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Butterfly In My Garden

Around April 5, I caught a glimpse of a butterfly in my garden and ran out to get a closer look. I really couldn’t miss it since it had a wingspan of over 5 inches. It fluttered about my garden rue and then took off over the fence. I didn’t see any eggs just then but a week later there were tiny specks that might be larvae! By April 19, there were four “orange dog” caterpillars of the Eastern Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes. They look like bird droppings to deter predators.

Caterpillar On Rue

I have grown Ruta graveolens since becoming a Dallas County Master Gardener in 2006 and love its blue-green foliage and tiny yellow flowers. Along with various trees it is a host plant of the beautiful Giant Swallowtail larvae. The adults visit my garden every year but these are the first caterpillars I have seen. Photographing the adults is challenging as they are always in motion, fluttering away as they feed.

Then last fall I noticed this mating pair on my Loropetalum bush right at eye level. These are distinctive from the Eastern Black Swallowtail adult in that the and the row of large yellow spots on the dorsal (top) side meet in the middle of the wing rather than near the bottom and the ventral view is mainly yellow.

Eastern Giant Swallowtail Butterflies Mating

As of May 2, the four caterpillars have grown to over 2 inches and should pupate soon. The chrysalis stage is variable but usually takes 10–12 days. I hope to photograph at least one chrysalis and adult as it emerges. With luck they will return to my garden rue to produce another generation in the fall. Bugguide.net states they overwinter as a chrysalis.

Two Caterpillars!

Caterpillar Hosts: Trees and herbs of the citrus family (Rutaceae) including Citrus species, prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), hop tree (Ptelea trifoliata), and Common Rue (Ruta graveolens).

Adult Food: Nectar from lantana, azalea, bougainvilla, bouncing Bet, dame’s rocket, goldenrod, Japanese honeysuckle, and swamp milkweed. Here’s one feeding on clammyweed last summer.

 

Eastern Giant Swallowtail on Clammy Weed

Grow Common Rue and you might have these interesting and beautiful garden visitors!

Susan Swinson

 

Have you ever seen a butterfly laying an egg?

Thanks to our own intrepid photographer, Starla, for capturing a rare picture of a butterfly laying an egg.

Black swallowtail butterfly laying an egg on fennel

And here’s the egg-

Look for the creamy yellow egg located on the lower right of the picture

*Eggs are laid singly on the host plants—usually on new foliage and occasionally on flowers. Development time is variable depending on temperature and host plant species, but generally the egg stage lasts four to nine days, the larval stage 10–30 days, and the pupal stage nine to 18 days.

Fascinating!

Ann Lamb

Picture by Starla Willis

*http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/bfly2/eastern_black_swallowtail.htm

Study up on our butterfly garden by looking at the right hand side of the front page of Dallas Garden Buzz under Raincatcher’s Resources for a list of hummingbird and butterfly plants or type butterfly in our search box for a host of articles on butterflies.

 

Porterweed

How often do you get an entertainment package with a nectar source?

Blue Porterweed, Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

Blue Porterweed, Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

My husband has mentioned several times how entertaining the Porter weed is which can be seen through our den windows. We have watched hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees drinking from it.

Now we must say goodbye and hope that it returns from its roots next year. Proper mulch has been applied.

Porterweed comes in several colors and be careful because the names and growth habits will switch according to species or cultivar.

Raincatcher’s has Coral Porterweed, Stachytarpheta mutabilis, in our courtyard garden and Lavender Porterweed Stachytarpheta mutabilis var. violacea in our butterfly garden.

Coral Porterweed, Stachytarpheta mutabilis

Coral Porterweed, Stachytarpheta mutabilis

Make a note to look for this favorite nectar source at the Texas Discovery Garden spring plant sale in 2017.

In the meantime, Porterweed, we are going to miss you!

Ann

Hope you read yesterday’s freeze information yesterday and for further info click here.

Note: I have seen Porterweed spelled as two words and one word.

 

 

That Doesn’t Look Like Milkweed!

The milkweed section of the April Texas Discovery Garden plant sale is not for the faint of heart. Once the gate is opened, you’ve just got to get in there—elbows flying—and grab.

Turns out, this year we purchased an interloper that hitched a ride to the Raincatcher’s Garden with the native Rose, Common, Green, Green-flowered and Antelope Horns milkweed.  And this milkweed has been turning heads.

The green pods of African Milkweed

The green pods of African Milkweed

African milkweed Asclepias physocarpa or Gomphocarpus physocarpa was a mild mannered herbaceous plant with tiny white star-shaped flowers from August through September.  Then 3-inch pale green, round seedpods covered with soft hair-like spines appeared in October.  None of the Raincatcher’s volunteers had seen anything like it. The spiny pods will fade to red or brown and slowly split to release numerous oval seeds, each with a tuft of silky hairs to catch the wind.

Brown pods obviously

Brown pods with milkweed bug

African milkweed, which is also known as Balloon Plant, Swan Flower and Tennis Ball Plant, is an annual milkweed native to Africa. Its distinctive seedpods are often used in flower arrangements—or as conversation pieces in the Raincatcher’s Garden.

