunk, each flower upright on a tall stalk. The four-pointed blossom is pale blue verging on mauve.

A four-pointed blossom

Clematis belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) which includes many familiar flowers, among them anemones, columbines, larkspurs, crocuses and, of course, buttercups.

Blossoms about to open

Blossoms and three-part leaves

Sun-dappled blooms

Even when clematis go to seed they are lovely, forming silvery plume-like clusters. Another walk up the hill is warranted soon.


Blue clematis   Clematis verticellaris var. columbiana