Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for August 11th, 2014

Snow-in-the-summer

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Genus Palpada Fly on Snow-on-the-Mountain 1190

The first day of August conveniently coincided with my first sighting of snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata) flowers for 2014—just barely, that is. You see, for each of these half-inch-across “flowers,” only the central part that’s inside the five little greenish bean-shaped lobes is actually a flower, and in this specimen those flowers hadn’t quite opened yet. And if we can stack illusion on illusion, from a distance even the plant’s much larger leaves often get mistaken for petals because of their prominent white margins.

In a different and seemingly purposeful deception, the insect visitor that you might take to be a bee is really a fly mimicking a bee, the better to make predators wary that it might sting even though it can’t. From pictures I’ve seen online, this fly appears to be in the genus Palpada, whose members are known as syrphid flies or flower flies.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 11, 2014 at 5:50 AM

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