Gulf Fritillary On Pickerel Weed (Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge)

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Pickerelweed blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

We’re in Georgia now, gardening from the first week in February 2019 all the way to the last week in November? Gardening on my Jeffrey’s Birthday, November 28th?? This year, 2019, my Birthday falls on . . . Thanksgiving Day.

The prospect of gardening on Thanksgiving Day boggles my mind. It does. In Brooklyn, Queens, New York (Manhattan), Long Island and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the last week of gardening (I love to garden!) was usually the first week in September. Living in Middle Georgia has added +/- some 5 months of gardening to my life. Five months. That’s 5 months of seeing butterflies. I love that prospect, and Georgia so brings a smile to my face, Virginia, Ellen, Debi, Katy, Laura, Rabbi Aaron, Laura I., Rose, Kelly, Pandra, Sylbie, Brian, Stephen and Barbara Ann.

These memories, as this Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Pickerelweed in Laura’s Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, do necessitate a modicum of maturity, for once Pickerelweed finishes producing its gorgeous pond-side blooms, we’ve got to wait a full year to again enjoy such eye-soothing sights as this one here. (Yes we were in ankle deep pond, and yes we urged G-d to keep any Gators away from us, while we shot away!).

Jeff

Shrimp Plant Question?

Shrimp Plant photographed by Jeff Zablow

We have a lovely, healthy robust Shrimp Plant in our 303 Garden, here in Eatonton, Georgia, some 80 miles east of Atlanta. Virginia gifted it to us. An occasional Ruby Throated Hummingbird visits it, once in a while. No butterflies have been seen on it. Ellen Honeycutt? Jim Rodgers? Deb Marsh? Katy Wilson Ross? Virginia C Linch?

By contrast, today, August 16th, we’ve seen here: Tiger Swallowtails. American Snout, Cloudless Sulphur, Gulf Fritillary, Spicebush Swallowtail, Sleepy Orange, Duskywings, Silver-Spotted Skipper, Giant Swallowtail, Several Species of Skippers (at least 6 species). Since butterflies come and go all day, my guess it that another 8 or more species have been here today, many when it was full sun and 97F.

Then there’s this Shrimp Plant, proudly producing large flowers, with zero butterflies seen? Curt Lehman?

Jeff

Beg, Threaten or Cajole, They Bloom And Soon Stop

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

This lush set of blooms was met in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Our garden in Eatonton, Georgia now has them. We’ve had good success growing new plants from our own seed.

Without checking the internet, I think that these Butterflyweed milkweeds are native to most states east of the Mississippi River. I found them lush and strong in Lynx Prairie Reserve in southern Ohio and just as beautiful in that 100+ acre meadow at Ft. Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania. On them at Lynx Prairie were Edwards Hairstreaks, Coral Hairstreaks, Monarchs, Great Spangled Fritillaries and more. On them at Ft. Indiantown Gap were Regal Fritillaries (Wow!!), Monarchs, Coral Hairstreaks and more.

Search for them too early in June, and you won’t find their flowers in bloom. Search for them too late in July, and again, too late for blooms.

They are super terrific flowers for attracting butterflies, but . . . they only attract butterflies when those flowers are mature, lush and my own experience is that they mostly attract butterflies and moths and wasps from about 9:45 AM to 10:40 AM..

You can beg, cajole or threaten whatever, but that’ll not help. They bloom when they bloom, and when they are ripe and ready, they are easy to spot and fantastic! beacons for butterflies and more. They do occasionally support Monarch caterpillars, but seem to be a milkweed of last resort.

And, they do great in most gardens, preferring sunny, moist spots.

Jeff

American Icons?

Great Spangle Fritillary Butterfly on Coneflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

I think so. When I first visited Adams County, Ohio, Lynx Prairie Reserve treated me to my first wild Coneflower. To that point, a rich lifetime, I had presumed that coneflowers were non-native cultivars. How thrilled I was that morning, to learn that they are 100% American!

Perched on this coneflower, this Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly is another American icon. Glassberg’s Swift Guide to Butterflies has them present in almost all continental US states, except for Arizona, Texas, Mississippi and Florida. This big butterfly is born & bred USA.

This then is an American iconic view, Great Spangled Fritillary perched on Coneflower. I must add that Ohio, where these were seen, has been the most welcoming, giving, sharing of the 48 U.S. states, for I’ve enjoyed more self-less butterfliers and orchid seeking and wildflower lovers there than in any other state I’ve visited. Thanks Angela, Deb, Dave, Flower, Joe and others.

Jeff

Imbibing Sweet Nectar In The Briar Patch

Male Black Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

The Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) achieved enormous growth there in the Briar Patch. Virginia’s tiny seeds produced 8 foot tall Tithonia. She’d tell you that yes, they were not native to Georgia, but, they were strong, robust sunflowers, easily tolerate the Piedmont’s long bone-dry summers, self-seeded and nourished legions of butterflies, year after year.

I’ve planted Mexican Sunflower here in my own Eatonton garden, and their vigorous growth and absence of pests enables them to provide nurture for butterflies from June to November. For the price of a packet of seeds, you get Tithonia that neatly fills whole corners of your sunny garden spots and summons squadrons of swallowtails, brush foot butterflies, hairstreaks and many skipper species.

I suppose that they must also make fine cut flowers for your home vases, and if grown in your front garden beds, they’ll have your neighbors asking, “What is that gorgeous big flowering plant you’re growing there?”

This Eastern Black Swallowtail is fully involved, methodically working this Tithonia flowerhead. His golden yellow flashes, blue patches and shot of red/red, against black wings and black body handsomely fitted with white spots, works nicely here with the developing Tithonia bud and sweet Tithonia flower, all set in a clump of Tithonia, that blocking the sunlight that brightens the rest of the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat.

The richness of plants and butterfly here is real and as with all we share, the color of it all, real-time.

Jeff