It is time now for some wildlife tidbits. We want to stress the importance of not only planting nectar plants for the various insects that bring color and magic to the garden, but their preferred larval food as well. Larval food is a necessity for the caterpillars of beloved butterflies to grow strong and healthy into the flying flowers we all love. A good site to find the larval food of butterflies and moths can be found by clicking here.
Of course we don’t want to lessen the importance of the nectar delivery systems shaped like trumpets for easy supping, or should we say sipping? Shown above is a red penta, an annual here and a flower that takes a while to rev up its bloom production. Late summer into fall is when the flowers are at their peak in Tennessee. In the background are spent flower heads of the remaining lavender in the black garden, formerly the lavender hill.
And we have a visitor now. While waiting for the wings to stop fluttering so a suitable portrait could be taken of this female Eastern Swallowtail in dark form, or it could be a Black Swallowtail since that is the caterpillar we have seen around lately, it was noticed that the hind wing was stationary in spite of the moving forewing. Let’s get snapping!
Purple perilla makes a nice backdrop for the red flowered penta. Both are growing in the black garden, and our visitor fits the theme nicely. Research is leaning toward this being the Black Swallowtail, for there is no tiger marking visible in the forewing.
A flower with that same trumpet shape is Verbena bonariensis
. This is a perennial here in our zone 7 and also a mighty self sower, so there are plenty of these tall gangly flower stalks for the skippers and smaller butterflies to drink their fill. This is a Buckeye butterfly, aptly named for the circular spots on the wings. Its larval food is plantain, one of our hated weeds for it is a carrier of the virus infecting our echinaceas according to some sources. But also stonecrop, which is a common name for sedum. That may explain the many holes in the Matrona leaves.
Also enjoying the Verbena is the hummingbird moth. My camera could not catch the wings clearly of this clearwing moth. Maybe it is time to look for a new camera? Uh oh, that idea did not meet a smiling face from The Financier since we just got this camera in March of this year. Maybe it wasn’t the camera but the photographer at fault for the blurry shot.
On the bronze fennel, this swollen tummied Black Swallowtail caterpillar reminds us of a locomotive engine. What do you think? Thomas the Tank Engine with a fancy paint job?
There are two more, oh joy, several of the large butterflies will be showing up soon. These guys look like they are close to full size before taking a little nap to let their food digest.
Hooray, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail newly emerged with smooth perfect skin and wings without tears to pose for some photos on the belamcanda. You are an exquisite being, my dear. What fine stripes the fur on your body show. I could stand and drink in your beauty forever.
He is perfection personified.
Wait, wait, come back! We are not done snapping your photo! Now where did he fly off to? Let’s wander around a little and see what else is happening in the garden while we look.
Ooh, a dragonfly resting on the leaf of the Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Alleghany’
. I remember writing about the site that identifies insects with photos called What’s That Bug?
Let’s go over and see what type this fellow is. Okay, he is a she it seems, an Easter Pondhawk female.
At the edge of the property are a couple of ironweeds just beginning to open their blossoms. Usually it is one tall seven plus foot stalk with flowers way at the top. This year I cut one down by two thirds early in the summer to see if there could be some branching and subsequently lower flowers for those height challenged camera wielders among us. It worked. The little skipper would not be still but gets to be on the post anyway due to his choice of perch. The dark purple flowers are often seen in meadows and roadsides around this area. I have tried to sow seeds of the two plants we have growing without luck but have not given up.
Oh there you are, partaking of the Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum ‘Gateway’.
You show up nicely against the pinky purple blooms. The flowers are larger this year than they have been recently, as big as a large beach ball. The plants were moved into the soil around the decaying ferngully after the privet hedge was dug out last year, it seems to suit Old Joe.
Fully spread in all your glory.
A Common whitetail dragonfly is attached to a spent flower head of ox eye daisy with the rude Japanese privet in the background. It was surprising that he stayed still as I crept closer to snap this shot.
Those are some holey leaves there on the Passiflora incarnata
, but those two bumblebees don’t seem to mind. The reddish ring at the base of the stamens appears to be the nectar source on this flower. Who knew?
The result of all those passionvines with holey leaves is one of my favorite garden guests, the Gulf Fritillary. The larva food source of these leaves ensures a supply of these bright dark orange beauties. We have fewer this year than last, but have pulled more of the vines. It has come down to flowers or butterflies with this plant for it grows rampant and smothers anything in its path. I try and keep it along the edges of the gravel path so the planted material in the beds is safe but there are underground roots that have spread throughout that whole side of the property. Diligence is needed to spot and pull the intruders.
This is a tiny flower on a nicotiana ‘Tinkerbelle’ offspring with an even tinier little upside down caterpillar moving along the hairy staff. I cannot identify him, the adult is probably very tiny also. I have enough trouble ID ing the large ones.
We came upon this Question Mark female in dark phase on the gravel outside the back door. We had not seen her before or since. It was early morning and the temperature was cool. She seemed to be sunning herself, allowing the warmth to spread through her wings to enable her to fly. You are welcome my sweet, do come back and see us. Among the larval food for her that grows near us is the hackberry tree. Many caterpillars feed on this tree, one of its redeeming qualities. I know some of you out there think highly of the hackberry, for its good insect food production. But growing up we had two very large hackberries in our backyard. There were sidewalks lining a patio where I rode my tricycle, then pedal powered firetruck then the joy of my life the pedal powered spaceship before moving on to a bicycle with training wheels then out to the front and off for the day on a pink and white Schwinn. The millions of little hackberry fruits made pedaling a pain for tiny little legs, not to mention prohibiting barefoot scampering and skipping on the sidewalks. I did not cry the day the trees were cut down, but maybe should have for the butterflies and moths that lost their delicatessen that day.
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