It's the height of a very hot summer here in the Texas Hill Country, and the native flowers are past their prime. But not all. The drought- and heat-tolerant blue mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, is blooming, to the delight of the Queen butterflies, who cluster on it and rise up in a cloud of colorful wings when I walk past. The butterflies adore even the faded flowers and the dried brown stalks, a mystery that has always puzzled me.
Until I learned why, from an informative post written by Ray Conrow for the Native Plant Society of Texas. It turns out that most of the queen butterflies I'm seeing are males, happily tanking up on a plant chemical that they cleverly convert to a sexy perfume (a pheromone) that female queens find irresistible. The chemical (called intermedine) is poisonous to animals and birds, but not to the butterflies. When they mate, the male passes it on to the female, who passes it on to her eggs, which makes them less attractive to predators. In the process, the queens pollinate the mistflower, which returns the favor by helping their helpers produce more pollinators. A productive collaboration, don't you think?
Book news. July was mostly taken up with Story Circle's biannual writing conference. (Story Circle is an organization for women writers that I helped to create 20-some years ago.) But I'm back at the computer, finishing up China's 27th adventure, A Plain Vanilla Murder, planned for May, 2019, in hardcover, ebook, and audio, via Persevero Press, my imprint. That's been an interesting book, featuring vanilla (derived from an orchid) and orchid smuggling (who knew?).
I've also been working on getting the latest Dahlias mystery, The Darling Dahlias and the Poinsettia Puzzle, into the world. The book is now at the printer, so you can have it on October 16. If you're a Kindle reader, you can preorder it now. Use this link, and your purchase will benefit Story Circle.
And be sure and tell your librarian about the book, so she can order it, too. The tenth book in the series is only a glimmer in my imagination right now, but the Dahlias have told me their title: The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily. Sounds like fun to me. I'm already curious.
It's been a chaotic summer nationwide, weather-wise and in the political landscape. Hoping for cooler weather and calmer heads--although I have the feeling that it's going to get worse before it gets better. There are plenty of political storms out there, and we haven't seen our first hurricane yet.
Reading note. America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug [people] who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind.--Norman Mailor