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Queen of the blue mistflowers

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Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog, and so now we can compute just how long “a while” is.

Of course, this picture was taken several months earlier when I was fooling around with a different camera and lens, and trying to transfer learning between one of two systems (in alphabetical order: Canon and Nikon) without recourse to written instruction. This picture appeared on at least one Native Plant Society of Texas blog, and reappears in these pages because it is quicker and easier than processing some other photo.

Sad to say, the result shown here was probably more a matter of luck than transfer of skill. But it is skill in choosing native plants appropriate to the region that results in the Queen (Danaus gilippus) and Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies that have been seen recently. I did manage to get a shot of the Monarch, but haven’t gone after the Queens yet – it has been windy, and they rarely stay still for long. Why a Monarch is in my neck of the woods in mid-July seems to be one of those outliers to the norm mysteries for which the answer may never be known for sure.

And so it goes – Asclepias tuberosa and friends

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Asclepias tuberosaThis is the native milkweed that the Monarch butterflies use as a food source in both the larval and adult stages, though in the larval stage it consumes the leaves, and in the adult phase it consumes only the nectar, but may leave behind little eggs that hatch into caterpillars.

The nursery trade typically only has Asclepias curassavica, commonly known as Tropical milkweed, which can be distinguished from tuberosa by the colors of its flowers, which include both red and orange.Monarch butterfly

I was at a local demonstration garden near where I live, and observed a large number of plants that were definitely yellow, along with a few that were the red and orange  A. curassavica species. They even had a few Monarchs visiting, although the southbound butterflies have been few and far between so far this season.

Larva - Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

Larva – Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

This past Friday, October 3, 2014, I found four Monarch larvae on the milkweeds in my front yard. In the cool of Saturday morning, I located one still on the milkweeds and one on a nearby rock, slowly moving towards some groundcover under the oak tree. Later that afternoon, someone came by who has been actively nurturing the caterpillars, and we found just one, on a milkweed, that was transplanted to their yard a few miles north.

And so it goes. Imagine how many more Monarchs would be around if large chemical companies had to include some sort of environmental impact statement in their marketing, such as :

For a Few Dollars More – improves crop yield by selectively killing native plants that are essential to the survival of certain insect species, including the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

Extinction Is Forever – The life of an insect may span less than a year, but the extinction of a species may echo through the years. Who knows what pests you may unleash by using a pesticide to upset the natural balance of your local ecosystems? Who cares as long as we get a positive growth in this year’s balance on the bottom line? Let the next generation of scientists and economists figure out the true costs of our actions today.

“And so it goes.”  (I think Kurt Vonnegutt said that fisrt.)

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Agraulis vanillae Gulf Fritillary Butterfly larva

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Agraulis vanillae Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Passiflora sp

Agraulis vanillae Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Passiflora sp

 

While the Gulf Fritillary, as the name implies, is native to the area surrounding the Gulf of Mexico, but its range actually extends far beyond that. It is found as far south as Argentina and as far north as San Fransisco, according to Wikipedia.

Here it is on one of the Passiflora vines, one which is not native to the part of Central Texas where I live. It seems that one cannot find locally native plants unless one digs them up, which can’t be both ethical and legal, or manages to find some that have gone to seed and from which a small taking of seed would not endanger reproduction in the natural state.

 

Danaus plexippus – Monarch

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Danaus plexippus - Monarch

Danaus plexippus – Monarch

This photo was taken on the 17th of March, and marks the second sighting of a Monarch in my garden this year. The first occurred a couple of weeks ago, and the Monarch was feeding from a Texas Mountain Laurel Sophora secundiflora . Today I sighted another Monarch. So maybe the great migration has begun. During the Fall migration, the Monarchs like to feed on the Gregg’s Mistflowers Conoclinium greggii, but so far they haven’t bloomed and are not likely to any time real soon. So the current Monarch activity appears to be egg-laying.

Colias eurytheme- Orange Sulphur

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Colias eurytheme- Orange Sulphur

Colias eurytheme- Orange Sulphur

Here’s a somewhat larger Sulphur butterfly on the same plant.

Nathalis iole – Dainty Sulphur

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daintily sipping nectar from Ageratina havanensis...

Vanessa virginiensis – American Lady

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Vanessa virginiensis - American Lady

Vanessa virginiensis – American Lady

on white mistflower aka boneset, etc., etc.

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