Take in the wonderful fragrance of the flowering Black Locust trees adjacent to the footbridge entrance. The air is redolent with the scent of orange blossoms and honey, along with the Rosa rugosa blooming nearby.
The stand at Good Harbor Beach has been increasing in size and I don’t ever recall the scent quite as potent as it is this year. You can smell the flowers halfway down Nautilus Road!
Black Locust are native to the Appalachian Mountains. The leaves are a host to over 67 species of Lepidoptera, including Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, Giant Leopard Moth, and the Elm Sphinx Moth. A host plant is a caterpillar food plant. And they offer nectar to pollinators, including Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
I love this handy chart that features a number of common butterflies we see in New England, and thought you would, too
Nectar plants are wonderful to attract butterflies to your garden, but if you want butterflies to colonize your garden, you need to plant their caterpillar host (food) plants. We all know Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed are the best host plants for Monarchs, and here are a few more suggestions. When you plant, they will come! And you will have the wonderful added benefit of watching their life cycle unfold.
Monarchs are dependent upon milkweeds during every stage of their life cycle. Milkweeds are not only their caterpillar food, it provides nectar to myriad species of pollinators.
Red-spotted Purple Nectaring at Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
One of the most elegant butterflies to grace our garden, the Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), is one of two races that comprise the Red-spotted Admirals, the other being the White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis). Red-spotted Admirals should not be confused with Red Admirals, which are a member of the Vanessa genus. I hope you are not totally confused at this point, but if you look at the binominal nomenclature, or scientific name (see below), it will help you see that, although distinctively different in appearance, both the White Admiral and the Red-spotted Purple are members of the same genus and species. For many years zoologists thought they were two distinct species. It is a wonder of biology that a single species has such different appearances for its survival strategies. With this delightful stretch of warm weather, almost daily, I catch a glimpse, or two, of this most richly hued and unusual of butterflies.
Red-spotted Purple (Dorsal)
Red-spotted Purple (Ventral)
The average wingspan of the Red-spotted Admiral is approximately three inches. The White Admiral has a distinctive wide white band on both the forward and hind wings, and on both the dorsal (upperwing) and ventral (underwing) surface. In the Red-spotted Purple, the white band is replaced with a band of iridescent lapis lazuli blue scales. It has evolved to mimic the highly distasteful Pipevine Swallowtail. Red-spotted Purples are found in greater numbers than White Admirals in the eastern part of Massachusetts. The opposite holds true for the western part of the state.
Purportedly, Red-spotted Purples are seen feeding primarily on rotting fruit, sap, and dung— infrequently at flowers—however, I see them nectaring often, and for long periods of time, at flowers. They are particularly fond of butterfly bushes, meadowsweet, Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and Joe Pye-weed.
Hostplants for the Red-spotted Admirals are extremely varied. Both races use cherries, including Chokecherry (Prunus virginiaina), Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Pin Cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica), plum (Prunus), apple (Malus), poplars, cottonwood, aspens, willows (Salix), birches, (Betula), hawthorn (Cratageous), basswood (Tilia), Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), and serviceberry (Amelanchier). The female oviposits a single egg on the upper surface at the tip of a fresh hostplant leaf. Our postage-tamp of a garden is much too small for the aforementioned larger trees, and too shady to grow healthy Prunus and Malus, so I am experimenting with a multi-stemmed Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis), which I plan to keep pruned to a manageable shrub-size.
Amelanchier’s common names of Shadbush, or Shadblow, are derived from the fact that they bloom at the same time of year as the annual spawning migration of the shad fish. One of the most beautiful sights of early spring is the lacey white blooms of the Shadblow dotting woodland and roadside. Amelenchier canandensis is also called Canada Serviceberry, because of its delectably sweet blueberry-sized berries. You would be lucky to actually sample a berry. In our garden, the bluejays, catbirds, and mockingbirds are first in line. Naturally occurring in moist woodlands, shadblow is highly adaptable to a variety of soils. It can tolerate some dry conditions, but only when once established. Keep very well-hydrated until very well-established.
I am off to Tanglewood, which is located in western Massachusetts, to visit our daughter. With camera in tow, I am hoping to see a White Admiral!
P.S. Although while in Tanglewood we did not spot a White Admiral , we did observe a Viceroy in a wildflower meadow. The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) is one of four North American species of admirals in the genus Limenitis.
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
Kingdom: Anilmalia (Animal)
Phylum: Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Class: Insecta (Insects)
Order: Lepidoptera (Butterflies, skippers, and moths)
End Note: I am organizing a new show for Cape Ann TV and will be appearing on the Cape Ann Report with Heidi Dallin on Wednesday, August 4th at 6:00 pm to talk about it. More information will be forthcoming. Kim Smith Designs is my interior and garden design firm. I am happy to respond to questions and comments.