Birds & Blooms - - Ask The Experts -

Q We saw these ducks while at the Sacra­mento Na­tional Wildlife Refuge Com­plex last Oc­to­ber. What kind are they?

Roy and Deb­bie Pardee UKIAH, CON­NECTI­CUT

Kenn and Kimberly: The short an­swer is that these are es­caped do­mes­tic ducks, but the long an­swer is more in­ter­est­ing. Most do­mes­tic ducks are de­scended from ei­ther mal­lards or Mus­covy ducks, and those in your photo are in the mal­lard line. Over the last sev­eral cen­turies, peo­ple have de­vel­oped many dis­tinc­tive breeds of these ducks, rang­ing from all white to glossy green­ish black, and many col­ors in be­tween. These two look most sim­i­lar to a rare breed called the An­cona duck, but they are not com­pletely typ­i­cal. When do­mes­tic ducks es­cape from cap­tiv­ity, they may wan­der in the wild for years, caus­ing con­fu­sion for bird watch­ers.

Q This butterfly vis­ited my gar­den last fall. Can you iden­tify it? He­len Fo­jtik WHARTON, TEXAS

Kenn and Kimberly: What a treat to see this in your gar­den! It’s a trop­i­cal butterfly, the Ju­lia he­li­co­nian, some­times called Ju­lia long­wing. In the U.S., it lives mainly in south­ern Texas and Florida. Or­di­nar­ily, it is rec­og­nized by its long wings and over­all plain or­ange color. The in­di­vid­ual you pho­tographed is even more un­usual be­cause of those very pale patches on the wings, a rare vari­a­tion on the nor­mal color. If you grow pas­sion vine, you might at­tract more Ju­lias or other kinds of long­wings be­cause that is the food plant for their cater­pil­lars.

Q My mys­tery plant has pro­duced a flower for the first time in 15 years. What is it?

Elaine Co­marella MAR­ION, NEW YORK

Melinda: Your plant is a type of crinum lily. As you dis­cov­ered, it takes sev­eral years to reach ma­tu­rity and be­gin bloom­ing. Grow crinum lilies in a sunny lo­ca­tion with moist, well-drain­ing soil. And be pa­tient. Some crinum lilies are hardy and sur­vive win­ters north of New York City. Gar­den­ers in cold re­gions should plant hardier types suited to their cli­mate in a shel­tered lo­ca­tion and mulch for win­ter to in­crease the chance of over­win­ter­ing suc­cess. Re­duce wa­ter­ing once the flow­ers fade to en­cour­age the plant to en­ter dor­mancy. Other crinum lilies are hardy only to Zones 7 or warmer and need to be moved in­doors for win­ter. Dig the bulbs out of the ground or move the con­tainer in­doors once the leaves die back. Store in a 50-de­gree lo­ca­tion.

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