A beautiful red-brick Gothic arch stands near a rustic water feature in the Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Woodward Park. The arch was built to honor Linnaeus volunteers who have “graduated” to a new life that Scripture says: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the glory that shall be revealed.” It was a comforting thought as I surveyed the 23 names memorialized on the arch. They were all great volunteers who loved the Linnaeus garden.

Shading the arch is a large and exquisite red leaf Japanese maple. During a recent early-morning visit to the memorial, golden sunlight was streaming through the maple’s delicate leaves, creating a magical light show over the arch that exceeded anything creative folks at Disney might have produced. Truly, the intrinsic value of a garden is beyond measure.

Recently, while enjoying my personal garden, a large moth, a species I had never seen, fluttered past me and landed several feet from where I was sitting. The colorful moth was huge, with a wingspan of 6 to 7 inches. I froze, not wanting to scare away the magnificent creature. And for the better part of 10 minutes, I watched with rapt attention as the big fellow (or big gal) majestically raised and lowered its gossamer wings before moving on. This may sound like foolishness to nongardeners, but the time spent observing the gorgeous creature was simply priceless. May my children, grandchildren and everyone who loves nature experience such a moment. A bit of research revealed that the beautiful visitor to my garden was a Cecropia Moth, aka Giant Silk Moth.

Another garden creature had a different impact on my emotions. For whatever reason, I have the odd habit of running my fingers and hands over the foliage of plants as I walk past them. Last fall, while walking beneath a Purple Smoke Tree with low-hanging branches, I casually reached up and stroked the foliage along a limb only to feel something large and prickly frantically squirming in my hand.

I pause here to confess that I’m squeamish about handling most insects, particularly large ones, such as praying mantis and tarantulas. They have a rightful place in nature, and I respect that. But I prefer to keep them at arm’s length.

On this occasion, whatever I inadvertently grabbed was really unhappy about being grabbed. Panicked, I immediately jerked by arm back with such force that I practically dislocated it from my shoulder and ran for cover. After composing myself, I slowly approached the spot where the encounter occurred and spotted a 4- to 5-inch-long Dobsonfly, a menacing looking creature seldom seen in local gardens. Despite its large and scary mandibles (jaws), Dobsonfly also is a very beneficial creature in nature.

I’ve read that the adult male Dobsonfly uses its huge jaws — three times larger than those of the female — to “hold” females during mating. I’m not sure I buy that. Sounds more like bad behavior than romance to me. The larva stage of the Dobsonfly (called Hellgrammites) is aquatic. They typically live two to three years in a stream or pond devouring all sorts of smaller insects before emerging as winged adults to lay eggs … and to frighten unsuspecting horticulturists.

Where else but in a garden would one find such wonders?

Barry Fugatt is director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center and Linnaeus Teaching Garden in Woodward Park. He may be reached at: 918-576-5152 or email: bfugatt@tulsagardencenter.org


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