Javelina Bush: Signs of Spring 2

Today, during my afternoon walk around the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens I got a whiff of a smell so sweet that it stopped me in my tracks. I began to look around, but couldn’t immediately see anything that I thought could account for the scent. So I followed my nose until I could hear the hum of pollinators. My nose and my ears eventually led me to a small, insignificant bush hidden in the grasses.

Known as a javelina bush (Condalia ericoides), this small shrub is usually overlooked. But in the early spring it bursts into bloom with thousands of tiny yellow-green flowers. Pollinators of all kinds are attracted to the javelina bush by the sweet odor.

I stood there for a few minutes watching the bees (both honeybees and native bees), flower flies, and butterflies as they came in to nectar. The tiny syrphid flies are my favorite. They dart in and out, hovering in place for a moment, then dash off to another flower. Eventually, if you watch long enough, you’ll see one land for just a few seconds before it takes off again.

Tachinid flies, with their spiny abdomens, are also attracted to the javelinabush.

Most people have little interest in flies. But not all flies are houseflies. In fact, they’re some of the most colorful and beautiful of the pollinating insects. Flower flies and other nectar sippers are attracted to strongly scented, light colored flowers. The next time you hear and smell a bush, take a minute to sort out the insects at work. Most likely, you’ll find some beautiful flies.