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.


  1. So beautiful... hoping to see the Chrysalis stage of their life soon!

  2. The passion flower is so exotic-looking it's hard to believe it's a native plant (or not fake!). Great idea about planting it in a decaying stump ... I'll have to try that. As always, beautiful photos!

  3. Great job using that old tree stump. As they break down the soil becomes so lovely around them. After planting dill for the swallowtails in my garden I completely understand what you mean about the insects finding them. Such a small planting but the butterflies had no trouble at all making their home there.

  4. Love the passion flower, though I haven't found the right spot in my garden yet. Your idea of using a stump is wonderful! Cute pic of the caterpillars on either side of the leaf!

  5. Karin these are so wonderful. Wish Passion Flower grew in my cold garden. How exciting to see them from egg to butterfly. Just finally got monarchs to come in to the garden and there are so many this year. Next year it will be my mission to attract the swallowtails...great post!!

  6. A Buffalo gardener grows passion flower and I was amazed to see how big is was in the time of one summer. It really is a stunning flower, and those butterflies, so wish we had them here.

  7. This are beautiful choice photos for this post, especially the double larvae at the same position. However, i would have loved to see the size of the plant before you allowed the larvae to eat them, or else they might finish all the leaves if it is still small. Here in our country, i think other butterflies feed also on that passion vine, i just cannot plant it because it grows so wildly if untended.

  8. 'will do even if I have to replant it every year.

  9. What an interesting post! The flower is a beauty for sure. Love your shot of the caterpillars. On my lemon tree, there is something similar but it is a caterpillar on one side and a praying mantis egg pod on the other side.

  10. Great post! I have a Passiflora also that I hope one day to have a visit from a Gulf Fritillary, but they're a little out of my range in Missouri.--We have the Great Spangled Fritillary here :) Thanks for posting your photos and info!

  11. Really great post and very complete on the passionvine and fritillary. Here in Tucson, as long as this plant is watered, it can take on the full sun BUT it is quickly discovered by the Fritillary butterfly and eaten away. A great plant to attract this butterfly.

  12. Jennifer@threedogsinagarden
    A very interesting post! The passion vine flower is such a striking blue. I don't know if it is an ancient plant, but it looks like it has come down to us from the age of the dinosaurs. The butterflies that it attracts are particularly pretty.
    P.S. I also was very interested to read your post on the invasive Kudzu vine and bug. As someone who has been battling Japanese Beetles all summer, I have come to dread these unwanted invasions of foreign bugs and plants.

  13. Sunray Gardens, yes the bloom is really exotic looking!

    Carolyn, Me too!

    Sheila, I have planted ferns & columbine in stumps and they do really well!

    Marguerite, they do find it quickly...I always encourage people to put in host plants so they get more butterflies in their garden.

    Holley Garden, it is tough to find a good place for vines, especially when they grow so quickly. Hope you find a good place for yours!

    Donna, so great that the Monarchs found your place! I saw a passion vine in Michigan this summer and the owner claimed it came back each year. It was very protected from the elements so I think it had the right micro-climate that it could survive out of its zone.

    GWGT, they are fast growers which is great especially if it is an annual in your zone.

    Andrea, the photo with the plant in the stump was the original size. Because it is so small the caterpillars have eaten all the leaves. They are really big now so hopefully done eating.

    Greggo, I would think it would grow in your zone?.

    One, I would love to see a photo of your lemon tree. Have you posted one yet?

    Rebecca, Great Spangled is another beauty!

    Rohrerbot, my passion vine has been defoliated by the caterpillars. Hopefully they got enough to eat!

    Jennifer, I had a lot of Japanese beetles this year too! Really dislike these imports that cause so much damage to the plants and don't have predators here yet!

  14. That is so exciting. I found Monarch caterpillars for the first time in my garden this summer so I know how thrilling this discovery must have been. Passion vines aren't hardy here else I would have one of those gorgeous beauties planted whether they are invasive or not! Occasionally I plant a little vine to see what happens but very rarely anything. :-(
    Using the rotted stump is genius!


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One of my favorite things about blogging is the conversation with readers. Leave a comment and let's get talking. ~Karin

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