Friday, April 23, 2010

Butterflies at Brookvale

Butterflies Love Callistemons
and here’s a photo to prove it!

Those flowers are just full of energy-rich nectar, and are designed to provide handy footholds for butterflies.

The butterflies jostling for the trough, in this photo, are a caper white (Belenois java) and three “danaid” butterflies: a blue tiger (Tirumala hamata); a common crow (Euploea core); and a native wanderer (Danaus chrysippus). The poisonous danaids are easy to identify because their black bodies have distinctive white polka dots. They only have to find foot-room for four legs each - the other two being the tiny front ones which they keep tucked up.

There were several other butterfly species fluttering about the same bush last Sunday, including this lovely scarlet jezabel (Delias argenthona).

These butterflies were just some of the thirteen species of large butterfly which were very much in evidence last Sunday at the Jondaryan home of Robyn Weick, the president of the Toowoomba Society for Growing Australian Plants. It was the venue for this month’s club outing, and gave members a chance to appreciate the way that a native plant garden’s beauty comes from more than just the plants.
The plant in the above photos is Callistemon phoenicius. This is not a local native species, but the flowers of all Callistemons are equally popular with butterflies. Those who want to grow indigenous plants would choose the weeping bottlebrush Callistemon viminalis (Melaleuca viminalis) instead.
However, it takes more than nectar-rich flowers to attract such a wealth of butterflies.
The reason Robyn's garden is so alive with them is that there are plenty of host plants, on which butterflies can lay their eggs, and their caterpillars grow to maturity, in and around the garden.
They include wattles, one of which provided a resting place for this large yellow migrant (Catopsila gorgophone). The migrant itself was being attracted by its host plants, some native Senna species.
A number of native capers, Capparis mitchellii, were pulling in the several species of caper butterflies, and several species of mistletoes would have been responsible for the jezabel.
While Robyn has planted many of these host plants herself, some of the butterflies would have been there because there is still a lot of native bush near her home, providing host plants of kinds that are rarely grown in gardens. The Danaids, for example, breed on native climbers in the Apocynaceae family - Parsonsias, Marsdenias, and the pretty Secamone elliptica. The crow butterfly has adapted to non-native species (such as Oleanders), but in this case it would have been using its native hosts.

The blue tigers could have flown from far away. These butterflies are strong fliers and can cover long distances. However its host plant, corky milk vine Secamone elliptica, if not actually found at Jondaryan, does occur not too far away at Kingsthorpe Hill (just west of Toowoomba) where this blue tiger caterpillar was photographed..
Below is a better look at this lovely butterfly.

Interested in joining Toowoomba SGAP? You can find out more about it by phoning Trevor Cockburn on 07 4691 2867


Blue Bird IM said...

The photo of the various butterflies on the callistemon is beautiful! What an amazing shot!

Patricia Gardner said...

Hi Judi.
Yes, it is wonderful how butterflies will go to some callistemon flowers. They were so busy that I could get up very close for that shot.
Somehow I lost your other comment while trying to publish it. You asked about the yellow flowers in the photo. They are a wattle (Acacia species), but I don't know which one. The owner of the garden is a great Australian plant enthusiast, so this plant could be from anywhere is Australia.
However, if you have something similar, with those fluffy yellow ball-shaped flowers growing by the roadside near your place, you know it is a wattle. There are a number of locally native Acacia species, with various leaf shapes, so if they look as though they are growing naturally, they probably are.
Occasionally wattles can grow so thickly that landowners feel they need to treat them as weeds and remove any excess ones, but on the whole they are regarded as a well-loved wildflowers and are often planted in gardens.