Posts Tagged: Echium wildpretii
We have this tall plant in our back yard.
How tall is it?
Tall enough to give weather forecasts. (It's never caught “short” by a sudden storm.)
Tall enough to see over the neighbor's fence to find a missing ball.
Tall enough to be "the resident tall plant" in the garden (sort of like "the resident tall person" in the office who's asked to change the clocks when Daylight Savings Time ends or begins).
Tall enough to be called a “tower.”
Tall enough to be prohibited from taking a short course.
Tall enough to have strawberry longcake instead of strawberry shortcake.
Tall enough to dunk if it were an NBA player.
It's THAT tall.
The "tower of jewels," appropriately named, can tower up to 10 feet or so. It doesn't stop short of growing.
When in full bloom, it's covered with red blossoms that resemble a decorated Christmas tree. It's a member of the Boraginaceae family, andeven boasts a scientific name that has "pretty" in it. Sort of. It's Echium wildpretii and is endemic to the island of Tenerife.
What's really amazing is that the tower of jewels turns into a "tower of bees" when it blooms. It attracts honey bees (check out the blue pollen), carpenter bees and bumble bees, as well as hummingbirds, syrphid flies, and a few spiders.
How grand and glorious can it get? "Wildpretii" grand and glorious.
Honey bee packing a load of blue pollen heading for the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Young honey bee seeking another blossom on the tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The 40 mile-per-hour howling wind didn't seem to bother the syrphid fly, aka hover fly and flower fly.
It clung to a blossom on the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, and proceeded to nectar. Its wings sparkled in the morning sun.
This is a pollinator and one that's often mistaken for a honey bee.
A honey bee it isn't. It's a fly.
If you want to read more about them, be sure to check out entomologist Robert Bugg's UC ANR publication, Flower Flies (Syrphidae) and Other Biological Control Agents for Aphids. Click on the link for access to a free 25-page PDF.
Syrphid fly nectaring on tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Syrphid sparkles in the early morning sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When there's so much pain, grief and sorrow in the world, it's time to shut off the TV, log off the computer, exit the house, and photograph honey bees.
Watching honey bees foraging in the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, is therapy enough. They are sisters, sisters with a job to do, and so little time to do it. Buzzing from one blossom to another, gathering nectar and pollen, they are a symphony of color, grace and sound, unlike the cacophony that savagely screams from the 10 o'clock news.
"The murmuring hum of bees on a warm afternoon is surely part of everyone's mental picture of a perfect summer day," write Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World. "But that relentless hum, soporific perhaps, to the idling human, is in reality the produce of a machine-like urge to work--to work against the clock of the seasons, to gather enough pollen and nectar before the weather breaks, before the blooms fade."
What they do every day is for the greater good--the good of the colony. They set an example that the human race should follow.
Yet the winter of 2012-2013 may prove to be the worst yet for the declining bee population, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Meanwhile, we all need to bee-lieve that the worst is over.
In more ways than one.
Honey bee foraging on tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almost like a painting, this photo of a honey bee contributes to the softer side of life. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee in flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
it's a traffic stopper.
The plant, reminiscent of a Christmas tree, attracts not only vehicular and foot traffic, but honey bees, bumble bees and hummingbirds. It's basically a tower of bees when it blooms.
The one in our yard is about eight feet tall. Honey bees, eager for the nectar and pollen, keep creating traffic jams. If you sit and watch them, you'll see them constantly bumping into one another as they forage for food.
No wonder it's a favorite of beekeepers.
The species, a biennial, is native to the Canary Islands. It's endemic to the island of Tenerife.
Last year several towers of jewels bloomed near Storer Hall on the University of California, Davis campus, and a couple of others graced the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, about a mile west of the central campus.
The UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery sells these at their plant sales, but they go fast, says Ellen Zagory, the arboretum's director of horticulture. "We don't have any left," she said.
Honey bee foraging in a tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee gets down to business. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Upside down honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's worth the wait.
The two towers of jewels (Echium wildpretti) are blooming in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
The plant is a biennual and it blooms the second year and that's it. Plant specialists call this a monocarpic (dies after flowering).
There's no better place for the towers of jewels to "bee" than next to the six million or so bees at the Laidlaw facility.
The garden is open from dawn to dusk (no charge) year around. It's located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
If you go, bring your camera!