If there's any flower that should be crowned "Autumn's Majesty," that would be the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), aka "Torch."
A member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), it carries "the torch of life" throughout spring, summer and autumn, but it's especially important in autumn when few plants offer sustenance to insects, especially to migrating monarchs. The colorful annual has been blooming in our yard since April, reaching 10-to 15-foot heights (thanks, drip irrigation).
What loves this delightful orange blossom, besides the human beings who grow it?
Over a weeklong period, we photographed dozens of autumn critters, including monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, hover flies, honey bees and crab spiders.
Every bee garden needs an "Autumn Majesty" and the Mexican sunflower fills the bill. When it goes to seed, finches and other birds will take what's left.
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A Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, lands on a Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
In a sea of nearly spent Mexican sunflowers, a lone migrating monarch, Danaus plexippus, finds food. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee, Apis mellifera, takes a liking to the Tithonia, aka Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A skipper, family Hesperiidae, hangs out on the Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The wings of a black hover fly or syrphid, aka "Mexican cactus fly" (Copestylum mexicanum), gleam in the sunlight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Predators hang out on the Mexican sunflower, too. A crab spider, family Thomisidae, waits for prey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)