Tag Archives: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

WHEN A WEED IS NOT A WEED and Why Joe-Pye is So Darn Lovable!

A bodacious beauty possessing the toughest of traits, Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium) is the stalwart star of the eastern native plants garden. Large, airy dome-shaped flowerheads blooming in a range of shades from pink to lavender to purple provide food, by way of nectar, foliage, and seed heads to myriad species of bees, butterflies, and songbirds. Beginning in mid-July and continuing through mid-October, pollinators on the wing can find sustenance in a garden planted with Little Joes and Big Joes.

Joe Pye, the person, is thought to have been a North Carolina Native American medicine man who used these wildflowers to cure many ailments, including typhoid fever. The plants became know as Joe Pye’s weed.

A name changer from weed to wildflower would be a game changer for numerous species of native plants. Why do so many native wildflowers have the suffix weed? Because when the colonists arrived from Europe, they wanted their crops, as well as European cultivated flowers, to grow in their new gardens. Anything native that interfered with their plans was deemed a “weed.” Examples of beautiful and invaluable North American native pollinator plants with the name given weed are milkweed (Asclepias), sneezeweed (Helenium), ironweed (Veronia), and jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).

Three favorite and fabulous species for the New England landscape are Eutrochium purpureum, E. maculatum, and E. dubium. Joe-pye grows beautifully in average to moist soil, in full sun to light shade. Plant Joe-pye in the back of the border. E.purpurem grows five to seven feet tall, while Little Joe grows three to five feet. With their beautiful blossoms, robust habit, winter hardiness, and disease resistance, these long blooming members of the sunflower family are treasured for their ability to attract an array of butterflies, bees, and songbirds to the garden during the mid- to late-summer season.

Just look at this sampling of the different species of Lepidoptera finding noursihment from the blossoms of Joe-Pye!


Tiger Swallowtail

Painted Lady
Black Swallowtail

 

Monarch

Joe-Pye does especially well in a coastal native plants garden.

If you enjoyed reading this post, I hope you will consider donating to the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. Every contribution is tremendously appreciated. For more information on how you can help, please visit the film’s website at http://www.monarchbutterflyfilm.com

Win a FREE Copy of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail©Kim Smith 2010

Tuesday through Friday of this week I will be bringing you expert gardening advice excerpted from my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester GardenMy book is currently on sale on my publisher’s website (David R. Godine) for the unheard of price of 15.00 (the list price is 35.00.) In response to Godine’s super sale, I am offering a free copy of my book.

Leave a comment or question on any of the posts by Friday at 8PM to be entered into the drawing to win. Multiple entries are allowed. One person will be chosen at random. The book will be shipped on Monday, the 17th, which should allow time for it to arrive by Christmas. Shipping is included to addresses within the United States and Canada.

Praise for Oh Garden: Smith’s writing is lithe and clean and her experiences in conjuring beauty out of her garden in Gloucester make for excellent reading.
Hawk and Whippoorwill

Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Part One: Creating the Framework, Chapte Three ~ Planting in Harmony with Nature

Magnolia virginiana ~ Sweetbay Magnolia

Located in the heart of Ravenswood Park in Gloucester there is a stand of Magnolia virginiana growing in the Great Magnolia Swamp. It is the only population of sweetbay magnolias known to grow this far north. I took one look at the native sweetbay magnolia and breathed in the fresh lemon-honeysuckle bouquet of the blossoms, fell in love, and immediately set out to learn all I could about this graceful and captivating tree.

Magnolia virginiana ©Kim Smith 2012 copy

Returning from a trip to visit my family in northern Florida, I had tucked the bud of a the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) into my suitcase to paint upon my return. I was dreaming of someday having a garden large enough to accommodate a Magnolia grandiflora and was elated to discover how similar our sweetbay magnolia is to the Southern magnolia. For those not familiar with the Southern magnolia, it is a grand, imposing specimen in the landscape, growing up to fifty feet in the cooler zones five and six, and one hundred feet plus in the southern states. M. grandiflora is the only native magnolia that is evergreen in its northern range, flowering initially in the late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. The creamy white flowers, enormous and bowl-shaped (ten to twelve inches across), emit a delicious, heady sweet lemon fragrance.

In contrast, the flowers of the sweetbay magnolia are smaller, ivory white, water-lily cup shaped, and sweetly scented of citrus and honeysuckle. The leaves are similar in shape to the Magnolia grandiflora, ovate and glossy viridissimus green on the topside, though they are more delicate, and lack the leathery toughness of the Southern magnolia. The lustrous rich green above and the glaucous silvery green on the underside of the foliage creates a lovely ornamental bi-color effect as the leaves are caught in the seasonal breezes.

Magnolia virginiana is an ideal tree for a small garden in its northern range growing to roughly twenty feet compared to the more commanding height of a mature Southern magnolia. M. virginiana grows from Massachusetts to Florida in coastal freshwater wetland areas as an understory tree. The tree can be single- or multi-stemmed. Sweetbay is a stunning addition to the woodland garden with an open form, allowing a variety of part-shade loving flora to grow beneath the airy canopy. The leaves are a larval food for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Almost immediately after planting we began to notice the swallowtails gliding from the sunny borders of the front dooryard, where an abundance of nectar-rich flowers are planted specifically to attract butterflies, around to the shady border in the rear yard where our sweetbay is located.

