Saturday, November 28, 2009

Seasonal Transitions in the Garden

It has been, for the most part, a notably mild fall—so mild, in fact, that one of the antique rose varieties is still reblooming. The marvelously persistent Rose de Rescht (of Iranian origin) was managing to put out several new blooms a week all month. One small one opened even on Thanksgiving Day (here a shot of another blossom, only a bit earlier)

Rose de Rescht

Nonetheless, it is clear not only that autumn is here, but that winter is coming. Most of the leaves fell off the trees by Halloween. Many of us have taken advantage of the mild temperatures to stretch out the leaf clean-up task (between the occasional heavy rains, that is). While engaged in such activity last weekend, I came across another sure sign of fall: this large but austere cocoon

Cecropia utopia

The four-inch cocoon will be the winter resting place of my favorite moth, the Cecropia (Hyalophora cecropia; also known as the Robin Moth), one of the giant American wild silk moths (the others are the Luna and the Polyphemus, my other two favorites; all three thus have appealingly classical names). In fact, the Cecropia happens to be the largest moth found in the US.

By next spring, the humble gray cocoon will have yielded a colorful and truly spectacular creature:

Many, over the ages, have presumed to draw moral or spiritual lessons from the metamorphosis of the moths and butterflies from egg to adult (here, a particularly inane creationist variant). It would be nice to think that, after a cold, hard winter, we could, with no active effort of our own, emerge so miraculously transformed. On the other hand, all that growth takes place in a hidden space, and the results, once revealed, do not last long. The beautiful adult that emerges does not feed and lives for only about a week. Interesting that almost no one ever stops to reflect on that sober truth.

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