Monarchs are currently migrating, albeit in small numbers, throughout the North Shore. The butterflies arrived several days ago and because of the rainy weather, they are in a holding pattern. When the sun reappears, look for Monarchs on any still-blooming garden favorites such as zinnias, as well as wildflowers. Please send an email or comment in the comment section if you see Monarchs in your garden or while outdoors over the weekend and upcoming week. Thank you!
Many species of asters and goldenrods have finished flowering; instead the Monarchs are fortifying for the long journey by drinking nectar at Black Mustard flowers, and even Dandelions.
Although not native to North America, Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) is beneficial to bees and butterflies for late season sustenance. Don’t you love its lemony golden beauty in the autumn sunlight?
Black Mustard is not the easiest nor most efficient plant for Monarchs to draw nectar from. I never see the butterflies on Black Mustard unless it is very late in the migration and there are few other choices available.
The ray flowers of asters provide a convenient landing pad for butterflies. Panicle-shaped flowering plant, such as goldenrods, also provide a convenient landing pad while supplying a smorgasbord of nectar rich florets. Black Mustard provides neither. You can see in several photos in an upcoming post that the Monarchs are nectaring with their legs gripped tightly around the base of the flower.
Black Mustard is an annual plant native to Eurasia and North Africa. Cultivated widely as a condiment, medicinally, and vegetable, it came to North America via the early colonists. The plant is in bloom from May through October, or until the first hard frost, and grows well in disturbed man-made sites.
Black Mustard is a member of the Brassicaceae, also classically called the Cruciferae (Latin, meaning ‘cross-bearing’) in reference to its four ‘crossed petals’, which is commonly known as the mustard family. Black Mustard is related to cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, turnips, and watercress.
Photos from a recent visit to friend and East Gloucester resident Patti Papows delightful in-every-way butterfly and pollinator garden
Snowberry Clearwing Moth
Although I was only able to visit for a few hours, it was wonderful to see all that she has planted for the pollinators, and as a result, all the pollinators drawn to her garden. You could spend a week in Patti’s garden and not see everything. The afternoon I was there, the deep magenta red butterfly bush was in full glorious bloom and was the star pollinator attractant of the day. Snowberry Clearwing Moths, Tiger Swallowtails, Monarchs, Catbirds, Robins, Bumble Bees, Honey Bees, and every other winged creature in the neighborhood was enjoying sweet nectar and the fruits from Patti’s blossoms. Bees and butterflies love variety and in a garden as richly planted as Patti’s, everyday is a party for the pollinators!
I am looking forward to returning to Patti’s garden when the Morning Glories are in full bloom 🙂
The exquisite Greek Revival architecture of The Mary Prentiss Inn complements perfectly our lively pollinator paradise, bursting with blossoms and bees. We’ve layered the garden in an array of nectar-rich perennials and annuals that bloom from spring through fall and the garden has become mecca for neighborhood pollinators (including seed-seeking songbirds).
Plant for the pollinators and they will come!
Three-bee-species scene at The Mary Prentiss Inn pollinator garden.
The Mary Prentiss Inn Owners Nicholas and Jennifer Fandetti.
Perfectly lovely prior to turning the old garden into a pollinator paradise, but everyone agreed, it was time for a change.
Bee and blossom alike dusted in a fine golden shower of pollen.
A surprise meeting with a beautiful female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
She is drinking nectar from the wildflower Saponaria officinalis. The plant’s many common names include Soapwort, Bouncing-bet, and Wild Sweet William. The name Soapwort stems from its old fashioned use in soap making. The leaves contain saponin, which was used to make a mild liquid soap, gentle enough for washing fine textiles.
Saponaria blooms during the summertime. Although introduced from Eurasia, you can find this wildflower growing in every state of the continental US.
The hummingbird in the clip is a female. She lacks the brilliant red-feathered throat patch, or gorget, of the male. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are all around us, you just have to know what to plant to bring them to your garden. Mostly they eat tiny insects but if you plant their favorite nectar-providing plants, they will come!
If I could only grow one plant to attract the Ruby-throats, it would be honeysuckle. Not the wonderfully fragrant, but highly invasive, Japanese honeysuckle, but our beautiful native trumpet honeysuckle that flowers in an array of warm-hued shades of Spanish orange (‘John Clayton’), deep ruby red (‘Major Wheeler’), and my very favorite, the two-toned orange and red ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’
Lonicera sempervirens’ Dropmore Scarlet’
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird drinking nectar from zinnia florets.
For readers not yet aware, Vine is a free downloadable app for your cell phone. Vine allows you to make six-second continuously looping videos, which you can share instantly to Twitter, FB, and Vine. I like Vine because it is so immediate, uncomplicated, and fun to use. Some people I follow on Vine are John McElhenny; his Vines are always interesting scenes taken in and around Gloucester, and also Amanda Mohan and Macklemore because their Vines are often super funny.
To read the caption, wave your cursor over the lower left-hand corner of each video.
Thanks to Kate and the team at Wolf Hill for giving me a second Black Swallowtail caterpillar of the season. And, as I was getting ready to discard the parsley plant from the first caterpillar they had found at the garden center earlier in May, I discovered yet a third caterpillar.
Chrysalis #2 eclosed yesterday in the early morning hours. The butterfly in the photo above is newly emerged, so much so that you can see its abdomen is still swollen with fluids as it is expelling a drop. After first drying his wings on the zinnias, he flew off in search of nectar and a mate. I just can’t thank Kate, and everyone at Wolf Hill, who has taken an interest in the caterpillars!
The Ciaramitaro Family stopped by Willowdale for a tour of the butterfly gardens. We were lucky to see several Monarchs and dozens of Painted Ladies.
