Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Flowers and a flower mimic

Beside the pathway that runs the length of our lawn, a native wild rose has established itself. Unfortunately, it is infested with another native in the rose family, a hardhack, Spiraea douglasii. I've been chopping and hacking this out, over and over again, for the last three years; it keeps coming back, and it strangles the rose, overwhelms it, and slurps up all the moisture in the soil. It's a pest. If I let it take over, it will make a messy, impenetrable thicket where nothing else can grow.

It's called hardhack, because if it is allowed to grow, the tangled, springy, woody stems become almost impossible to cut through by hand.

Typical habitats include lake margins, stream banks, swamps, bogs and wet meadows. Poorly drained lowlands in the Fraser Valley harbour thousands of hectares of Hardhack thickets. (From the Royal BC Museum)

In its place, in the wild, hardhack is one of my favourite plants. I love the flowers, tall heads of fuzzy pink blossoms that stay on the plant all winter, gradually fading until they turn a dusty, purplish brown. As a cut flower, they need no water; like the pearly everlasting, or a hydrangea, they make a good winter decoration.

Young hardhack clump. Image from Wikipedia.

Buds and opening flowers, like miniature, messy rosebuds.

Close-up of a mature flower head.

We passed a goodly bush along the roadside the other day, and I brought a handful of flowers home, along with a couple of sprigs of an unidentified white flower. As I trimmed them to put them in a vase, a green spider, barely the size of a small aphid, dropped out and ran along my finger. I shook her off and she fell into the leaves, where she promptly became invisible.

I had to spread all the stems out again, on paper towels, to find her, so perfectly did she blend in to the whitish green underside of the leaves.

Perfect camouflage; green to match the leaves, dotted pink to blend in with the flowers.

The white flowers.

Some of these crab spiders will change colour to match the plant they are on. They lay in wait for prey, sitting without moving, looking like part of the plant, until an unwary insect wanders too close. This little one is no exception; a minute after I'd replaced her on a leaf, I could no longer see her, although I had been watching carefully to see where she went.


  1. A friend sent me your way, and I'm glad she did. You have a wonderful blog, and I've added it to my blog list. I'm looking forward to reading more.

  2. Camouflage is so extraordinary. Wrote a post about Grayling butterflies the other day - they are fabulous too.

  3. I just love crab spiders. Great shot, and WOW is it well dressed to disappear. Amazing. Great find! =)


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