Still Learning To See

Such things must be impossible, but…


Hummingbirds, of course, are simply an impossibility. Not just their abilities to fly and their coloration but also their tongue, something that wraps around the inside of their skull it is so long.

Why the long tongue? To reach into places where others cannot, including jewelweed, another impossibility. This “weed” is a primary food source for the hummingbird and the two have worked it all out over the millenia: the plant tucks its nectar deep down inside the flower in a place that—guess what?—requires a long tongue to reach!

Every morning lately I’ve enjoyed watching one or two hummers going from one jewelweed flower to the another, clearly putting on calories for the long migration to southern Mexico or Central America in a couple weeks.

Another aspect of jewelweed that delights me is the way the seed pods, when ripe, explode upon touch. Walking through a patch of this plant sends a fusillade of seeds flying in all directions.

I’ve learned to look at these kinds of things—flying seeds and humming birds—as obvious examples of the impossible. In fact, all of life is pretty much that way when I really stop to take a look! In a world overflowing with news and fake news it is a great way to start the day seeing that amazing bird dipping into that impossibly beautiful flower.


This entry was published on August 28, 2019 at 7:59 pm. It’s filed under Flowers, Garden, John Snell, John Snell Photographer, Photograph, Summer, Vermont, and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “Such things must be impossible, but…

  1. Deborah Leu on said:

    Beautiful pics and thoughts. We have a species that’s here all year long (Anna’s)!

  2. Thanks for this, John. I’ve always loved jewel weed ever since I learned of its use for poison ivy and poison oak. And I just love it’s sweet appearance. I have a patch where I live now and refrain from pulling it up when weeding. I’ve yet to see the hummingbirds getting nectar. I’ll be on the lookout now.

  3. Veer Frost on said:

    Thank you for this beautiful photo essay! The yellow form of jewelweed is also lovely but hummingbirds seem to stick with these speckled orange beauties..the bees love the yellow though.

    • I had never seen the yellow form until last week in East Montpelier where it was growing in fairly deep shade in the woods. Fascinating!

      • Veer Frost on said:

        For years I watched a bare few in Passumpsic cemetery being overtaken by bramble,and finally took exactly one little one home to a shady wet spot, now a buzzing thriving plot of beauty. This is the first year the orange and yellow have met, despite my efforts to prevent, lest either lose its uniqueness.

  4. Dianne Shullenberger on said:

    I have never looked closely at Jewel weed,your pictures take it to a new dimension. Thanks for getting into a deeper respect for the plant. Dianne

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