Our move from Pittsburgh to Georgia has produced a whole lot of change. Most of that change is welcome and appreciated. I do not miss the 2 feet to 3 feet of snow, and I continue to respect all of you who deal with icy mornings with grace and ease. I never did realized how much of my speech is sprinkled with Brooklynese, until I landed here in Eatonton in central Georgia’s Piedmont region.
I adore, heavy adore the ability to begin working in your garden in the beginning of February, and continuing to tend garden into the end of November. That’s long be my life’s dream, and I love it.
I’m not missing as much as I thought I’d be. The native nurseries (Nearly Native in Fayetteville, Night Song in Canton, and Beechwood Natives in Lexington are excellent. The state parks, wildlife refuges and National wildlife refuges beckon. The medical professionals are not what I expected, they’re excellent and well equipped, not backward and primitive as I feared.
The daily legions of butterflies that we see each day in my 85% natives garden just thrill us! My dreams of having my own hackberry, pussy toes, sassafras trees, Atlantic white cedars, paw paws, tulip poplars, lead trees, Hercules clubs, mountain mints, milkweeds, crotons, passionflowers, pipevines . . . delight!
We are seeing fewer of the trail buddies that I used to love back north, like this Red-spotted Purple. I’m kind of missing them, that kept this lone trail hiker company, always reminding that I was for sure now alone . . . .
Doug Tallamy probably would have relieved my curiosity. He would have explained that I rarely saw caterpillars because I wasn’t searching in the right places. Pennsylvania and New York butterfly caterpillars live on their hostplants. Want to see them? Then you must search for them in the right time, on their hostplants. When Cathy at Sylvan Natives Nursery in Pittsburgh put me on to Tallamy’s book, my horizons busted open: Caterpillars live on and feed on their hostplants, e.g., Monarch caterpillars’ hostplants are the milkweed plants, and Red Admirals’ are nettles.
I just never saw many caterpillars up until July 2017. Butterfly numbers north of the Mason-Dixon Line never exceed a few here and a few there.
When I relocated to Georgia, I planted hostplants in my new garden. Milkweeds for Monarchs; Sassafrass for Swallowtails; Passionflower vines for Gulf fritillaries; Hercules club for Giant swallowtails; Hop trees for those same Giants; Hackberry for the Hackberry butterflies; Spicebush for Spicebush swallowtails; Parsley and Rue for Black swallowtails . . . and several I Hope! – I Hope! – I Hope! plantings of Alabama Crotons for Goatweed Leafwings; Atlantic White Cedar for specials Juniper hairstreaks; Pearly everlastings for Painted Ladies; Pawpaws for Zebra swallowtails and Black Willows for Viceroy butterflies.
What I am able to report now, is that caterpillar numbers can be high, dramatically high here in the Southern USA. I’ve had satisfying numbers of Gulf fritillary caterpillar cats ( shown here on passionflower ) as well as good numbers of Giant swallowtail and Monarch caterpillars. Others that showed include Spicebush swallowtails; Black swallowtails and a single Variegated fritillary caterpillar.
These Gulf fritillary caterpillars were seen by the dozens, and they strip the passionflowers vine until there’s not a single leaf left.
Caterpillars in the southeastern states thrive, and they just thrill this young butterfly fan, daily.
Please allow me to share 2 Joys! with you.
The Joy of these wonderful Holidays with their anticipation of the new, only to be imagined, year 2015 and the Joy I always sense when I see this, one of my most favorite images.
Image of? A Tawny Hackberry butterfly, toasting its wings in the earliest morning sun, at Raccoon Creek State Park in beautiful southwest Pennsylvania, USA.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a Happy New Year.