Zebra Longwings

Here are some pictures of overzealous Zebra Longwing males waiting for a female to emerge from her chrysalis.

This was taken on a very small Corky Stem passionvine (Passiflora suberosa) right in the nursery. This is a staple plant for a butterfly garden- it has lots of advantages! It is a larval plant for both the Zebra Longwings (shady location) and the Gulf Fritillary (sunny location), it grows quickly but not crazy aggressively and it has beautiful miniature flowers. The small dark purple fruits will drop and self seed if they are not eaten and dispersed by critters. The leaves can be whole or bi- or tri-lobed. It will happily climb a structure, searching with its long tendrils, or meander along the ground if it can’t find a vertical support.

Flowering Bee Lawns

I read a nice article about Flowering Bee Lawns on a Minnesota university site. Here’s the link:

https://www.beelab.umn.edu/sites/beelab.umn.edu/files/floweringlawninfoenrtflogo.pdf

The folks at the Bee Lab use the term Reconciliation Ecology, which they define as a conservation philosophy that seeks to improve the ability of human landscapes to support biodiversity, while still allowing for human use. Perfect! Here in Florida, a Flowering Bee Lawn is a very easy goal to achieve. Choosing plants that are native to Florida or Well Behaved Tropicals is your best bet. My front lawn is an example (I never knew it had a fancy name!)- there are both Bahia and Floratam grasses present, as well as Perennial Peanut (Arachis glabrata) and Carolina Wild Petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) (I planted these), and Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) and Florida Betony (Stachys floridana) (they planted themselves). I’m going to add some Twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia), which has dark green leaves and small lavender flowers and Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata), a low growing plant with spires of blue flowers in the spring. The natives in this lawn act as both nectar sources for bees and other pollinators, as well as larval sources for several butterflies. The variety of plants and grasses ensures that there is a beautiful green carpet that cools the area in the summer and provides additional nectar sources for our pollinators.

In my back yard, I have an area that is more shaded and has Floratam grass with spearmint (Mentha spicata) and Browne’s Savory (Clinopodium brownei). The Browne’s Savory has dainty white flowers that small pollinators appreciate. These two minty plants provide a sprig for iced tea and smell heavenly when I get the lawn mower out. They remind me of my dad mowing the lawn when I was a little girl- we lived on Mint Water Brook Lane and there was wild mint growing all around us. Another plant inspired memory!

Get started on your Flowering Bee Lawn today- honeybees, butterflies and all the other pollinators will appreciate your efforts!

Surprise Monarch!

Last Saturday morning, as I was picking up a small branch, I just happened to turn it the right way and saw a Monarch chrysalis hanging off the underside of one of the leaves. It looked viable, so I arranged the small branch on a bench, with the chrysalis hanging down properly.

When I checked on it Sunday morning, it had darkened, and I figured it would hatch by the time I got back from doing errands.

About an hour and a half later, it had opened, and it was a boy!

Here he is, pumping his wings up. When he opens his wings, you’ll be able to see the two large dots on his hindwings, easily identifying him as a male.

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Summer sightings

It’s July in Southwestern Florida- sunny, hot and humid and occasionally rainy. Perfect weather for butterflies! Everyday, there are monarchs, Gulf fritillaries, zebra longwings (our state butterfly), white peacocks, and three different types of swallowtails- gold rim, Eastern black and the giant swallowtail, all floating around in my yard. Recently, I spotted a tiger swallowtail sipping nectar from a Pagoda Flower (Clerodendrum paniculatum) and watched a Queen sipping dew off a blade of lemongrass just after dawn. Two first sightings in one week! I thought I had seen a Queen in the past but was never able to get close enough to verify its identity. This one was kind enough to wait for me to go in the house and get my phone, so I could take a few pictures. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my glasses on, so the picture is blurry, but I can definitely ID it as a Queen.

My production of 2 species of native milkweeds, Asclepias incarnata and A. verticillata, is coming along nicely. The 10 ft x 10 ft screen enclosure in the nursery protects the young plants from the many Mama Monarchs that want to lay their eggs on those juicy young leaves, and cuts about 50% of the sun’s blistering summer rays. They should be ready to sell in August.