This is the first Monarch butterfly caterpillar in my garden. I have been attempting to grow its host plant, Tropical Milkweed, from seed since last summer. It seems planting the seed in late summer is the wrong season and late spring is the time. The Milkweed isn’t very big and this caterpillar is in its final instar before pupating (I measured and the length is right). During the final instar they eat like crazy, so I put some canned pumpkin out and the catepillar ate that until it dried out and then went back to the Milkweed. I pulled up another Milkweed and he or she ate that one, too. The final instar is supposed to last 3 to 5 days and I have been watching 4 days, so I hope the transition is soon.
Before I wrote my post this morning I went to the beach for a dose of Vitamin Sea. Here is a shot of the Sea Oats..
The Mangoes in my garden are teasing me and not quite ripe yet…here is their current condition. They look like weird Christmas ornaments. I put net bags over the fruit to keep squirrels and greyhounds away. One of my dogs loves fruit and is tall enough to reach them.
The other Mango, Nam Doc Mai, put on a huge flowering and growth spurt and has dropped most of its fruit. This one in known for flowering more than once a year. So, hopefully another flush will happen.
Finally, a dreaded insect in the garden. The Lubber Grasshopper. These things have been eating holes in the Bromeliads. They can be drowned in soapy water or squashed. Vile things.
That sums up this Saturday in my garden. I bought a few butterfly plants last weekend and planted some new seed for some obscure plants I could not buy – Mountain Marigold (Tagetes lemmoni) and Perennial Leonitis (Leonitis leonurus)
If anyone grows these two I would love to hear about it!
A Zebra Longwing, the state butterfly of Florida, sipping nectar from a Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens). A good thing.
Another good thing, my Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) is finally making its bottle trunk. Eventually the old fronds fall off and the palm looks like it is sitting on a green wine bottle. This has taken about five years.
The bad thing about these next plants, they are so slow growing it is almost not worthwhile planting them. Both are Florida natives and come with the native hype…
This is a Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata) It has been in the garden for about five years and might be 18″ tall. I am not sure I will live long enough to see an actual palm tree form.
A Satinleaf (Chysophyllum oliviforme), the back sides of the leaves. This is reportedly a tree, and sounds romantically wonderful when described by growers who have seen it blowing in the wind. At six years old and possibly a foot tall (the ferns dwarf it) I have to lie down beside it to experience the romance.
The front side of the leaves.
And now, the bugly. This is the dreaded Lubber Grasshopper, another hyped Florida native. These can be 3 or 4 inches long and love to eat plants. Filled with poison, they only have one natural enemy, a bird called a Loggerhead Shrike, the bird impales the grasshopper and leaves them around to dry out and then eats them. I find them dead in the shrubbery from time to time. I am also an enemy and have frightened my dogs gleefully stomping them.
I am taking a native pollinators class online. I completed the bee section and was instructed to take photos of three different bees in my backyard. Little did I know how much time I was going to spend lurking in the shrubbery taking blurry pictures of bugs. I did find it interesting to see how much was going on in the shrubbery. Above is a honey bee, the only identification I am certain of. The bee is collecting pollen from a Firebush (Hamelia patens)
Another bee, I think it is a Carpenter Bee. Bees, unfortunately are identified by the amount of hair and differences in stripes on their bodies – and most are striped and hairy. This bee is collecting pollen from a Dune Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)
This bee is perhaps a Longhorned bee, because of its long antennae. But, I am not sure. It is however, striped and hairy. Mr. (or Miss) Longhorn here is collecting pollen from a Sweet Almond flower (Aloysia virgata)
A fly I mistook for a green metallic bee. There are green metallics bees in Florida and they are nearly impossible to photograph.
A tiny wasp on a Sweet Begonia flower.
A garden spider waiting on a Gallardia flower for an unsuspecting pollinator.
As for the rest of the garden, we have had 9 inches of rain this week and it is soggy and green.
It is difficult to pinpoint what makes me think of these flowers as elegant. The long lines of the buds and stamens; the clear orange red color of the flowers in contrast to the simple heart shapes of the dark green foliage? I am not sure, so I arranged them simply in a brown pottery vase with Muscadine twigs.
Pretty simple. The vase I bought at our local charity shop.Something I am sure someone’s mother or aunt made and the ability to appreciate such things was lost in time or translation. My next comment was edited; as so, so many people don’t appreciate things made with our hands and hearts.
The plants in this vase are very simple, Clerodendrum speciosum, Java Glorybower, in red orange flowers and Vitis rotundifolia, in twigs.
It is what it is. Flowers and twigs. Simple and, hopefully, elegant.
On the butterfly front, here is another newborn:
This is a Swallowtail, who grew up in my Parsley and hopefully flew away.
One of the results of moving to Florida from a colder climate – sooner or later you go native. Winter Coats, who needs ’em? The coats are the first thing to go followed by socks, then shoes (sandals are an exception) and most long pants. One year my husband felt compelled to wear long pants twice. It was 50 degrees.
Plants for the garden are no exception. The first thing I had to quit desiring was Japanese Maples, followed by Yoshino Cherries. I got over Azaleas and Roses prior to moving south. Now and again I will suffer perennial envy, then again we have a plethora of great plants here in Florida – many are new to me.
I have always been a fan of native plants and decided to learn more about them by taking an online course about native plants on the Treasure Coast of Florida, taught by the guys behind the WordPress blog, Treasure Coast Natives. This one is for you, George.
The flowers in this vase are all native and from plants included in the online course. The yellow flowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis), the white flowers are Spanish Needles (Bidens alba), the orange tubular flowers are Firebush, actually Dwarf Firebush (Hamelia patens) I planted the Beach Sunflowers and Firebush but the Spanish Needles appeared on their own and seed freely everywhere cursing me forever.
The vase is also a sort of native. A gift from my mother bought on one of her trips to the Southwestern United States, the vase was made by Native Americans of the Ute tribe and marked as such. One of my favorite things from my mother.
One of the benefits of native plants in the garden is the local butterflies love them. Here is a Zebra Longwing Butterfly on the Firebush:
I was walking through my house this morning and glanced out the side door for a moment and spied a large bird walking down the driveway. Like four feet long. Upon further study, I realized it was a Peacock! Very strange. I grabbed my camera and went out the front door to sneak up on the bird and get a picture.
And the bird was gone. Vanished. Had I dropped some acid last night and forgotten?
I did see the Pygmy Date Palm flowering and took a picture of that (above) Because, well, that is pretty weird as well.
Later I realized that Peacock must have been one of the ancestors of Frances Langford’s famous flock. Frances Langford was a movie star who lived nearby in the 1950’s and had a Polynesian style resort with a flock of Peacocks.
No acid was taken here. I did have another cup of coffee.