Tag Archives: garrigue

Enconter with the Green-underside Blue

Spring days in the Mediterranean region in May are ideal for observing butterflies and other insects, because during this period most of the plants are in full blossom. Therefore, I try not to miss any potential day for wandering with my dog in search of opportunities for a good picture. During one of these sunny and warm days of May, while trekking on Marlera, I spotted a beautiful sample of Glaucopsyche alexis or, Green-underside Blue, a member of the Lycaenidae family. It was resting on a herbaceous plant, most probably  of the Linum genus. However, their life history is accomplished on several members of the Fabaceae family and the larvae are attended by various ant species, as typical for this family of butterflies. This species is widespread and common in many European regions, and it can be easily recognised by the metallic greenish-blue flush on the light-grey hind underside wing. In the specimen on the picture (Photo 1 and 2) it is extended to the edge but in some populations it can be reduced.

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Photo 1. A specimen of Glaucopsyche alexis resting on a plant of the Linum genus; Salvia pratensis can be seen in the foreground.
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Photo 2. Glaucopsyche alexis seen in more detail: the blue-green basal flush extends to the margin.

The shiny green-bluish flush is actually a structural colour, which means that the way we see it is the consequence of how light reflects off a surface of the wing which is made of tiny scales. Watch here for more info: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/06/photogalleries/100624-butterfly-wing-colors-scales-pictures/

Glaucopsyche
Foto 3. A male resting on a dry pep with seeds. Females´upperside is usually brown, with the blue flush present only in the basal region, which can be qute extensive in some populations.

Curiosities:

  • Eggs are laid on a flower which will later be eaten by the larvae. The colour of the larvae is variable and depends on the colour of the flower they feed on. It can be greenish, dusky-pink or even bright yellow if they consumed the yellow flowers of Spartium junceum.
  • Larvae is whitish prior the pupation and at this stage it is attended by various ant species (Lasius, Formica, Myrmica, Camponotus etc.).

Photos by Ingrid Ugussi Vukman

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Cape Kamenjak blossom (Rt Kamenjak u cvatu)

At the tip of the Istrian peninsula (Croatia), there is a small peninsula called Cape Kamenjak (Rt Kamenjak), an area of immense beauty which is for good reasons under protection at the level of Protected Landscape. The rugged coastline creates small bays where pebbles and gravels are transported by the waves during windy days. However, most of the coast is rocky, and at the tip forms walls of up to 5m in height (Fig.1).

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Fig.1 The rocky coast at the tip of the peninsula.

A stunning view can be seen from the highest point of the peninsula of about 60m, which is created by the crystal blue sea, and the 11 scattered small islands, in one of which dominates a picturesque lighthouse called Porer.

The mediterranean climate of  Kamenjak creates the ideal condition for the developement of a rich flora community. In fact, in this small area there are about 500 plant species. Thypical vegetation that can be found here are dry grasslands combined with garrigue and macchia, a degradation stage of an once-existing mediterranean forest.

For nature lovers, spring is the best season to visit. The first flowers appear very early, since the very beginning of February where Croculs biflorus (Fig. 4) emerges first, followed by Romulea bulbocodium, both members of the Liliaceae family. About two weeks later, Ranunculus ficaria will emerge, a small Ranunculaceae with bright yellow flowers and flashy heart shaped leaves. Leaves of this blant ar eadible and vitamin C rich, and are better consumed before flowering; later on, nutrients are realesed for the blooming.

Romulea bulbocodium
Fig. 4 Crocus biflorus
Anemone hortensis
Fig. 5 Anemone hortensis

As the days become longer and warmer, more flowers come up. Among numerous yellow Taraxacum sp., the fuxia of Anemone hortensis (Fig. 5) brightens the meadows in April. A close up vew of the inner part of those flowers, formed by the stamens and blue anteras, attracts various insects and sometimes offers a temporary shelter for the nymph stage of green grasshoppers.

Spartium junceum (Fig. 11) and Erica arborea (Fig. 6 and 7) create a spectacular combination in May, when both are in full blossom. However, Erica shows its tiny beautiful flowers already in April.

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Fig. 11 Spartium junceum in the first plan

 

Photos by Ingrid Ugussi Vukman