Shrubby St. John's Wort

Hypericum prolificum, or Shrubby St. John's Wort, is a visually captivating shrub with its bright yellow flowers.

I photographed the flowers of Shrubby St. John's Wort (Hypericum prolificum) during a tour of the large meadow at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

St. John's Wort is a perennial shrub indigenous to the central and eastern regions of the United States and Ontario. Its habitat is diverse - slopes, thickets, swamp edges, and oak woodlands. Our tour guide explained that St. John's Wort is a shrub that can reach heights up to 2 meters (6 feet 7 inches). Its leaves are elliptic to oblanceolate, and the flowerheads display a captivating array of 1 to 9 flowers. These flowers have five golden yellow petals and numerous stamens.

I learned that in its naturally mounded form, Shrubby St. John's Wort leaves can be easily pruned into a pleasing, rounded shape in early spring. This shrub comes alive throughout the summer with yellow flowers, attracting many pollinators. Its brown, 3-chambered seed capsules persist even in winter, providing food for winter birds and adding late-season visual interest.

Shrubby St. John's Wort's growth rate is slow but blooms from June through September. It loves full sun and can flourish in nearly any soil, including the heavy clay in my area near Rocky Hill. Remarkably drought-tolerant, it also has the advantage of being resistant to rabbits and deer. I need to find a way to plant this in my small garden.

Shrubby St. John's Wort plays a crucial role as a larval host plant for several species of butterflies and moths, including the Gray Hairstreak butterfly and the Wavy-lined Emerald moth.

In the Company of the Pearl Crescent Butterfly

I love watching butterflies flutter through a meadow.

I was lucky to come across Sherry Felix's blog post, which helped me identify the butterfly I photographed as a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) butterfly. Thanks, Sherry!

The Pearl Crescent butterfly, found all across North America except the West Coast, inhabits open spaces like fields and pine woods. It sports orange uppersides with black borders and marks, while the underside of its hindwing showcases a dark marginal patch with a light crescent.

These butterflies sustain themselves on nectar from flowers like dogbane and aster. Female Pearl Crescents meticulously place their eggs on aster leaves, and the caterpillars, which also feed on asters, go through winter in their caterpillar stage. The flight period spans from April to November featuring three broods.

Right after emerging, Pearl Crescents often gather near puddles before dispersing into fields to drink nectar and mate. I photographed this butterfly in the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve meadow.

Mistaken Identity

I never know what surprises nature has in store for me. Sometimes, it's about being at the right place and time, and I lucked out during this meadow tour.

I must admit that my knowledge about dragonflies and damselflies is limited. The photograph was captured near the end of a meadow walk at Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve in New Hope, Pennsylvania. It was a hot and humid mid-morning, and the tour was ending. I had swung my XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR to a flower in the meadow, and in seconds, the dragonfly had landed.

While I’ve noticed some beautiful dragonflies buzzing near Van Horne Park and Skillman Park in Montgomery Township, they were always too quick for me to get a good shot. Not this time! I was ready with my camera, and luck was on my side as this dragonfly decided to pose for me right before the lens.

It's funny how sometimes you try to get a certain shot, and it just doesn't happen. But then, when you least expect it, bam! I guess that's one of the things about photography – you never know what surprises nature has in store for you. Sometimes, it's about being at the right place and time, and I lucked out during this meadow tour.

After researching online, I was confident that the dragonfly in my photograph was most likely a Brook Snaketail (Ophiogomphus aspersus). However, after posting the photograph to Friends of Homegrown National Park Pennsylvania Facebook group, I realised I was mistaken. Two group members identified the dragonfly in my photograph as Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis).

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly is native to a large region, encompassing the eastern two-thirds of the United States and southern Ontario and Quebec in Canada, to the eastern parts of the Caribbean, including the Bahamas, the West Indies, Mexico, and even Central America, reaching as far south as Costa Rica. Due to its widespread presence and abundance, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified this species as of "least concern," meaning it faces no imminent threat of extinction.

The Eastern Pondhawk thrives in the tranquil waters of ponds and other stillwater bodies, making it a common sight in these habitats. Interestingly, when newly emerged, the dragonflies initially hunt away from water, returning to the ponds after approximately two weeks.