Friday, August 15, 2008

The Butterfly Garden: A Happening Place

The butterfly garden's been a hopping -- or perhaps I should say a fluttering -- place. Gulf Fritillaries especially -- medium-sized butterflies, so brilliantly orange they almost glow. While we're out there they're flying all around us. One zoomed past me from behind, about six inches from my left ear, making me jump. But most of the time it's soothing and serene to be among so many fragile and incredibly gentle creatures.

These two Fritillaries were joined together, butt-to-butt, and were actually flying all over the place that way. The one whose wings are open in this picture did all the flying -- the other one kept its wings folded and went along for the ride. Were they mating? Is that how butterflies... um... do it? (As usual, click on any picture to see a larger version.)

Mating butterflies?

However butterflies mate, this is the outcome of their passion: A Fritillary caterpillar chowing down hard on a passion vine leaf. I like the water droplet in the upper right, too. Clicking to see the larger image of this one reveals some interesting caterpillar detail:

Munching caterpillar

As if it isn't enough to have a crop of caterpillars on the passion vine, something has been pollinating those incredibly weird flowers, and so Judi has passion fruit ripening, too:

Passion vine fruit

But the taste of passion vine leaves wasn't enough, somehow, for one caterpillar, who was observed undertaking what must truly be an epic quest when you are only an inch long: He set out, out of the garden, across the paver walkway, and into the grass. Whatever his goal -- the Holy Grail, Shangrilla, who knows? -- we wish him well:

Caterpillar on pavers
Caterpillar on bricks
Caterpillar in grass

Lest you think Fritillaries are the only butterflies in the garden, they aren't. For example, this is a Polydamas Swallowtail (and here), paying a visit to the garden's pipevine, its host plant:

Polydamas Swallowtail

The Polydamas is a "tailless Swallowtail," which seems like a contradiction in terms, but I'm not a taxonomist. It's native only to Texas and the coastal regions of the Florida peninsula. Here's a picture of a Polydamas in flight, in the butterfly garden:

Flying polydamas

These clusters of lantana (a big attraction for butterflies) are unusual in that they are pure pink:

Pink lantana

Finally, this has nothing to do with butterflies or the garden, but here's Princess Sunni, snoozing, looking beautiful (as always), and doing super:

Princess Sunni

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sunni looks cozy! so glad she's doing better.

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