Please Touch The Herbs

A whimsical sign from a new friend long ago invites visitors to experience the garden sensually.

Some are using more than the sense of touch.

Although there is plenty of touchy feely going on with many toesies.

Many more than these four times sixteen*.

Double the pleasure…

…And a black manicure.

On flat leaf Italian parsley, Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum, nothing but the best..

…For our Shar-pei shaped friends.

From the largest to the smallest…

…And instar in-between, please touch the herbs in any way you wish.

Are you our mother?

*Eastern tiger Black swallowtail caterpillars have three pairs of true legs, the ones with the black toenails, and five pairs of prolegs for sixteen legs. We are calling them toes, poetic license you know. The lone parsley plant is covered in these caterpillars. This plant was almost pulled up since it had gone to seed and was not useable for human consumption. We are so glad it was left standing by a lazy gardener. More are needed. ( I guess the adult butterfly featured is not their mother as I had surmised. Thanks as always to Randy for the correct ID! I have most likely had the wrong ID on every single post written featuring these catts! Mea culpa.)

Two posts written last year with more information about these catts can be seen by clicking here-Two New Things and here-Whoa Nellie!.


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22 Responses to Please Touch The Herbs

  1. Gail says:

    Frances, Good morning~What a wonderful bounty of swallowtail catts! They’re beautiful! I’m glad you left the parsley plant for them~And, thanks for the sweet reminder of reading to M~xxgail

    ps Now off to find coffee and you have the cat to thank for this early visit!

    Good morning, dear Gail, thanks for visiting sooo early! And a big scratch behind the ears for sweet Coal! HA I am wondering if there is time for the catts to become butterflies before it gets too cold? I first wrote “Are you my mother”, but felt grammar rules called for a slight change. It is a fave of little LTB, too. πŸ™‚

  2. Wow, what a great invasion. They are sooo in fashion with their black manicure, I think I need one as well. I should go check my ratty parsley.

    Hi Deborah, thanks. It was a complete surprise, I kept checking the bronze fennel for the catts, and had found one or two there. The parsley was going bye bye that day, but instead I ran to get the camera! I love those black toenails. Mine are a dark glittery navy blue at the moment. I never paint my fingers, with gardening all the time, it is impossible to maintain, so the toes get the treatment. I have a dark silvery charcoal polish for October, now all we need are yellow and light green leggings! πŸ™‚

  3. James Golden says:

    Where are mine? Not one!

    Hi James, maybe you are looking at the wrong plant! I was. They are always on the bronze fennel here, always. There were a couple on there, but when I went to pull the parsley out, it was covered with them, well camouflaged colorwise. I had walked right past them many times without noticing. πŸ™‚

  4. ellada says:

    Your macro, wow!!! it’s so beautiful to look at them.

    Hi Ellada, thank you for those kind words. The catts are very beautiful, in all stages. πŸ™‚

  5. Eileen says:

    Frances, I haven’t seen caterpillars like this in years. They must really like your garden.


    Hi Eileen, thanks. This is the best year in several for these butterflies and the catts. We missed them! πŸ™‚

  6. Valerie says:

    What a colourful caterpillar and then a beautiful butterfly. Great photos Frances.

    Hi Valerie, thanks so much. I was so happy to see so many, hadn’t noticed them at all until we were going to pull that spent plant. It was covered with them. I couldn’t get a shot of all of them, the best was four at one time.

  7. Layanee says:

    Oh, do you have to net these? My monarch caterpillars disappeared overnight. Birds, I fear. Love these shots and I am going out to check my parsley!

    Hi Layanee, thanks. I don’t net them, they have to be able to make it without my interference. Some have disappeared but I prefer to think that they have gone off to pupate.

  8. Randy says:


    Your caterpillars are Black Swallowtails! Eastern Tiger Swallowtails use trees for hosts, Tulip Poplar, wild cherry to name a few. We raised 19 Black Swallowtails in Meg’s second grade class on Bronze fennel and 3 hatched out this year in the garden. Only one cat remains currently.

    Hi Randy, sigh. I never get it right! I cannot tell the difference between the black and tiger black phase butterflies. I guess that last shot is not their mother! We do have several wild cherries on the property and I have seen many tiger swallowtail adults, but no black swallowtails for some reason. Thanks for the info and good deal on Meg’s and your catts! πŸ™‚

  9. lotusleaf says:

    Wonderful macro shots, Frances. The swallowtail is worth the wait. BTW, I couldn’t find the “comment” place in your earlier post, which I enjoyed reading very much.

    Hi Lotusleaf, thanks. The comment place is always after the title of the post. Click on the comments # and it should take you to that page. I changed my settings to show only one post on a page to help with the load time recently.

  10. Donna says:

    I have not seen caterpillars anywhere I have been this year. I like the furry ones the best. I always get them off the street before… you know, splat. Maybe it is still too early, but yours are so plump and colorful. Great photos as always.I liked the comparison to a shar pei, thanks, gave me a smile.

    Hi Donna, thanks so much. Doesn’t that folded skin remind you of that type of dog? The catts are well hidden on the plants, I had to take a closer look to even see them as I started to pull that lone parsley plant out. We do see white furry ones, watch out, those hairs are stingers! I learned that the hard way. πŸ™‚

  11. Leslie says:

    Fantastic photos Frances…almost like being there! I need to climb over garden bed that is being solarized and check out my fennel…this is the first year swallowtails have returned to Davis after a 10 year absence.

