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

Exotic Blooms in the Land of Milk and Honey

Just One Hour To . . . Capernum

Winged Beauty Butterflies

Scilla wildflowers, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Society for the Protection of Nature Hermon, Israel

Two Unforgettable flower stalks, perched on a rocky hill edge, overlooking the verdant (OMG! green) northern border of Israel. I was determined to save my film for butterflies, but c’mon, how could I not succumb to this temptation? March 2015 in the Golan Heights region of Israel. A wet winter insured the arrival of a Spring with flowers blanketing the land, and rare wildflowers determined to capitalize on the excellent growing conditions.

These Hyacinth Squill blooms (Scilla Hyacinthoides) dotted the sides of these hills, on the SPNI Hermon Reserve. They enjoy a short growing season, and are listed as a Protected Species. The expanse of view looks to the northwest, into Lebanon. Lebanon, a country wracked with violence. A pastoral view then, with bad-boy land to the horizon.

Yes, this is primarily a butterfly blog, but . . . the camera made me do it!

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Danaus Plexippus

Right side view of Monarch butterfly on Tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat I, Eatonton, GA

They will be here in my Georgia yard, soon, very soon. Back where I used to live, Pittsburgh, you’d see perhaps one Monarch or two in your home garden from May to July. That was exasperating Monarchmama, because those 7 foot tall and 8 foot tall Common milkweed plants were strong, bearing huge flowerheads, all for one or two Monarchs! Twenty or more milkweeds, despondent, waiting for Monarchs, but none come.

Here in Georgia, Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch (as in Br’er Rabbit) Habitat usually has 3 to 4 Monarchs present on any day from April to October. Last November, there was that day when 5 Monarchs arrived in my own garden, together, and they nectared on the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) for several hours, before they left, headed to Mexico.

They are show headliners, like Johnny Cash, Elvis, the Beatles, Diana Ross, Bing Crosby (my music stopped with the ’60’s). When they fly in, those poor Cloudless Sulphurs, Painted Ladies and Black Swallowtails are abandoned, for Look! a Monarch just flew in!! This male is happily on Tithonia, in that very same Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia.

So, I ask you, Why did G-d make the Monarch butterfly?

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

 

Eye Candy Swallowtail

Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly on Thistle photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

We were at ‘What’s this, What’s that?’ mode, now examining this heretofore never seen thistle. Its stems looked way too frail, and its flowers had delicate petals, they a difficult to describe pinkish white.

What also caught our eye was the steady arrival of butterflies and bees. I reasoned that with the obvious magnetic pull of these blossoms, I might just stop at this particularly robust looking thistle, and await what might fly in.

That worked out well, for soon this especially gorgeous Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly arrived. He had to be very fresh, for his wings were almost black, and their shocks of color were as dramatic as you’d see in the butterflies of Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia or Indonesia.

A super-duper Palamedes swallowtail at the edge of Laura’s Woody Pond in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, on the Georgia coast.

Eye candy in this showcase of a Refuge.

Jeff