by Sandy Swegel
Gaillardia is my favorite flower this week!
Gaillardia aristata or blanket flower is already a favorite of xeric gardeners. It doesn’t require much water. It comes in beautiful orange and red and yellow colors. It blooms a long time. It is one tough little plant. I had one re-seed in the cracked hard dry clay of my driveway once. It’s intriguing…some gaillardia have petals that are double at the edges giving it an interesting alien look.
But this week I fell in love with Gaillardia all over again because I met the Gaillardia Flower Moth (Schinia masoni). This is a little moth that mimics the coloration of the Gaillardia so well, I could barely get a picture that shows it. This flower moth basically lounges on the Gaillardia flowers all day and does its pollination, as moths do, at night. The exclusive food of the larvae of moth is the Gaillardia!
While the moth relies only on this species for its life cycle, it species feeds many different insects and pollinators. Here are some of the primary visitors to Gaillardia:
Honey Bees (Gaillardia is heavily visited by honeybees
Flower Beetles (Listrus senilis)
I haven’t often seen pests on Gaillardia but researches say they are visited by aphids, caterpillars, slugs, thrips, spider midges and leafhoppers. I don’t like pests but they are food for the beneficial pollinators.
I have one of those “Isn’t Nature Amazing!” moments when I see Gaillardia. One beautiful flower and so many beneficiaries.
Charles S. Lewallen; alamy.com; commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/