The black beauties of a U.P. August

Karen Wils photo Black swallowtail butterfly ready to take wing.

ESCANABA — Bergamots, butterflies and black-eyed Susans usher in August.

In Upper Michigan the late summer days are drenched with beauty and color.

Just for a fleeting second, recall what your country lane looked like in February. Snow white, cloudy gray and bare-branch black were the color choices back then.

Now the countryside is crazy with color.

How can we not love the twisted green vines, the purple bergamot blossoms, the fiery red Indian paintbrush plants and the gorgeous goldenrods at this time of the year?

Sunflowers and gladiolus adorn the yards while daises and black-eyed Susans decorate the fields.

Even the wildlife is in all of its Technicolor glory. Shiny, emerald dragonflies dart in the breeze. The big, old matriarch doe wears her summer coat of red. Indigo buntings and goldfinches brighten up the green background.

The colors of summer are an awesome “upper,” lifting our spirits and putting smiles on our faces. Heaven knows we can really use some of the cheerfulness that summer color brings to help us through these pandemic times.

Two of August’s most colorful creations have names that are a bit misleading.

The black-eyed Susan is a wild flower of the dry lands. Their bright yellow petals remind us that they belong in the sunflower family. The centers of these pretty posies are not at all black as their name suggests, but rather and deep chocolate brown color.

Black-eyed Susans mingle with the Queen Anne’s lace flowers filling the meadows with wind swept color.

A black swallowtail butterfly does not sound very beautiful. After all, butterflies are supposed to be bright orange or yellow, right? Black is simply not a summer color… unless it shimmers in the sun and is accented with many splotches of blue, amber, red, and white.

The black swallowtail butterfly is my favorite. Sometimes he is called a parsley or dill butterfly because these garden plants feed him as a caterpillar. From a plain green worm to an ugly brown pupa comes this most spectacular of all butterflies. If you have ever had the chance to watch the black swallowtail emerge from his cocoon you would be totally amazed.

From a lumpy drab shell comes this velvety black thing. First it struggles to unfold its wings. Then it dries a bit and fans its large speckled wings. The male and female butterflies of this species have different color patterns on their wings, but both are gorgeous.

We are so blessed to live in such a place of beauty where black swallowtails flit through fields of black-eyed Susans. The colors of summer are free for us all to enjoy.

Find your favorite wild flower and your favorite type of butterfly before the first leaf turns an autumn color.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.


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