Will 2021 be the Year for Goatweed Butterflies?

Tropical Leafwing Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TXTropical leafwing butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Yep, these are Tropical Leafwing Butterflies, and I was thrilled to meet them at the National Butterfly Center. I always appreciate such times, and usually Thank G-d that I’m among the 1 in 500,000 Americans who have been blessed to see an uncommon butterfly. When the Tropical on the right opened its wings, and those Richly Orange hued upper wings produce big smiles, they do!

We’re viewing Tropicals because of something I’ve remembered. These 26 or so years of photographing butterflies have allowed me to meet another Leafwing no more than 3 times. I’ve seen Goatweed Leafwing butterflies in Mississippi and in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Each time it was early in the morning, and each time I was so Shocked! to happen onto a Goatweed, they resting on tree trunks, that I forgot (?) to start shooting, and instead gaped/gazed at those shy, elusive, fighter-jet quick Leafwings.

More, I cannot remember seeing anyone post a Goatweed Leafwing on Facebook, Word Press or anywhere else in the last 12 months. In the last 24 months! So let’s be on the lookout for National Butterfly Center news that includes Goatweed Leafwing butterflies!

So, next year, G-d Willing, I ask y’all to let me know if you have a reliable habitat where Goatweeds can be regularly seen? I’m no longer a NABA member, so I cannot poll that closed group for this, but I can hope that y’all can give me feedback. I lack a single Goatweed Leafwing image, and I want one. Seriously.


What Happens Upon Seeing A Tropical Leafwing?

Tropical leafwing butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

This stuff intrigues me. I remember thinking such for more than a decade, when I worked in Manhattan, New York. A realtor, I was much freer than most, and could leave our office as I wished. As I walked the sidewalks of New York, New York, amidst thousands of people, I’d always wonder about them. Who were they? Who were their parents, and what life experiences contributed to who they were? Always I tried to imagine what they know of the world that I loved, but had little time to visit. That’d be the undeveloped, wild, sylvan world of the undespoiled outdoors.

Now, near a lifetime later, I review our wingedbeauty media library, and images like this one, a fresh, shy Tropical Leafwing butterfly catch my eye. We were at the wooded area in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas near the border wall, and I knew, I knew I was seeing a butterfly that was so very different from those tens of thousands I’d seen before.

Seeing so many butterflies, has broadened my mind, my perspective. My brain has now placed tens of thousands of butterfly images in my brain ‘cubbyholes.’ Add to that the wildflowers, orchids, moths, bees, wasps, ants, beetles, dragonflies, spiders, lizards, snakes, turtles, . . . should have placed birds well before this here . . . how much is stored upstairs in Jeff Zablow?

Sometime soon I will have spent 30 years seeking and locating butterflies and their world. What happens to you and I when we have so rich a trove of cerebral images and experiences?? This puzzle for me intensified recently when Barbara Ann (OBM”) passed away. Her knowledge of orchids was phenomenal and her field experiences and love of orchids and botany, gone. Gone. No one stepped in to become her student/intern/chronicler.

These mysteries? What of them?


Tropical Leafwing Treat

Tropical leafwing butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

More than 20 years of wanting to photograph a Goatweed Leafwing butterfly, without a single image to my name. I’ve seen Goatweeds, in Pittsburgh and in the Mississippi Delta, but yes, not a single image.

This was a Happy! shock to me, when Nancy and John pointed out this Tropical Leafwing, she not too distant from our trail at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas near the border wall. She did fly from one perch to another, but she at least gave my minutes each time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h as far as I safely could to shoot her.

I shoot Fuji Velvia slide film, this 100 ASA for less than sunny locales. My film is wonderful for real-time color, and this is a fine example of the rich, deep, satisfying color of our butterflies. She was just as striking in appearance as you see here.

Don’t always agree with their political leanings, but truth be told, the National Butterfly Center attracts butterflies that you never, never forget!


N.B., I plant Alabama Crotons in my Georgia garden, just in hope of attracting those elusive Goatweed Leafwings, they very native to Georgia.

Scour Or Fly? Tropical Leafwing Butterflies

Tropical Leafwing Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

We flew some 1,600 miles from Atlanta to San Jose, Texas. From there to Alamo, Texas, where we stayed for 6 days. Did we see lots of butterflies? Yes. Did I see butterflies I’d never seen before? Yep, dozens of new ones? Among them, this Tropical Leafwing butterfly.

Georgia has a different Leafwing, the Goatweed Leafwing. I’ve yet to see one here in Georgia. I’ve seen one once where I was so startled to see it, that I neglected to Duh!, take pictures of it, in that 1.7 seconds that I had the opportunity to shoot. I also saw one in Mississippi, that time I did think it was a leaf, growing out of the slender tree trunk it was seemingly connected to. Once again stunned to see what I realized I was seeing, I failed to take a photograph.

To the question. Should I fly around the USA, seeking such as Leafwings, or should I scour my own state, Georgia, for butterflies that I’ve failed to yet share with you?


Jewelry On Gossamer Wings?

Tropical leafwing butterfly (Dorsal view) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

She was close to the trail when we spotted her. They were excited to spot her, but not nearly as excited as I was. John and Nancy ID’d her as a Tropical Leafwing. They tamped down my rush! saying that this butterfly was seen there, at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, near the border wall often.

She denied any approach by camera, and flew, stopping on this small tree. She remained perched there, and we again approached. This was the best that my Macro- lens could score, and that was just fine with me.

Their hostplants are crotons. I’ll never get a Tropical Leafwing in my Eatonton, Georgia garden, but we’ve planted 7 Alabama Crotons, hoping that in 2020 or ’21 we’ll lure Goatweed Leafwings to pay us a visit. We purchased the strong, vital Alabama Cortons at Nearly Native Nursery in Fayetteville, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Jim and Debi there are engaging, knowledgeable natives experts, and their nursery stock is 100% native and of very high quality.

She remained in that little tree for some time. I remember standing there, impressed by her unique deep orange coloration, and Thanking G-d there and then for sharing such Heavenly beauty, with those gossamer finely crafted wings.