The Grand Central Station Wildflower

Large Clump of Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Official? Not yet, but Butterflyweed certainly ought to be the official Grand Central Station wildflower. For those 37 or so years that I lived in my native New York City, Grand Central Station, in the heart of New York, New York (Manhattan) was a building, whose cavernous main hall was, well, breathtaking! Huge beyond the meaning of the term, you knew it was heavily ornate, but by the time I moved from Long Island, much of its beauty was either covered over, or covered with decades of grime. People by the thousands hustled and bustled and ran to catch trains. It’s been rejuvenated since I left, cleaned and restored.

Butterflyweed is the wildflower parallel. Gorgeous when it’s in bloom, as it is here in Doak field last year, late June, at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s the kind of plant that flourishes one year, and is nearly absent the next.

Here in western Pennsylvania, or in Angela’s Adams County, Ohio, or in Barbara Ann’s far western New York or in Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia, they light up meadow or a garden. My own experience with them, irregardless of where I’ve seen them, is that they. like Grand Central Station, remain unvisited, until sometime around 9:45 A.M.-ish, butterflies and bees appear, without apparent signal, and the butterflyweed is mobbed by flying animals: butterflies, bees, wasps & flies. Twenty five minutes later, all visitors have left, and the flowerheads are quiet again.

This is the very best place to find Coral Hairstreak butterflies, those tiny winged beauties that like young starlets or young models or aspiring Amherst grads, arrive at Grand Central Station shortly before 9:00 A.M., and. within minutes are all gone, off to wherever.

Butterflyweed is an Asclepias (Milkweed) and Monarch caterpillar thrive on it!

Consider it for that sunny, slightly moist spot in your natives beds.

Jeff

It’s A . . . Banded

Banded Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park

There are many things that you just don’t see too many times in your life. For me that includes Presidents of the United States, National Football League players, and red heads with green eyes.

I have seen very rare butterflies on the peak of Mt. Hermon, Diana Ross in that elevator, and my children graduate from universities. Black Widow spiders, Kirk Douglas, wild boar, Eastern timber rattlesnake, and many grandchildren.

I’ve seen this butterfly, the Banded Hairstreak two times these 25 years, this one in Raccoon Creek State Park, 45 minutes west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and another two in a city park in Toronto, Ontario. They fly where there are oak trees and hickory trees, and they are solitary butterflies and for sure, uncommon.

Their blue and orange spots sing, and their tune is one I wouldn’t mind, some more times.

Jeff

Those Amazing White M’s

White M Hairstreak butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Buckeyes? 4,206. Monarchs? 728. Pearl Crescents? 2,009. Gray Hairstreaks? 265. Erato Heliconians? 1. Cloudless Sulphurs? 433. Northern Pearly-Eyes? 48. Meadow Hairstreaks? 15. I’ll skip down to the  butterfly at hand, the White M Hairstreak butterfly (Parrhasius m-album). In these 24 years of seriously searching for butterflies, I’ve seen 3.

All of the White M’s I’ve seen have been found in Doak field in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. That’s about 8 hours west of New York City.

I’ve been on the lookout for them the entire time, especially when I am working meadows bordered by oak forests. The last one I saw had to have been about 9 or 10 years ago. Glassberg’s A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America has them “LR” in their northern range, and that makes some sense, for the range map in that field guide shows Doak field at the very northern limit of their flight. Now that I’m living in Georgia’s Piedmont, he cites them in the U.S. south as “U-C,” Uncommon to Common.

So know that I am going out this 2019, a lot, and when I see strong stands of oak, I time and time again, am going to have White M Hairstreaks way up at the top of my look-to-find mental List, along with Goatweed Leafwings, King’s Hairstreaks, Hessel’s Hairstreaks and Diana Fritillaries, along with side orders of Milbert’s Tortoiseshells and Compton Tortoiseshells.

Hiding Go Seek with Amazing M’s!

Jeff

What Do Fritillary Caterpillars Eat?

Downy Yellow Violet photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Fritillary Butterfly are those Brushfoot butterflies that come in oranges, browns and black. Most of us know and love Gulf frits, Great Spangled frits, Variegates frits, Aphrodite frits, Silver bordered frits, Meadow frits and Regal frits, if you’re east of the Mississippi River.

Now that I’m relocated to Georgia, the fritillary butterflies here mostly deposit their eggs on Passionflower vines, easy to grow Southern garden favorites. Passionflower also attracts other butterflies, including Zebra heliconians.

The most common hostplant for Fritillary butterflies comes as something of a surprise, and are in most gardens. Fritillary butterflies mostly lay their eggs on violets. it still seems incongruous, that their caterpillar hatch on and feed upon these tiny little plants, present in the early Spring, and not so much as 4″ above the soil.

Shown here are Downy Yellow Violets, that I spotted in Raccoon Creek State Park, in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Holli and Leslie would surely have me remind you, urge you, to please delay your annual leaf raking of your lawns, until mid-Spring. Why? Because Fritillary caterpillars spend the winter as chrysalises each with a rolled leaf around them, right there in the leaf drop sitting on your lawn. Rake your lawns in October/November, and you may be removing (killing) dozens of Fritillary cats, they, awaiting the onset of Spring weather.

Jeff

 

Does She Hear?

Painted Lady Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

In the field, during those early years of seeking butterflies, I always became silent when I sought to make my approach. Silence ruled until I finished shooting, and only then would I talk. Some 10 years or so later, I abandoned that, and now I will speak to you, in normal voice, while I am at my usual 18″ away from a butterfly. One in 20 butterflies appear to flee when I begin talking to you. Nineteen of 20 do not react to my speaking.

This fresh, gorgeous American Lady butterfly riveted my attention, and on my approach, on that gravely road in Raccoon Creek State Park (southwestern Pennsylvania). I placed my feet down as gently as I could as I got closer to her (presuming this is a female), knowing that she could easily sense the vibrations I produced on the trail. She fled several times, alway flying in a lazy loop, to return within about 3-4 minutes. I was patient, and got this.

Some months ago, I recall reading something about butterflies, it sharing that they can hear. Can they?

We are a large enough group to expect that you can weigh in here, and share on whether or not butterflies can hear?

Jeff