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.
Like most of you, I’ve planted Coneflower in my garden for what?, decades. If I ever gave this incredible perennial a thought, it was a fleeting one, as in I wonder where this beautiful wildflower comes from? Mexico? Peru? Cuba? Costa Rica? Tanganyika?
You just don’t stop learning . . . never. Imagine shock (not surprise, shock!) when Angela & Barbara Ann & Dave & Joe led me into Lynx Prairie Preserve in Adams County, Ohio?
When I saw this Coneflower there, I wondered. Did someone introduce Chinese Coneflower to the southernmost tip of Ohio, a handful of miles from the Kentucky border?
They patiently told me that Coneflower is a native. It took me days to grasp the irony. I spent decades presuming that Coneflower was introduced from Asia or Europe or South or Central America.
Nope, Virginia, it’s an American native. Not a local Nursery cultivar, native.
I was seeking butterflies, she was more interested in revisiting a spot that annually yielded Pink Lady Slipper Orchids. It was a mostly cloudy morning there, at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, near Madison, Maryland.
Yes, I did once visit the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem and I visited the Vatican and its breathtaking Sistine Chapel.
Standing there, gaping at these native (American) orchids, evokes the same kind of Awe,
Three bunched Pink Lady Slipper Orchids, elegance, delicate beauty and improbable pluck, in the shady recesses of a wild, Wildlife Refuge. Speaking in whispers, for G-d is close by.
Last year’s trip to the north Georgia mountains led us to David, a native of that beautiful region. David led us to Pigeon mountain, and its pair of pristine meadows.
The #1 goal was to find and shoot Diana Fritillary butterflies. All was seemingly perfect: A mountain meadow, full of nectaring blooms, sunny, windless weather, and all the hikers that we saw stayed below those meadows, leaving us to ourselves and our search.
Dianas? Nope. I’ve still not seen my first. Giants? Huge Giant Swallowtails, usually seen in groups of 3 or 4. Memories? Wonderful ones, on a mountain in north Georgia.
Still to be done? Need to get an ID on these nice wildflowers, growing in those Pigeon mountain meadows, along the perimeter tree line.
Ellen? Virginia? Rose? Barbara Ann? Angela? Jeff?
You’re out seeking butterflies, and one of you shouts, “Zebra Swallowtail!” All stop what they were doing and respond, “Where?” Comes the question, Why? Why do seasoned butterfly seekers and those new to the search, become so excited when a Zebra is spotted?
They are scarce, rarely seen butterflies. They fly in with grace and beauty and they are surely coming to flowers that are pumping nectar. During this 2019 a typical day might score 2 Monarchs, 3 Pearl Crescents, 1 Pipevine Swallowtail, several Duskywings, an Eastern Comma, 4 Tiger Swallowtails and 1 Red-Spotted Purple. Zebra Swallowtail on that ‘typical day?’ No, not a one.
Rewarded with a look at such a beaut as this one, resplendent in its whites, black, red and blue, you feel special, fortunate to see what few see, a magnificent American butterfly, one of our most eye-pleasing.
This one was shot in Lynx Prairie Reserve, Adams County, Ohio. It’s on Butterflyweed, a milkweed, native to the USA. Also enjoying the milkweed nectar there is an Edwards Hairstreak butterfly, it too is a reason to feel good. Seeing both of these uncommon butterflies, reason enough to travel to Lynx Prairie in late June.