24 Years of Adoring This Wildflower

Butterflyweed at Doak Field photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

I’d visit the same spots in Doak Field, often just at the right time! What was I checking for every year? I was hoping to find Butterflyweed in peak of bloom, in this more than 100 acre meadow in Raccoon Creek State Park, 45 minutes west off Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

We went there in the last week of June 2018. I vividly remember leaving the Nichol Road Trail and entering Doak Field. A 5 minutes hike through the cut paths in the meadow, and I arrived at the main ‘spot.’ Look here what I saw! The Butterflyweed plants were numerous and lush. In those last 24 years, there, I cannot remember a finer, more beautiful population of this milkweed.

I adore these flowers, for they often attract squads of butterflies: Tiger Swallowtails, Great Spangled Fritillaries, Monarchs, Silver Spotted Skippers, the hardly ever seen Aphrodite Fritillary, various Skippers and my favorite, the Coral Hairstreak.

I’ve come to understand this amazing Asclepias (milkweed). It took those decades for me to fathom its puzzling behavior. I only visit it in the morning, a total of some 24 years of observing Butterflyweed.

I’ve learned that it only ‘pumps’ nectar for a very brief time in the morning, perhaps for 45 minutes or less, and that applies to the 10 or 20 or more found in those 100+ acres. Butterflies visit much when it is producing nectar, and then, usually around 10-ish in the morning, they stop coming.

I’ve come to expect to not see my beloved Coral Hairstreaks, for they often completely skip a year, even a year with a rich crop of Butterflyweed. I love those Corals, for they remind me of those good times, when Frieda A”H was with us, and how she loved Coral, and scoured here and there to find jewelry with richly tinted coral, she explaining that wealthy Chinese love fine Coral, and will pay a premium to the market to acquire it (reminds me of those many visits to Sotheby’s and Christie’s, especially Christie’s).

What happened this day, here? Did the Corals fly in, the others? No. Nary a single butterfly was seen on any of the Butterflyweeds. I went here again the next day, with the same disappointing result.

So Butterflyweed’s Big Mystery remains. Full, lush, gorgeous flowerheads, peak. Peak, yet it is clear that they are not the sirens on the rocks those days, drawing few if any butterflies to their full flowerheads.

I had my grandson with me this morning, and on the drive to Doak Field, I told him how I hoped to see just such Butterflyweed, told him how when they pump they resemble Grand Central Station in NYNY, and I forewarned him that we might see Corals, and that would be Wowwww! It was kind of sad that we didn’t see our Corals, or most other butterflies, but we did see prize-winning Butterflyweed, albeit very lonely Butterflyweed.

Jeff

Change Your Place, Change . . .

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

700 miles. That’s how far I moved last year. Family and friends know how much I enjoy this pursuit of butterflies, and they’ve heard of why I do what I do.

It’s 55 degrees F in my former home now, and its’s a whopping 80 degrees F in middle Georgia, the Piedmont region. Back there, in Pittsburgh, the Monarch butterflies were singletons, and you might see 3-5 any given year. They would be seen until mid-September each of those 27 years, and October might shake out a stray Cabbage White butterfly, maybe.

Today! Today in my 1-year old natives garden, I went out to give Petra some exercise, and there in Bed #2 of my garden, together on a group of giant Tithonia (Mexican sunflower plants) . . . were Five (5) Monarchs, males and females at the Tithonias, the nectar bar for thousands of butterflies this year. Five! I’ve never seen such a grouping together, ever.

I’ve driven down here, beginning back in 2015, and butterflies fly well into November. I L-U-V it!

Change your place, many Moms say, and you Change . . .

Jeff

The Largest Monarchs?

Monarch Butterflies Coupled photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

We were in the perennial beds of the National Butterfly Center. It was seriously hot. Two miles from the Mexican border hot, there in Mission, Texas

The female Monarch butterfly flew in to Asclepias (milkweed). She was the largest Monarch I’ve ever seen. Make that the largest of what, 8,000 monarchs? Before I could make my patented approach, Whamo! this brute of a male Monarch landed on that same Asclepias. They communicated briefly, and then as fast as you can say ‘Howdy Doody’ they were coupled together in this embrace.

He is closest to you, she can be seen below her. Both were very, very large Monarchs. The Land of the Monarch giants!!

Jeff

National Butterfly Center Monarchs Engaged

Mating Monarchs on Milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX
We were working the perennial beds at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas when I happened on this pair of Monarch butterflies, fully coupled. They were on an Asclepias flowering plant.

They were standouts. The largest Monarchs I have ever seen. Big, very big. I’d grown accustomed to seeing Monarchs of one uniform size. These 2 were behemoths, for Monarchs.

Here the male is closest to us. He was a hunk!

The publicity and press for the NBC holds water. This place offers surprise and surprise!

Jeff