Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Fritillary's Passion

The Passiflora or passion vine has been a plant on my wish list for some time now. I finally had an opportunity to buy one this summer. This is a really cool plant. It has an amazing bloom that looks like something from outer space or deep down in the ocean.

But more importantly it is a host plant for the Fritillary Butterfly.

The plant itself has shallow roots so lots of organic matter and good drainage are important. I like to use Nature's containers whenever I can so I choose this old tree for my plant.

I took out some of the interior so that I could add some soil while leaving the decaying trunk to provide nutrients for the plant.

 This is the result. This is a fast growing vine and there are lots of small protruding wood piece for the vine to attach as it grows up what is left of the tree trunk.

Once you put host plants in your garden it doesn't take long before the butterflies find them. I have been checking my plant each time I water to see if just maybe there would be some eggs. To my surprise, there were some.

It didn't take long before they hatched and 5 little caterpillars started to munch away at the leaves.

The first week they stayed on the underside of the leaves.

But they have gotten bigger now and a little more adventurous and have moved to the top side.

The Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is orange which warns predators that it tastes bad (its flesh is toxic). Its long shiny black spines are also a warning sign to stay away.

That is not a reflection you see. There are two caterpillars munching on the same leaf. One from the top and one from the bottom.

These beautiful creatures are growing fast and it won't be long now before they are ready to form their chrysalis and transform into these gorgeous butterflies that frequent my garden.

These butterflies are very human tolerant and establish themselves well in gardens, parks and botanical settings. They are a dazzling butterfly with beautiful markings and color on both the topside and underside.
If you want to see more of this sensational butterfly be sure to include a passion vine (or two!) in your garden.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What a little rain can do...

We finally got some rain last week, about 3" worth, and it is raining again today! My plants are feeling much happier and it shows...

The white Cosmos is showing its cosmic beauty. The evenly placed petals gave it its name meaning harmony in Greek. It is also a great annual for our hot summers. It self seeds and the butterflies love them.

The Butterfly Ginger Lily (Hedychium 'Elizabeth') has just begun to bloom and it really brightens the woodland garden with its warm pink flowers and orange stamens. When you walk by you can smell their sweet fragrance which the pollinators also like.

This succulent (Aptenia cordifolia variegata) has tiny fringe flowers that open with sunshine! I love the variegated leaves too. I have this in my hanging basket where it gets good drainage and morning sun.

I hope you are enjoying lots of blooms in your garden.
Happy Monday y'all!

Joining Macro Monday

Friday, September 23, 2011

Kudzu Bug

If you live in the South or have ever visited the Southeastern part of the United States you are probably familiar with Kudzu. It is a vine that was introduced for erosion control. The problem is that it grows too well. In fact it can grow up to 1 foot a day during the summer months. For that reason it is often referred to as "the vine that ate the South". 

  Kudzu growing up trees

It is seen growing along roadsides all over the southeast smothering and suffocating trees, power lines, buildings, native plants and anything that stands in its way. It is very difficult to kill and according to the University of Auburn (Alabama) herbicides are not very effective and can take up to 10 years to kill.

Kudzu blooms are fragrant and can be used to make jelly. They will form seed pods

This vine was brought over from China and introduced to the South in 1883 where it grows better than in its native land. It wasn't until 1953 that the government removed it from its list of recommended plants and in 1970 it was listed as a weed. It currently covers more than 7 million acres of the Southeast! The problem as with any imported product is that the natural enemies don't come along with it.

Well, until recently.

According to the University of Georgia, the Kudzu Bug (Megacopta cribrari) was first discovered in Georgia in 2009.  Researchers are still trying to discover how the bug got here. Like Kudzu, it is also native to China and India.

So you may be wondering why I am giving you all this background on Kudzu and the Kudzu bug. Well, look what I found on my Hyacinth Bean vine. Ah yes, none other than the infamous kudzu bug!

These bugs are about 3-5 mm long with a hump very much like a ladybug. They have needle like mouth parts that suck the moisture out of the stems, sap, petioles and leaves making them looked scorched. The Kudzu Bug is a type of stink bug which emits a very strong, unpleasant odor when threatened.

These bugs not only feed on Kudzu but legume crops including soybeans, Lima beans, kidney beans,and green beans. A nuisance to homeowners this has even more worrisome implications for agriculture. You can see how many bugs populate just a small part of my hyacinth bean vine. One can only imagine how many would be on a soybean seedling.

As temperatures begin to drop and the kudzu leaves are killed off by frost the adult bugs look for places to overwinter. They are often seen crawling by the thousands on light colored houses and find their way into homes through small openings around windows and doors.