    Hi Leslie, thanks so much. I am glad you felt like you were with me! Here’s wishing you good luck on finding catts on your fennel. It is always the first place we look for them here. A 10 year absence is sad, but so happy they have returned! πŸ™‚

  12. Nancy says:

    I love the photos, especially the toes and the manicure! Time for me to replant fennel in my garden and most definitely, parsley.

    Hi Nancy, thanks. Those black toenails are really something, aren’t they? I always picture the Hooka from Alice In Wonderland when seeing the macro shots of these catts. I need more parsley as well, but won’t be pulling this plant for some time. πŸ™‚

  13. Nice shots Frances.

    I love Swallowtails, I also know them as ‘Sail’ butterflies. May all your parsley bolt!

    Hi Rob, thanks. What a charming name, Sail butterflies. They do sail on the breezes, simply awe inspiring. Our parsley always bolts, but we never get seedlings. My daughter Semi has hundreds of baby parlsey plants from one plant I gave her years ago. I have tried to transplant them, but that taproot makes it tough. Must not be holding my mouth right. I will find some, must search! πŸ™‚

  14. dirtynailz says:

    Frances, doesn’t it seem to you that there were many more caterpillars and butterflies this year? It sure seemed that way in RI. Not that I’m complaining!

    It most certainly seems that way here. I was whining and hand wringing last year about the lack of butterflies, although we did see catts very late. Someone said that the catts could winter over as pupae. I wonder if that happened. I am not complaining either, for sure! πŸ™‚

  15. Carol says:

    I could write a whole post on the rewards of being a lazy gardener! Note to self: For one minute, don’t be lazy, plant some parsley!

    Hi Carol, so true. There was a columnist in Houston, I have her book, The Lazy Gardener. It makes so much sense and can be applied to any part of the country, or world! Do plant parsley. I need to look for some too, nothing but seeds and stems here. HA πŸ™‚

  16. Joey says:

    Isn’t is amazing the life we might miss if not focused! Thank you, Frances.

    Hi Joey, you are so right. I had walked past the parsley untold times without seeing anything on there. It was not until I was going to pull the unsightly plant that the catts showed up, finally focusing, as you say. Thank you, my friend. πŸ™‚

  17. Jen says:

    We don’t seem to have any caterpillars either, maybe they are all out at your place?

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

    Hi Jen, thanks for stopping by. There are a lot of creatures living in our gardens that are nearly invisible. Since these photos were taken, most of the catts have moved on to pupate somewhere or were eaten by birds. I prefer to think it was the former. πŸ™‚

  18. VW says:

    I love seeing the colors of the caterpillars in your pictures, and butterflies are heavenly . . but I’m so glad not to have to touch those caterpillars! It gives me the shivers.

    Hi VW, thanks for visiting. I agree, I am not touching these guys and gals, just looking and pointing the camera at them. I try to always leave the wildlife alone. I don’t want them touching me either. I am happy if they just touch the herbs. πŸ™‚

  19. Lola says:

    Wow, what magnificent pics. And the butterfly–gorgeous. I surely need to plant some things around here to entice those lovelies. Would they enjoy dill?

    Hi Lola, thanks so much. These butterflies like the carrot family of plants on which to lay their eggs, fennel, dill, parsley are good for humans and these welcome critters. πŸ™‚

  20. Linda says:

    Frances – I have the same sign in my garden, people look at it quizically and I encourage them to please touch everything! I have had a lot of caterpillars this year, including some swallowtails. Your pictures are absolutely amazing, aren’t they incredible creatures?

    Hi Linda, I was was wondering if anyone would respond that they too had this sign! I am so glad to hear of it. Lucky you, to have these amazing catts and more. Butterflies and hummingbirds are as important, if not more so, to a garden as are the flowers. πŸ™‚

  21. Rose says:

    Great photos of the catts, Frances! I thought I had a lot of them, but I think you have a whole clan moving in here. The fennel in my garden is a favorite destination for the grandkids who like to check out all the catts. I thought all but the last one of your photos were Black Swallowtail caterpillars, but I’m no expert; whatever they are, we know they’re going to turn into some beautiful flutterbys eventually.

    Hi Rose, thanks for being a loyal reader! We do have a lot of those catts, although I believe some of them have moved on to pupate. There are still little ones showing up, although the poor parsley plant is nearly denuded. The last catt is the same type, just at a different stage of development, like the tiny one to the right of the big one in the photo captioned large or small. It is still quite warm, and dry, here so we should see plenty of black swallowtails soon. I know your grands are thrilled to be in your lovely garden. πŸ™‚

  22. What beautiful caterpillar photos! I love your post. πŸ™‚ Aren’t you also thankful for Randy’s help? He just helped me out, too… Can’t get by without a little help from our friends! Enjoy the coming of Fall!

    Hi Shady, thanks. Yes, Randy keeps me honest! HA I assumed they were tigers since that is the type of butterfly we see here all over the place. Now I need to look for the black swallowtails, as opposed to what we think are the red spotted purples flying around. Without the camera’s lens to make an ID, my vision is not good enough to tell the difference. Then there is the black phase of the tigers, lots of black flutterbys to keep track of here. And I am not complaining! πŸ™‚

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