Click the photo to view larger and you will see the Monarch climbed onto Madeline’s finger–it takes great patience to hold still long enough to allow a butterfly to climb aboard!
Madeline was determined that a butterfly would climb onto her finger–first trying the Painted Ladies and then very, very patiently, and holding very, very still, encouraging the Monarchs. She was thrilled when one did–and it did so several times–very sweet to see her joy. Madeline and Eloise were expertly identifying the male and female Monarchs and explaining to all in how to tell the difference.
Painted Lady–never a more aptly named butterfly! Although ubiquitous, the sheer number of Painted Ladies found in gardens this summer is simply astonishing.
Painted Lady (Dorsal)
This morning in our postage-stamp-of-a-lot, there were quite possibly over one hundred newly emerged Painted Ladies nectaring from the Joe-pye, Baby Joe, zinnias, butterfly bushes, phlox, and Rudbeckia.
Recently I returned from a trip to southwestern Ohio to visit my sister-in-law Amy, who is recovering from hip replacement surgery. She is mending beautifully and determined to get back on her feet —only a few days after returning home from the hospital the visiting nurse said she was doing as well as their typical patient at three weeks out!
While Amy was resting I would grab my camera and head into her garden and the surrounding fields because here was a Butterfly and Hummingbird Bonanza! I encountered dozens of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, typically feeding and frolicking in groups of threes and fours, and many differing species of butterflies. For the most part, the butterflies that I photographed are the same species of butterflies that are found on Cape Ann and throughout New England. Having no expectation of encountering myriad butterflies, in both range of species and in legions of each, I had not planned accordingly and only packed my Panasonic Lumix. I love this camera, but like all cameras it does have certain limitations. Lesson learned—that is to say—always travel prepared for anything to happen!
Male Spicebush Swallowtail Dusted with Pollen
Amy is a working architect and, as time and her work schedule have permitted, she has (along with her recently deceased dear husband Tim) redesigned and restored her lovely old farmhouse and gardens. There are several cozy porches and a deck under construction in which to sit and observe the wildlife dramas that play out almost daily.
What makes Amy’s garden so inviting to the pollinators? The old farmhouse is approached by traveling down a crushed limestone driveway. On either side of the drive are fields, either overgrown with wildflowers, or maintained as mowed grass. The fields meet the forest edge. There are several neighboring houses along the drive but privacy is afforded because the houses are sited a fair distance apart and because there are naturalized arrangements of native trees and shrubs. Flower borders are planted in close proximity to her home and also further afield. Beyond the flower borders is a large vegetable garden, approximately twenty feet deep by sixty feet long, with a row of sunflowers bordering the back length and a cheerful patch of zinnias running along the fore edge. Beyond the vegetable garden is a vigorous crop of blackberries and beyond that is a clump of wildflowers, including common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which were covered in Monarch caterpillars, and the tall growing New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis), which was in full bloom. All of these elements provide clues as to why Amy’s garden is a haven for the butterflies and hummingbirds. Additionally, adjacent to the house is an old peach tree, which bears great quantities of fruit. Because Amy has been under the weather from her hip injury she was not able to maintain the peach tree this past season. The peaches were falling to the ground and rotting—not really a bad thing as you will soon see—imagine the not intolerable odor of vinegary peach juice.
The combination of the atypically lengthy stretch of hot, sultry weather, punctuated by soaking rain storms, along with the salt and mineral-rich limestone driveway, flowering plants, wildflowers, surrounding woodlands that provide shelter and larval food for caterpillars, hummingbird feeders, and rotting peaches—all work in tandem to create a paradise for the pollinators—bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
In the morning I would find Buckeyes, Question Marks, and Red-spotted Purples drinking salts and minerals from moist patches in the driveway. Hungry families of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were noisily nectaring from the flowers and feeders; one feeder is sited beneath the peach tree and the other about twenty feet away, under the lilacs, a hummingbird superhighway of sorts, with inviting nectar flowers along the route. The male and female hummingbirds are both territorial and, when encountering anything out of the ordinary (my camera and I, for example) will threaten by whizzing and whirling, albeit harmlessly, close to your head.
By mid-day the hummingbird and butterfly scene was full underway. Spicebush Swallowtails at the Rose-of-Sharon, tiger swallowtails, yellow sulphurs, Eastern Tailed-Blues, Monarchs, checkerspots, and angelwings nectaring at the zinnia patch, phlox, and lobelia, and most remarkable of all, were the number of butterflies that were drawn to the pungent lure of rotting peaches. By late afternoon dozens of Hackberry Emperors, Red-spotted Purples, Question Marks, and Red Admirals were to be found intently imbibing from the fermenting peaches, and by day’s end, I believe they were drunken butterflies, making extraordinarily easy subjects to photograph. I would be down on my hands and knees with the lens held so closely it was nearly touching them, and several times that did happen as they fluttered or hopped onto the camera’s lens. In the lingering remnants of late day’s light, the hummingbirds were there again at the feeders and flowers, and all manner of swallowtails in the wildflower meadow were nectaring from the New York Ironweed.
Spicebush Swallowtail Nectaring at Rose of Sharon
Pipevine Swallowtail Nectaring at Phlox
The three different species of butterflies in the above group of photographs have a unique relationship. The Red-spotted Purple and Spicebush Swallowtail (both palatable to predatory birds) are thought to have evolved to mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail (center photograph), which is highly toxic and foul tasting.
I was sad to say goodbye to my sister-in-law but glad to return home to my family. My unexpected yet welcome encounter with the butterflies of Southwest Ohio reminded me once again that butterflies are a symbol of transformation, joy, and beauty throughout cultures the world over. Perhaps Amy’s butterflies mirror the transformative journey to which she has embarked.