Saturday, August 11, 2018


Everything that happens in this tale is due to a single small event ... a "small bang" if you will.

This single event was my decision not to mow two small Passion Flower vines (Passiflora incarnata) while flying around on my son in laws' 54-inch cut, zero-turn mower. 

As I zipped around the "house yard" that day, I spotted two young Passion Flower vines about 8 feet apart and lying prone on the ground.

It only took a moment to hop off the mower, grab a few pieces of cut bamboo and stick them in the ground next to each vine.

Once the vines were vertical, I continued mowing, confident that they knew what to do next.

 It only took a day or two to prove me right. It was a positively Thigmotropic moment.

Now I knew they'd be okay.

Both vines latched on to the makeshift trellis I had provided and got busy doing photosynthetical stuff.

Soon I was rewarded with the incredibly complicated beauty of the Passion Flower blossom.

I wasn't the only one rewarded by the beautiful blossoms of course.
I think this is one of our Cicada Killer Wasps, but I haven't bothered to officially ID it yet.  

 Of course, flowers being sex organs, it wasn't long before one of the vines got knocked up.
A few days later a female Gulf Fritillary butterfly found the Passion Flowers and placed her yellow eggs here and there on both vines.  
The eggs are truly tiny so this is actually smaller than a small event.

Not long after the eggs arrived, so did tiny punk-rocker larvae. Eating and growing constantly and molting most prolifically.
This photo shows a newly molted Gulf Fritillary cat next to its darker, smaller former skin.

 The larvae turn from black to orange as they grow. This might seem like a big event, but orange is the new black after all.

What happened next was a big event masquerading as a small event. The first of the Gulf Fritillary cats felt the metamorphic tug of its genes and began pupating. 

Of course, there were more of these beauties along the way. 

Then a new guy showed up and he was hungry,... really, really hungry.

He devoured this very important leaf ... right up to the attachment to which I had become attached ...

Something had to be done.
The new guy was so close to eating or cutting off the pupating guy that I caused another small event. 
I moved him to the neighboring Passion Flower vine where he could eat with abandon, but not threaten the changeling.

I kept checking on the pupating progress, hoping to catch the emergence. That was a long shot I know, and as predicted I missed it.

 Other small events in this chain of ... well, small events happened not due to the Passion Flower, but simply due to the presence of the bamboo stake.

This tiny native Anole seemed to love sunning there.

So who else showed up in the passion zone?
Let's see ... the ants were there from day one, patrolling the vine and maybe benefitting from what looked like nectaries along the stem. (Haven't checked that out, but they looked like the nectaries on Partridge Pea.)

One morning a small brown Preying Mantis showed up. I tried to photograph him, but he kept putting the vine between us.

A native snail, the White Lip Globe Snail (Mesodon thyroidus) also arrived at passion central and was eagerly devouring leaves before I plucked him off.
He was sent on a high arc trajectory into the surrounding woods. 

Something seems to have eaten the small developing fruits long before ripeness. My guess is that was the work of our deer, which are NOT small, ... except when compared to deer from almost any other state.

I suppose a tale about a series of small events should not grow too big or drag on too long, so it ends (almost) here.

Sometimes the smallest thing ... like an impulse decision to not mow a "weed" can result in wonderful chain reactions, a few of which I got to witness by dropping by once in a while.

(Imagine what I missed!)

Ahhh, you're welcome little buddy.


robin andrea said...

I LOVE this story! It so beautifully depicts how one small act changes everything. Thank you for saving the plants, for photographing all that life, and writing it down for us. Truly wonderful.

roger said...

great story. "He was sent on a high arc trajectory into the surrounding woods," also my favorite way of rehoming snails.

Paul said...

Once again, I wish I had your knowledge (also, your son-in-law's mower).

Anonymous said...

What happened withthe deer fence?????

Julie Zickefoose said...

Beautiful story well told. I am positively thigmotropic toward your storytelling. I have a passionflower vine I’m afraid to plant out. Have been warned they’re invasive. Advice?

Kim S. said...

Wonderful story that certainly kept me reading to learn about the next small thing. And I learned a new word with many facets to it - thigmotropic. Thanks for the post. Kim in PA

R.Powers said...

Thank you for the feedback and kind words Robin, Roger, Pablo, Anon, Julie, and Kim!
I am into habitat tweaking, even on the tiny scale like this Passion Flower tale.
Anon: In answer to your question, the deer fence is at a brief standstill as school resumes, but paychecks do not until August 31 ...
Julie: My Passion is native, so I had not thought about that issue. When I googled the topic, I noticed some are invasive, so it depends on what species you have I guess. These guys are very well behaved, plus they get hit hard by caterpillars.

threecollie said...

Wonderful story! I didn't know about thigmotropic it works and all...although I have seen it work. Had fun learning about it so thanks. Now I understand what makes the Scarlet Runner Beans cling

R.Powers said...

Hey 3C!
There's gravitropism and phototropism to wonder at too.