Saturday, October 11, 2008

Butterfly Garden 3

Butterfly Garden #3 is open for business. It doesn't look like much, but the other gardens didn't either, when they started, and you've seen (if you've been following this blog) how overgrown they've become (click on any picture to see a larger version):

Butterfly Garden 3

The center section is devoted exclusively to native Florida plants, so this is the "Native Garden." Those tall stalks in the front are Rayless Sunflowers. Picture a sunflower... except without the yellow petals. Just the black seeds in the center. Yep, weird.

Oh, and that's Skye sunning herself in the mulch.

Judi's calling this "Garden #3" is a little bit of a stretch, since between Garden #2 and this garden we've had the Grass Garden:

Grass Garden

There's milkweed growing in among the tall grasses to give the caterpillars cover from predators while they grow.

And we've had the Herb Garden:

Herb Garden

More about those white things "growing" there in a minute. Because we've also had the Milkweed Garden:

Milkweed Garden

There are actually a ton of milkweeds -- about fifty -- in the Milkweed Garden, but most of them are only a couple of inches tall so far. More white thingies, too.

The "white thingies" are "socks." Not the kind you put on your feet. They're made of mesh and plastic, with drawstring openings, and you put them over plants or branches of plants that have caterpillars or butterfly eggs, and they protect the caterpillars from predators. All of the plants you saw "socked" in those pictures have actively feeding caterpillars. Judi currently has Gulf Fritillary caterpillars, Black Swallowtail caterpillars, Monarch caterpillars, Polydamus Swallowtail caterpillars, and caterpillars from what we think of are at least four, and maybe five, different species of Sulfur butterflies, all either under socks or in the Caterpillar Chateau.

You can see the Monarchs have been busy -- there are eight chrysalises pinned to the fence or hanging from inside-out socks in these pictures:

Monarch Chrysalises

Monarch Chrysalises

It's interesting to see what how different caterpillars form different chrysalises. In these stitched pictures, a Gulf Fritilliary makes his chrysalis:

Gulf Fritilliary making Chrysalis

When it's done, you'd swear the chrysalis was just a dried up, dead leaf. Good camouflage.

This Sulfur (species not yet known), makes a more flamboyant chrysalis. It's as beautiful as a piece of jewelry:

Sulfur Chrysalis

I'll let you know exactly what it is after it emerges.

We've also seen a Queen butterfly laying in the garden. Here are a couple of pictures. The second is a little fuzzy, but I included it anyway, because I wanted you to be able to see the beautiful deep orange background and the spots so blazingly white that they seem to be glowing -- this is one extraordinary butterfly:

Queen Underwings

Queen Overwings

I hope we get some Queen eggs that hatch.

Finally, I will leave you with this picture of a Sulfur caterpillar who has decided to embark on a journey (he was corralled and returned to his salad bar):

Sulfur Journeying

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Hi gs - wow what a great post, the butterfly gardens are wonderful, I admire all the work you and Judi have done making them. I thought you might enjoy another blogger with posts here and here, and chrysalis as jewelry here.
Thanks, Jess, for the links! Those are incredible pictures of the caterpillar shedding its skin and exposing the chrysalis. That process actually happens rather quickly, and we haven't been able to catch it happening yet.

In trolling around the Internet, it seems that a lot of people specialize in only Monarchs. We're trying to cover as many of our local butterfly species as possible.

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