Elizabeth

Pictures by Starla

Texas Discovery Garden Plant Sale, November 4th  for members, November 5th for the public. Information here.

Globemallow

Globemallow Sphaeralcea ambigua

We didn’t think it would survive in Dallas. Much less bloom. Well, the Globemallow’s exquisite pink flowers triggered gardeners’ squeals—this is a passionate bunch!—last week at the Raincatcher’s Garden.

Globemallow

We planted Globemallow on a whim last year in the Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden. Most natives from the Big Bend region fail miserably in our dense clay, but this shrubby perennial will tolerate our soil and treat gardeners to “spectacular displays in wet years” according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

The combination of purplish-pink 1” cup-shaped flowers and grayish-green scalloped leaves is a show stopper. The most common bloom color, however, is an apricot-orange suggestive of spring quince. If you prefer a color, you might be wise to purchase the plant in bloom.

Steer clear of stroking the leaves. The little hairs can irritate and sometimes cause an allergic reaction.

Plant Globemallow or Desert Mallow in full sun. It will become straggly in partial shade.  It is lovely with grasses or scattered throughout natural plantings.

Elizabeth

Picture courtesy of http://www.wildflower.org

Butterflies at The Raincatcher’s Garden

After many months of planning and work, our hopes are being fulfilled.  Butterflies are visiting The Raincatcher’s Garden and more are sure to come!

Pipevine Swallowtail on Lantana 'Miss Huff'

Pipevine Swallowtail on Lantana ‘Miss Huff’

The Pipevine Swallowtail is identifiable by the iridescent blue color on its upper side and the band of bright orange spots on its underside. Like the Monarch, this swallowtail is poisonous to predators, since its  caterpillars feed on native species of pipevine.

Gulf Fritillary on Mexican Sunflower 'Torch'

Gulf Fritillary on Mexican Sunflower ‘Torch’

The Gulf Fritillary is easily recognized by its bright orange upper side and flashy silver markings on the underside. The caterpillars that become Gulf Fritillary butterflies feed on the Passion Vine which we have growing over our Arbor.

Purple Coneflower 'Bravado'

Purple Coneflower ‘Bravado’

This variety of coneflower has large and profuse blooms. It is a host plant for several butterflies and a nectar source.

Black Eyed Susan 'Goldstrum' with Little Bluestem in the Background

Black Eyed Susan ‘Goldstrum’ with Little Bluestem in the Background

Little Bluestem grass is a host for a good number of skippers.  Black eyed Susans are also nectar and host plants.

 

To learn more about the planning and planting of our butterfly garden, read:

Butterfly Plants: I Love You But It’s Time to Leave

Dallas Butterflies

Browse the Butterfly/Hummingbird Plant List in our sidebar for excellent reference material.

Ann

Pictures by Starla

 

BUTTERFLY PLANTS: I LOVE YOU, BUT IT’S TIME TO LEAVE

 

Variegated Fritillary on Salvia

Variegated Fritillary on Salvia

My side yard has a new unwanted hedge of plants in pots.  These are plants that should be planted in the new butterfly plot at the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.  They are not. They sit in pots.  At my house.

The plants have been living in my side yard for two weeks.  They remind me of adult children who move back in for “just a few months, Mom,” and a year later you’re still sharing the washer with their yoga pants.

Using the butterfly garden plan, I made a list of plants required for that garden.   We needed almost 200 plants.

Plant sales are a little cheaper, but you have to know what you’re doing:

Get there early.  I am convinced most shoppers get up at 4:30 a.m. to line up two hours before the doors open.  If you’re pulling in the parking lot with your coffee in a to-go cup about 10:30, it’s not worth the drive.  The shelves are bare at that point.

Plant sales are the closest thing Dallas has to a crowded New York subway.  You’ve got to elbow your way to native-this and hard-to-find that  (saying ‘excuse me’ after each grab—this is, after all, The South).  My genteel mother would have been appalled.

Don’t kid yourself. A tiny old Prius will not be big enough for the drive back with your new acquisitions. You’ll have to beg your patient friend Judy-with-a-truck to pick up all the leftover purchases the next day.

Which brings us to why I have about 200 Plants In A Pot in my side yard, and why I know each of them intimately.

North Texas has been in a severe drought for six years.

I purchased the plants two weeks ago.  Six hours after I unloaded them to my side yard, I hauled them back into the garage because of impending “damaging 60 mph winds, hail, and possible tornadoes.” Out into the sun. Thirty minutes later, back into the garage. This has gone on for days. The plants are confused.  I am exhausted.

Last week I emptied 5 inches of rain from the rain gauge. It is too muddy to till the site for the new butterfly garden.  It is too wet to even think of planting.

The forecast is for 85 degrees and sunny today.  Severe thunderstorms are predicted for tomorrow.

Elizabeth

To read more about our Butterfly Garden Plans click here.

Picture by Starla

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