Last weekend, I was preparing to put up the bush-hog for the winter, having recently mowed down an invading army of sumac and volunteer cedars and other noxious weeds of the Kansas prairie. Every winter I switch the bush-hog for the road grading blade (in preparation for the occasional rare snow), and every spring I switch it back in preparation for the fall pasture mowing, which I time after the milkweeds and other desirable wildflowers have dispersed seed.
This year, I was contemplating my nicely mowed pasture in contrast to the overgrown roadside of my neighbor across from it and I offered to mow his roadside before putting the mower away. I mowed up, and down, concentrating carefully on the slanted sides to avoid tipping the tractor. On the repeat center run, however, I stopped cold at the sight of this clump of gayfeather brightly accenting the White Sage around it. I believe it to be Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata) due to its short stature and location on the dry prairie. What a beautiful sight!
It was, as you can easily see, a magnet for yellow sulphur butterflies, probably Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) butterflies to be exact, although I could easily be mistaken given my poor butterfly identification skills. Immediately, I faced a dilemma. Proceed ahead a few more feet and this perennial clump wouldn't be setting seed this year nor would other butterflies be able to stock up on energy from its nectar. Mow around it, as I would do and have done in my own pasture, and risk having my neighbor think I was nuts.
I mowed on, a flippant choice at the time forced by self-image and social norms. As the Knight of the Crusades said in the third Indiana Jones movie, however, I "chose poorly". I've now faced a week of guilt over it, a sure sign from my conscience that I chose the wrong path. I really hope these butterflies made it across the fence line to another fertile clump, another precious waystation on their winged journey. My karma has taken a hit that will need some careful and conscious effort over the next few months to mend. Excuse me while I go collect some gayfeather seed to start several other clumps in my pasture.