On Pigeon Mountain

Pink Wildflowers photographed by Jeff Zablow at Pigeon Mountain, GA

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?

Jeff

“Zebra Swallowtail!”

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly and Edwards Hairstreak on Butterflyweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lynx Prairie Reserve, Ohio

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.

Jeff

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

Canada Lily At Akeley

Canada Lily photographed by Jeff Zablow at Akeley Swamp, NY

It is a rush, when you work a trail, a former railroad tracks sideline, that skirts Akeley Swamp, and then discover Canada Lilies. We’re here in very western New York State, not far from Chataqua. Late June.

You stop, stare, approach and marvel. All this is patent pending, a take-it-to-the-bank response to encountering these extraordinary lily blooms.

They hang, poised and confident, on those slender strong stems. Their color is formulaic for some guys, lipstick red, bringing out the 19-year old in some. Gently lift the blossom, and you’re treated to the startlingly beautiful tiger lily coloration hidden from view.

They are found in small groups, always few in number. They so evoke the girls back in high school, back in the day that some here will recall, and others will never know.

Kudos to the Cr-ator.

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