(Polygonella means “little Polygonum.” Polygonum is a related genus and may mean “many knees,” referring to thick nodes on the stem. Or, accoridng to Flora North America, it may mean “many seeds.” Polygama means polygamous.)
How do you observe Florida scrub when the dashboard thermometer says 94? Fortunately for me, my wife Donna has happy weekly business in Boynton Beach on Thursday afternoons. So I tag along, then while waiting, sneak off in the car to visit the great scrub sites down that way. I use the car as an air conditioned observation post while seeing the botany adjacent to the scrub parking areas, followed by an iced coffee from a convenient Dunkin Donuts.. You can spot a lot from a parking lot. This week’s destination was the Rosemary Scrub Natural Area, with I-95 along its west border. A little gem with a ton of biodiversity.
Two species are in full beautiful bloom all over the scrub: Eastern Mikpea (last week’s feature) and October-Flower here and now. The October Flowers are covered with snow-white flowers on the sun-baked sand. The thousands of blossoms, with males and females on separate plants, turn pinkish-violet with age. Females mature into a small triangular fruit resembling buckwheat, no surprise give the family relationship. The species is at home in harsh Florida scrub habitats and has “satellite” populations from Texas to the Carolinas.
To get to the cool insects, October Flower was a hotbed of activity. Its buggy visitors were diverse. Plenty of bees visit this species, and there is even one, Perdita polygonellae, that specializes on Polygonella. Nonetheless, at Rosemary Scrub on 8/26/2021 October Flowers was favored by wasps and a huge weird fly.
Today’s featured wasp certainly counts on bee visitorship. Bee Wolf wasp (Philanthus sp.), well named, is a predator on bees. The wasp lurks around flowery places and pounces on pollinating bees, stinging them into paralysis and carrying them back to the wasp’s tunnel-style burrow. Worth mentioning, the wasp is armored against stings from the victimized bee.
A scary-looking visitor to the OF was the big-ol’ Mydas Fly shown below. It is a harmless wasp mimic, as are many types of flies. Nobody is going to mess with this gentle giant, which couldn’t harm a flea, although its larva would harm a beetle grub. The larvae are subterranean predators regarded as beneficials in turf-growing situations. The name Mydas is a tribute to King Midas, because Mydas Flies have gold markings.
Any bird watcher will tell us, “often it is best stay put and let nature come to you.”