In the garden they can be controlled using organic insecticides such as insecticidal soap, horticultural oil or spinosad. Multiple applications may be needed.

This bug is spreading to other states. Reports of this bug have been confirmed in South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Any sighting of this invasive species should be reported to the state department of agriculture. There are no natural enemies!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Word for Wednesday: Illumination

No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people's eyes, to reveal the marvels around.
 ~ Paulo Coelho


Donna over at Garden Walk Garden Talk is hosting a new meme called Word for Wednesday. Each Wednesday a new word is defined. This week it is illumination. Join the fun and see other inspiring gardens full of light.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Two Hungry Caterpillars

The Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) fluttering around my garden have found the tropical milkweed plants and have begun the next generation of monarch butterflies. These are the caterpillars of the fourth generation that will become the butterflies that will travel south and overwinter in Mexico and southern California. (For details on the 4 generations of monarch butterflies check out this website Monarch Butterflies.

These busy caterpillars are munching on the poisonous leaves of the milkweed. The leaves contain toxins (glycosides) which make the Monarch Butterfly poisonous, but not deadly, to their predators (frogs, birds, lizards, praying mantis). Concentrations of these heart toxins in their bodies may be several times higher than those occurring in milkweed leaves. Animals that eat the butterfly will get sick and remember not to eat them.

The glycosides consumed by the caterpillars are carried forward both into the chrysalis and adult stages. Mother Nature has afforded them an excellent form of protection.

These two hungry caterpillars are hard at work munching away at the leaves crawling from one stalk to the next. In about 30 days they will become these beautiful butterflies.

Hopefully we will see them as butterflies before they depart to make the long migration south for the winter.

Thanks to Lisa for hosting Macro Monday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

GBBD September: Going to Seed

It is beginning to feel a little more like Fall with some slightly cooler temperatures (upper 80's day time and upper 60's night time). A few drops of rain have graced my Georgia garden and the plants, wildlife and gardener have be re-energized.

While some plants are preparing for their winter dormancy, many plants in my gardening are preparing for the next generation while others are getting ready for a fall bloom.

The dogwood trees are displaying their fruit. These berries are an excellent source of food for the birds. Bluebirds, Brown Thrashers, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Robins, Woodpeckers, Vireos and Thrushes are some of the birds in my garden that forage on this fruit.

The fruit on the Beauty berry shrubs is also a favorite for a variety of wildlife. The Towhees, Robins, Cardinals, Mocking Birds, Finches and Thrashers are consumers of these berries as are white tailed deer. The fruit clusters are available starting in late summer all the way through early winter.

The Sumac trees are also bearing fruit which will be eaten by chickadees, blue jays and crows. The fruit is usually eaten during the winter months when other berries are no longer available. It is important to note here that this is a native plant but can also be invasive. Another important distinction is that this is non-poisonous. (Poisonous sumac grows in a swampy environment and can easily be identified in the fall from the non-poisonous because it has white berries that hang down)

Several plants are putting out their seed pods including Mexican Milkweed


the Hyacinth Bean vine,

 and Crepe Myrtle.

The vegetable life does not content itself with casting from the flower or the tree a single seed, but it fills the air and earth with a prodigality of seeds, that, if thousands perish, thousands may plant themselves; that hundreds may come up, that tens may live to maturity; that at least one may replace the parent.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our very dry and hot summer has taken its toll on many of my blooming plants. Some like the Salvia, Sedum, Sage, Milkweed continue to bloom prolifically but others are a little worse for wear.

The Azaleas are showing their second round of blooms. Pretty but certainly not as prolific as spring time. 

The knock out roses are coming back after a quiet summer. They aren't too fond of the heat and got quite a chewing on from the Japanese beetles in late spring/early summer.

The Hyacinth Bean vine is new to my garden this year. An annual in my Zone 7b garden, I have it in pots by my front door. It gets full on sun most of the day and it is thriving, having grown at least 8 ft. this season.

I have read that they are good re-seeders and are easily started indoors from seed. (Note that if you have young children the raw bean seeds are poisonous if ingested so it probably isn't a plant you would want to include in your garden.) 

Butterflies are attracted to the blooms and is very popular amongst the skippers.

The Sedum is in full bloom and also enjoyed by many pollinators (see earlier posts Hairstreaks and Accidental Pollinators)

The Buddleia blooms are also frequented by many pollinators including butterflies, hummingbirds and clearwing hummingbird moths (shown in photo).

I hope you are also enjoying the beginnings of fall and all the changes nature has to offer in your garden.

I am joining May Dreams Gardens for Garden Blogger Bloom Day.