Thursday, August 28, 2008

Butterfly Season has Started Again.

This little darling is an orange palm dart (Cephrenes augiades).
I like to think I have attracted it to my garden by planting a piccabeen palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana), which is its larval food plant.
It’s a male butterfly. You can tell by the fancy way it holds its wings - a characteristic of the males of its species. I was blessed, as a child, with a father who amused us (and no doubt himself) by making wonderful paper gliders, and this butterfly reminds me of some of his more elaborate efforts.

My poor old piccabeen had a hard time of it for its first ten years. I couldn’t water it as it deserved, so it grew slowly. It was always in a state of rags and tatters, as it apparently represented an oasis for the palm darts which found it early in its life and have bred on it ever since. I am interested to see that, now the tree has matured somewhat, they no longer make mincemeat of it and it has turned into an attractive tree. It's had no artificial watering now for at least ten years. I'm often amazed at how our local natives, even the theoretical water-lovers, can take everything our climate throws at them.
It’s still a long way from representing the palm grove of my dreams. (Sigh!) Of course I should have planted a dozen of them at the time. This is not a tree that makes a good garden statement on its own.
Meanwhile I am glad that I have provided for some butterflies. We Australians have always been able to attract a good variety to our gardens simply by planting flowers, so the adults can find a sweet drink. We have counted on living close to bushland containing the native plants on which they breed, to provide the great variety of species we once were able to attract. As the boundaries of Toowoomba gallop ever outwards, with bush being replaced by cleared and gardened acreages, our butterfly variety is declining.
Some species (probably including the palm darts) can survive on introduced plants, but others are quietly vanishing.
Has anyone seen a fourbar swordtail lately?

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