Garden designs are continually evolving. Part of our garden has given way to a limited version of a woodland garden, for the shady canopy created by the ever-growing ceiling of foliage of our neighboring trees has increasingly defined our landscape. We sited our Magnolia virginiana in the center of our diminutive shaded woodland garden where we can observe the tree from the kitchen window while standing at the kitchen sink. Gazing upon the tree bending and swaying gracefully in the wind, displaying its shifting bi-color leaves, provides a pleasant view when tending to daily chores.

See Tuesday’s excerpt about pear trees

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail ©Kim Smith 2010Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Reminder Thursday Night Premiere

Dear Friends,

A full schedule is planned this week–fall plantings, the premiere of The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale, and my lecture in New Hampshire. Rather than cooking half the night away, I planned ahead and spent the weekend making lots of treats for Thursday’s premiere. I hope you can come!!

Thursday morning’s lecture in Amherst, Butterfly Gardening, promises to be a joyful, and informative, program. This summer my Fujifilm x100 gave me many new photos that I can include in my lecture series and I couldn’t resist creating an entirely new slide show. I sorted though thousands of new photos over the weekend. And now, to tackle the video footage shot this summer and autumn—a daunting task ahead, but one I am sure will be  rewarding!

I hope you are warm and cozy and not without power. Sixty-degree temperatures are predicted for the weekend! New England weather—so very predictably unpredictable!

Warmest wishes, Kim

 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Willowdale Estate

Oriental Lily Casa Blanca

Monarch Butterfly Emerging from Chrysalis

Black Swallowtail Pooping and Eating Fennel Simultaneously

Black Swallowtail Newly Pupated, Discarded Skin-Caught Mid-air!

Sorting through photos for upcoming programs and thinking about summer!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and New York Ironweed  (Vernonia noveboracensis)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and New York Ironweed  (Vernonia noveboracensis)

The Pollinator Garden ~ Rescheduled due to inclement weather

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio glaucus Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Pollinator Garden has been rescheduled for Monday morning, Apriil 18th. Updated information to follow.

Dear Gardening Friends,

Come join me Monday morning, February 28th, from 10:00 to 12:00 at the Espousal Center in Waltham, where I will be giving a talk and photo presentation about creating The Pollinator Garden for the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts. Although this is a state Garden Club Federation event, everyone is welcome. Cost is free for members and $5. for non-members. My extensive pollinator planting list is provided with lecture.

Scroll down to see a short video tour of the Limonaia, along with much good information about growing citrus in colder climes, excerpted from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

Keep warm and cozy and–take heart–the vernal equinox and the first day of spring are officially less than one month away!

Kim

A Tale of Two Tigers

Dear Gardening Friends,

I have received many emails in the past several weeks from people wondering what is the large, yellow butterfly that they are seeing perusing their gardens and neighborhoods. I imagine they are observing a tiger swallowtail–either an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail or a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail. They may not recognize it as either species because tiger swallowtails are highly palatable. Their delicate tails, and then some, may have been sheered away by hungry birds snipping. The first two photos below show a newly  emerged tiger swallowtail with tails intact and a swallowtail without tails.

I wrote the following column several winters ago after having recently read A Tale of Two Cities. If you can bear to read about winter storms during this delicious stretch of warm weather, you will find information that will be helpful in identifying whether visiting your garden is a Canadian Tiger or an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Additional identifying photos are at the end of the column.

A Tale of Two Tigers

Recalled to Life

As seed and plant catalogues pile ever higher in my ever-shrinking office, I am culling all for sources of delicious vegetables and herbs, native plants, fragrant cultivars, and plants that will expand the Lepidoptera and songbird habitat. With inviting descriptions accompanied by enticing photographs, it is difficult to exercise restraint. Absorbed in thoughts of new life in spring, I am reminded of an incident that occurred at about this same time last year.

My husband and I had returned home from a venture along the backshore to witness the waves cresting in the aftermath of a late-winter storm. With great gusts blowing up from the south, the storm was tropical in temperature, but not in degree of ferocity. Drenched to bare skin, we came in through the cellar to remove our soaked clothing, where, to our dismay, we encountered a newly emerged tiger swallowtail butterfly, unable to fly, with its wings dragging along the cold stone cellar floor. I carefully picked it up by holding the butterfly along the sturdy leading wing margin, and brought it into the warm kitchen. Its wings had not fully unfurled and the butterfly was in distress. We provided a twig for it to crawl upon, which would have allowed its wings to hang down, and then, perhaps, fully expand. That was unsuccessful and the butterfly preferred instead to simply rest in my hands. We offered it a Q-tip soaked in sugar water and I cupped my hands and held it there for a long time, hoping the warmth would recall it to life.

