Saturday, May 21, 2011

Centaurea montana and Bombus

centaurea montana

Every spring, Centaurea montana (Perennial Cornflower, Bachelor’s Button, Knapweed, Bluebottle) shows up in a corner of our front yard. In the moist, gentle days of April and May it grows lushly, often with stems travelling a foot or so stretching toward the most light. Then as it gets drier and hotter, the plants die off and disappear. By August, we pull out the dry dead stems. But, they come back again in the fall for one last show.

The genus name Centaur'ea comes from the Latin and refers to the Centaur Chiron known for his knowledge of medicinal plants. The species name, monta’na, because Centaurea montana is typically found in meadows and open woodland in upper and sub-alpine zones.

As we went out to snap a photo the other day, a large Bombus (bumblebee) came in for some fuel. Likely it is a female that overwintered and is starting out her own colony. The markings are too hard for us to decipher. Even after consulting we couldn’t match the markings. Is it Bombus pratorum (early bumblebee) because it is early in the season?
centaurea montana

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