Missouri has joined several other states in reducing the width of mowing along her highways as a way to save native bees and monarch butterflies. Presently bees and other insects enjoy the bounty of Queen Anne’s Lace or wild carrot as a result.
The road edges have been mowed so many years the diversity of plants growing along them is sadly reduced. Those too stubborn to give up are now populating them.
Around here that includes Queen Anne’s Lace, black-eyed Susans, sensitive pea and many grasses. Some areas still have purple, common and butterfly weed milkweeds, perennial peas and gayfeather. The many yellow sunflowers will bloom later on.
Queen Anne’s Lace is one of those more noticeable survivors. It’s easy to see why.
For now tall stems rise up each topped with a white umbel of flowers. Some expanses look like summer snow has fallen there are so many. Individual flowers are small but each umbel has about a thousand of them.
Most of the umbels I see are fairly flat across. But some enterprising plants along my road are semicircles.
Every breeze sends the umbels waving back and forth. The visiting insects have their own private amusement ride.
Which insects visit? White-faced hornets, wasps, native bees, a variety of beetles and flies. Ants like them too.
Each umbel is open several days. After all the flowers are pollinated, the umbel folds over itself forming an elongated sphere.
Now comes the secret to the success of Queen Anne’s Lace. Each flower becomes a tiny seed covered with natural Velcro.
Slowly the folded umbel opens up again. Those thousand flowers have become a thousand beggar lice. They wave in the breeze as they wait.
The lucky ones will have a deer go by. Those umbels closer to the ground will pick on coyotes. Anything with fur or clothing will do.
When the unlucky passerby sits down to rest, the first order of business will be pulling all those Velcro beggar lice out of the fur. Wildlife leaves the seeds someplace for new Queen Anne’s Lace to grow. Any that go home with me lane in the trash.