Within the brief moment of time a butterfly emerges, if just one of the steps in the complicated dance goes awry, the creature will likely fail. The crimpled, wet wings are tightly compacted within the chrysalis. The butterfly pushes head first through the pupa case and upon emerging, with its crochet hook-like feet (tarsi) grasps at nearby surfaces. Body fluids are drained from the swollen abdomen and pumped through tubular wing veins (called struts) to the very outer margins of the wings. The butterfly’s double drinking straw (proboscis) must zip together, or it will be unable to nectar. For several hours after eclosing, it remains in a stationary state, the most vulnerable of positions, to allow its wet wings to dry thoroughly. The mystery of how the tiger swallowtail came to be in our basement, and why it eclosed in early March, prompted me to learn more about this magnificent species of butterfly.

The Golden Thread

Tiger swallowtails are recognized by their four rows of tiger-like yellow and black stripes and thin black tails extending from each lower wing. Canadian Tiger swallowtails are found in all provinces and territories of Canada, northern New England, and eastern New York. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are more common from southern New England and south to Florida. We are fortunate in Massachusetts to be located where overlapping of both species occurs. Canadian and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are closely related and were not recognized as separate species until 1991. The clearest way to see the difference is to compare wingspan. The Canadian is smaller, with a wingspan of just under 3 inches; the wingspan of the average Eastern is 4.5 to almost 5 inches— the southern female ranks as the largest butterfly of the East Coast. Canadian Tiger Swallowtails are generally a paler yellow and the darker border next to the body is thicker. When the wings are folded, the yellow sub-marginal band on the fore wings is largely continuous, not interrupted by black wing veins. Tiger swallowtails are highly palatable and, as a defense against predators, have evolved with rapid wing movements and erratic flight patterns, which make these differences between the two species difficult to discern without side-by-side specimens or photos.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Lepidoptera

Family: Papilionidae

Genus: Papilio

Species: glaucus ~ Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Species: canadensis ~ Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

The purpose of identifying the different species is relevant when planting to encourage tiger swallowtails caterpillars to colonize your garden. Host trees for Canadian Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars include native species of birch (Betula), black cherry (Prunus), and aspen (Populus). The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars have adapted to a wide range of host trees from multiple families, especially wild cherries (Prunus sp., Prunus virginiana), tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipfera), ash (Fraxinus), and sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) in the Deep South. Both species are generalist when nectaring. I most often observe tiger swallowtails nectaring at plants with clusters and panicles of small florets, for example, native buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and Verbena bonariensis.

Adding to the challenge to accurately identify whether Canadian or Eastern, female Eastern Tiger Swallowtails may exhibit sexual dichromatism, a dark-phase that mimics the highly unpalatable and toxic blue/black coloration of the Pipevine Swallowtail. The yellow form of the females is more typically seen in our region and is similar to the males, except that the hindwings above the black margin are covered in beautiful blue iridescent scales. Iridescence in wing scales is an example of how Lepidoptera have evolved with structural color that is disorienting to predators. The flashes of light created by the iridescent scales, combined with undulating wing beats caught in sunlight, causes hungry birds to be confused. The characteristic “tails” that lend swallowtails their common name are significant aerodynamically. Airflow is directed over the wings, enabling extended glides at higher angles, whereas Lepidoptera with more broadly cut wings would normally stall.

We look for tiger swallowtails eggs on the topside of host tree leaves. The spherical, green, pinhead-sized singular eggs are not easy to see amongst the surrounding foliage. The first instars are dark brown with white markings, which resemble bird droppings (another defense against birds). Later stages become luminous light green, with yellow and black thoracic “eyespots” that mimic the eyes of small snakes. Tiger swallowtail caterpillars have yet another defense against predators. When threatened, they will evert their osmeterium (a unique horn-like appendage that resembles a snake’s forked tongue), which emits a smelly secretion.

Most tiger swallowtail caterpillars feed at night, spending the day in a rolled-up leaf mat bound with spun silk. When ready to pupate, the caterpillar turns chocolate-brown and spins a silk girdle, a “thread of life” that supports it in an upright position as it begins to pupate. The chrysalis resembles a twig, or knob of wood jutting from the trunk, and the thread holding it in place is as fine as a strand of golden thread. In the case of the chrysalis formed in late summer, the pupa enters a state of diapause and the adult emerges in spring. The same thread of life girdling chrysalis to branch will keep the pupa secure through winter snow, sleet, and ice, and during violent spring thunderstorms and nor’easters.

The Track of the Storm

Artfully mimicking the twiggy growth and withered leaves of the lantana (Lantana camara) standards we winter-over, it became clear how a tiger swallowtail chrysalis could find its way into our cellar. Prior to bringing plants indoors, we now thoroughly examine all for signs of Lepidoptera pupa. The unsolved mystery is why. The eerie atmosphere created by the tropical storm in winter, coupled with the unsettling early emergence of the butterfly is haunting still. Perhaps the electric energy and unusual balmy temperature carried by the storm caused the butterfly to eclose several months too early. Whatever the reason, I return to the not unpleasant task at hand—catalogues beckoning with plants to enhance the songbird and Lepidoptera landscape—anon to be engaged in the garden of possibilities.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . . ~ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens