If Two is Company and Three is a Crowd, What is Four?

Four purple coneflower blossoms grow close together

Four purple coneflower blossoms grow close together in our garden. I’ve propagated several patches around our yard as this is my favorite flower, but this old patch from when we first moved in continues to be the most vigorous. I don’t deadhead them late in the fall so the birds can eat the seeds during the winter, as the juncos are doing now.

Defender of the Pollen

A goldenrod crab spider sits below a clump of pollen on a purple coneflower

After a much-needed summer shower, I grabbed my macro lens to take some pictures of rain drops on the flowers in our garden and was amused by this little crab spider seemingly defending the last remaining clump of pollen on one of our purple coneflowers. Her life is actually tied to the pollen, as she is lying in wait for a pollinator like a bee to land on the flower so she can kill and eat it.

A-ha!

A female dark-eyed junco (Oregon race) perches on a purple coneflower stem

Purple coneflower is one of my favorites in our garden and we have a vigorous patch at the edge of our back patio. I deadhead them during the summer to encourage new flowers but at the end of the season I leave them be as I knew birds were eating the seeds in the dried-up cones during the winter — I just didn’t know which ones, as I had never seen any birds on the dead flowers. I had assumed my seed-eaters were finches but just discovered their true identity: dark-eyed juncos.

Junco plumages vary across populations, this is a female of the Oregon race which we commonly see in our backyard, she’s perched on one of the coneflower stems.