Thursday, February 4, 2010

Macleay’s Swallowtail Butterfly

Graphium macleayanum
What a difficult butterfly this is to photograph! We found it at Goomburra last weekend, but it didn't want to sit still long enough for a portrait to be taken.
These pretty swallowtails are quite common at Goomburra, but despite their showy beauty they are easy to overlook as they spend a lot of time on the wing. What catches the eye is not this pretty underwing, but the rather uninteresting upper wing - mostly white, with a black edge. Butterfly observers need to be patient and wait for one to settle.
I have found a lovely site on the internet, which I hadn’t known about before. It’s full of great photos taken by Martin Purvis, who seems to come from Sydney. He has some much better photos of the swallowtail, for those who’d like to take a look.
The address is :
This butterfly usually breeds on plants of the Laurel family Lauraceae)- and there are plenty of those in Goomburra. Local laurels include: Beilschmiedia obtusifolia, Cinnamomum oliveri, C.virens, Cryptocarya bidwillii, C.erythroxylon, C.floydii, C.microneura, C.obovata, C.triplinervis, Endiandra compressa, E.muelleri, Neolitsea dealbata, N. australiensis, and Litsea reticulata. These are all trees which could do with a bit of help. They are under threat, in the long term, from camphor laurels, which are spreading steadily into our local bushland, and exude a substance from their roots which suppresses the seedlings of other members of the laurel family.
It is also said to breed on camphor laurel trees - which should make it a common butterfly in Toowoomba. I’m not aware of having seen it here - but perhaps other readers have?
Those who would like to plant something native to provide a breeding place for this butterfly and its relatives the blue and green triangles, might find the Neolitseas a good choice, as they are fast-growing, shady small trees suitable for suburban gardens (see post April 2009).
(The other local laurels are all attractive trees with dense shady canopies, ranging in size from medium to large. They are suitable for parks, large gardens, and streets. Even the largest of them fits easily into any space which has room for a camphor laurel!).

No comments: