Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tiny and Sometimes Tragic Details for Blooming Friday

 Katarina . . .  hostess of  Blooming Friday . . .  has inspired gardeners around the big world with the prompt . . .  'tiny'. It is a favorite subject of mine and gives me another chance to share some of my favorite examples with fresh images and words. I am not speaking of nano here but tiny enough that we often miss the fine details. I hope you will forgive my overuse of the word tiny in this post.

Tiny boxes are attached to these large Hot Air balloons. I sometimes see tiny people standing within the boxes waving, while over looking the vast landscape. They can see for miles and miles but cannot view the tiny dramas going on within a hillside garden below.  Tinily they float away over millions of trees and ribbons of rivers. Of course the people and boxes are not really tiny they only appear that way since they are so high and far away.

Now for the indubitable tiny. Its tininess . . . the beginning . . .  a Monarch butterfly egg fastened to tiny hairs underneath a Milkweed leaf. If this were a better example of tiny, you would see the even tinier ridges carved along the egg. Any great pastry chef would be envious of the intricate design. 

Here a Monarch caterpillar hangs beneath another Milkweed leaf. Can you believe it was once housed within the tiny egg casing. Note its teeny shinny black true legs and cater feet.

Before long he reveals the secret he was carrying beneath his caterpillar skin . . . a tiny chrysalis. Note the teeny tiny shinny black dots at the top . . . they may be very small yet play a vital role in the life of the chrysalis. I believe these softly edged nodules cling to the old skin . . . if only for a nanosecond . . . when the 'crewmaster' (The tiny little black post . . . with hundreds of the tiniest hooks on its end . . . now clinging successfully to the silk button the caterpillar so cleverly sculpted.) has to pull out from under said pile of cater skin and attach itself as you see here to the silk button. Truly no tiny feat! A marvel of nature. You can see more about this on an earlier post. Teensy caterpillar wrinkles will soon smooth out . . . 

to this nearly completed form of a Monarch butterfly chrysalis. There are many minuscule details about this jewel, but I now wish to draw your attention to the tiny white beads with yellow above and a broken black line below. 

A mini scalloped edge when seen from above.

Mirroring the colors of the caterpillar and the milky white sap of Milkweed . . .  a purely ornamental motif. A tiny tribute perhaps. The three colors will also come off as gold on the fully developed chrysalis. Note the tiny yellow dots . . . they will later appear to be gold too. Decorative or defensive . . . as the 'gold' will reflect the sun and perhaps cause a tiny blind spot to any little round bird, squirrel or chipmunk eyes. 

Now to an even more tiny subject . . . yet one of gripping drama. You may recall my sharing observations of honeybees wearing Milkweed pollen in this post. These tiny pollen sacs and discs attach themselves like prisoner handcuffs . . . only to the feet of the unlucky honeybees, moths or other insects lured in for the flowers sweet nectar. Milkweed is a wondrous wild and giving plant, but as with much of life it is complex in its many attributes.  It gives life and I must believe unknowingly takes it away. This is not a tiny matter for the tiny creatures it harms.

 You can see how this works in real time by watching this video . . . WARNING . . .  it is hard to watch. Here is another blog that has a fabulous post on Milkweed and this formidable pollinating mechanism. 

Oh dear! the tiny cuffs are closing around the tiny feet of this Honeybee. (Maybe not for the explanation seems to say there are discs that snag the bee and then the two bags of pollen hang from the tiny discs.) She does not know what this will mean to her already tiny six week life span. Even with all those hundreds of tiny lenses in her compound eyes she cannot see what a burden the pollen saddlebags and discs will bring . . . perhaps even her untimely death. 
There are many more wild honeybees and other insects that survive and enjoy the nourishing sweetness of Milkweed nectar without falling into this trap.

Asclepias syriaca 'The Common Milkweed' helps to create the many jewel like details of a Monarch chrysalis and to ensure its own survival has a unique system for pollination, but it does not always work for either the plant or the victim. If a honeybee cannot fly away, how can it carry the pollen to other plants? I have never seen any insect trapped as in the video so I am satisfied to know this is not a certain occurrence. The plant thrives . . .  as do the insects that help it along. As so often happens there is a balance of give and take in nature.

On yet another note . . .  our tiny daily actions can add up to make our world a better and safer place. Small details in life are precious and sometimes heartbreaking but often lift our spirits up high . . .  as if taken for a ride in a hot-air balloon. Just the tiny rising of the lines of a smile can make a stranger or loved ones day a happier one. Understanding begins like a garden by planting tiny seeds of hope. May we always take time for the tiny things in our lives.

Be sure to visit Katarina's Roses and Stuff to see other post on 'TINY' for Blooming Friday. I am posting this early, as tomorrow the library will be closed and the sun will return! I look forward to catching up on visiting your blogs next week.
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