Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Know thyself. A maxim as pernicious as it is ugly. Whoever studies himself arrest his own development. A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly."
-Andre Gide

Finding a few more Monarch caterpillars with each passing week. That's good news, as it affirms the presence of butterflies in a neighborhood sparse with nectar bearing and host plants.

 The Gulf Fritillary

 Many times mistaken for a Monarch due to its similar attire, they are two distinct species with distinct host plant proclivities.

Whereas the Monarch butterfly hosts on milkweed species, the Gulf Fritillary hosts on various species of passion vine. We would not have any "frits" in California were it not for passion vines growing in our gardens.

Gulf Fritillary Agraulis vanillae

The under-wings of Gulf Fritillaries sport large, metallic-luster silvery patches that photographs have a hard time giving justice to. This is one very outstanding notable difference between them and Monarchs.

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis

Blue Passion Flower Passiflora caerulea

There are a myriad of passion vine species, cultivars, and hybrids one can choose for a garden. A word of warning regarding some passion vines: from what I've read online on various sites and posts, red flowering varieties should be avoided as they are poisonous to frit cats. Whites, purples, violets, yellows -- anything but red should be planted. Also be careful to make sure that any hybrids you may be interested in have no red flowering parentage in their lineage.

The container garden originally was home to Passiflora loefgrenii, but was replaced by Passiflora edulis 'Possum Purple', as P. loefgrenii was not producing as many leaves as wished for in order to support a fair number of frit cats. I was enamored by its blooms, but alas, necessity above beauty. That's not to say P. edulis is the ugly duckling of the passion vine family: far from it! I find all of them to be equally beautiful. How could a parent say one child is more beautiful than another?

I picked 'Possum Purple' over the common P. edulis just to be different, plus from what I've read, it produces excellent passion fruits. Soon I'll be able to sip a tropical passion fruit drink from the front porch while watching butterflies flit about in the container garden. Yes, life is good!

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