Tag Archives: American Lady Butterfly

Three Fragrant Beauties

Painted Lady Butterfly Nanho Purple Butterfly Bush © Kim Smith 2013

Last night I gave a talk on Fragrant Gardening at a sportmen’s club in Plymouth. In looking through images to update my presentation, I found two photos that had previously been overlooked. The first photo is of a Painted Lady nectaring at the sweetly scented butterfly bush ‘Nanho Purple,’ which blooms continuously throughout the summer. You can see she is a Painted Lady because of the four concentric circles, or “eyespots,” on the underside of her hindwing.

Monarch Butterfly Alma Potchke New England aster ©Kim Smith 2013

The second photo is of a Monarch nectaring at New England Aster ‘Alma Potchke,’ taken at a friend’s garden on Eastern Point. Our native New England asters have a wonderful spicy sweet earthy fragrance and are one the most potently fragrant asters found. New England asters bloom typically from late August through September.

American Lady Butterfly Korean Daisy gKim Smith 2013

The third photo I’ve posted before and it is of an American Lady nectaring at Korean Daisies. You can tell she is an American Lady by her two comparatively larger eyespots. Unlike hybridized chrysanthemums, which are usually bred for color, Korean Daisies are the straight species and are fabulously fragrant. Their period of florescence is from September through October, oftentimes into early November; only a hard frost stops their bloom power.

With just these three beauties, one could have a staggered and continuously fragrant garden in bloom from July through November–and create Mecca for butterflies on the wing.

Painted Lady or American Lady?

In response to my friend Marty’s question ~

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) ~ Note the two large eyespots on the underside of the hindwing, close to the outer margin.

Marty your photo is that of the Painted Lady. Typically in our region we would most often see the American Lady however, this is an irruptive year for the Painted Lady. There has been a population explosion of Painted Ladies reported throughout New England and beyond, which is especially unusual and interesting because this past spring (2012) was also an irruptive year for the closely related Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta).

The easiest way to tell the difference: Painted Ladies have four large spots on the underside of their hindwings, close to the outer margins, which you can easily see in your lovely photo. American Ladies have two “eyespots” on each hindwing, and the spots are considerably larger.

Painted Lady  (Vanessa cardui) ~ Note the four prominent spots on the hindwing.

I am calling the summer of 2012 the “summer of ten thousand butterflies.” Just incredible! I would have answered this is in the comment section, but I don’t know if it is possible to add a photo and will post more in a future post about the two species but am in the middle of making dinner. Did you take this shot with your new camera?

North American Butterfly Association

The most recent issue of Butterfly Gardener magazine features my photo on the back cover of an American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterfly nectaring at Korean daisies. The North American Butterfly Association, or NABA as it is more commonly known, is a worthy organization to support. As a member of NABA four times a year you will receive two magazine subscriptions. I eagerly anticipate the arrival of both magazines. American Butterflies is edited by the world renowned lepidopterist Jeffrey Glassberg and is brimming with stories and species accounts of butterflies found throughout America. Butterfly Gardener, is chock-full of useful information about gardening for butterflies. I enjoy editor Karen Hillson’s missives and asides and find especially useful Lenora Larson’s quarterly column on caterpillar food plants.

Mr.Glassberg writes in a recent issue of American Butterflies about why he believes butterflies are an ideal portal to the natural world “…once one becomes interested in butterflies, one almost certainly becomes interested in plants, in other components of nature–in the whole web of life. To find adult butterflies one must soon learn the important nectar plants in one’s area and especially the caterpillar foodplants. And the captivating transfomation of caterpillars into adult butterflies brings a very high percentage of butterfliers to a deeper appreciation of life histories and the larger ecological picture.”  To learn more about NABA and how to become a member visit their website at www.naba.org (membership fees are very reasonable).

American Lady Butterfly Vanessa virginiensisAmerican Lady Butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) Nectaring at Korean Daisy