Sunday, November 4, 2012

Butterflies Abound

Last week started with the threat of freezing temperatures and frost shutting down the garden for the season. Fortunately, the garden narrowly escaped the threat and there was no damage to the plants. It is a good thing because this is peak butterfly season and as each day passed and temperatures warmed, more and more butterflies filled the garden. 

The plants getting the most attention from the butterflies are Gregg's Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, Fragrant Mistflower, Eupatorium havanense, Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea, Zexmenia, Wedelia texana, and Mexican Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. Most of these plants should be available at the Texas Discovery Gardens Fall Plant Sale next weekend.

Here is a glimpse at the colorful show and at the end is an attempt to capture some of the action on video. 

There are still a number of Monarchs lingering in the garden when they should be vacationing in Mexico for the winter. This one is feeding on Mexican Milkweed. Since many of the favorite butterfly plants mentioned above are native to southern areas of Texas, I have often wondered if the Monarchs are tricked into thinking they are closer to Mexico than they really are.


Queen butterflies also enjoy the Mexican Milkweed.


The Gregg's Mistflower is probably the favorite nectar source in my garden for the Monarch and Queen butterflies. This one is a Queen.


Here is a Queen with open wings. I sometimes have trouble telling a Queen from a Monarch when their wings are close, but I know for sure once they open their wings. Compare this Queen to the Monarch in the top photo.


Monarchs feasting on Gregg's Mistflower.


Painted Lady and Pearly Crescent butterflies, as well as bees, gather on the Gregg's Mistflower.

Here is a closer look at a Pearly Crescent. 


Several American Snout butterflies made an appearance in the garden. 


This American Snout has a different wing pattern than the previous one. It is clear how this butterfly got its name. 

An American Snout catching some morning sun on its wings.

Common Buckeyes have always been a favorite butterfly for me. I think it is the eye spots that I find most interesting.


I know this is a Skipper, but that is as close to identifying this butterfly as I can get.


A Gray Hairstreak and bee share Gregg's Mistflower. There are several Hairstreak varieties and I may not be exact on this identification.


Another Common Buckeye on Fragrant Mistflower.

Still another Common Buckeye.

An American Snout and honey bee feeding on Fragrant Mistflower.


This Gulf Fritillary looked like it was trying to lay eggs on passion vine just before it settled on this Scarlet Sage, Salvia coccinea, flower. The Gulf Fritillary butterflies were also found feeding on the flowers of Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. Wrightii.


A Gulf Fritillary warms its wings in the morning sun. This was a common sight on the cooler mornings.


A Painted Lady butterfly catches some sunlight while perched on Mealycup Sage.

Another view of a Painted Lady.

I think this is a Sulphur butterfly of some sort. It is feeding on Mealycup sage.

This yellow butterfly is probably in the Sulphur family too. It is much smaller than the one in the previous photo. The flower is Zexmenia.

This tiny butterfly is a Blue. Once again, I cannot determine the specific variety. It is feeding on the flowers of Gregg Dalea, Dalea greggii. I think they also lay their eggs on this plant.

In addition to butterflies, the fall flowers also attract many other pollinating insects. I think this is a Syrphid Hoverfly. It is resting on the leaves of Tall Boneset, Chromolaena odorata. The flowerbuds in the background are just about to open. This plant has been in the garden for two years and is probably marginally winter hardy this far north of its native range. The flowers are similar to Gregg's Mistflower and should be just as attractive to the butterflies and bees.

This is another fly on the flowers of Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium.

The flowers of the annual Cowpen Daisy, Verbesina encelioides, attracts many bees. This plant is also known by the classier name, Golden Crownbeard.
Below is my first blog video attempt. The video is jerky and fast moving. My images of a peaceful meadow setting are belied by the sounds of city traffic in the background. 


  1. Great variety attracted to your prairie, Michael! Super Pics ! I`ve been seeing that Sulphur everywhere and it is difficult to shoot.

    1. Randy, I had to discard several bad pictures to get these few. Butterflies are generally not cooperative photographic subjects.

  2. I love the video of the butterflies on your prairie. So peaceful and it does my heart good to see so much wildlife there. It's as if Mother Nature rewards us in the fall for suffering through the hot Texas summers.

    1. Thanks Anonymous. Sometimes I think I have a little oasis in the middle of a concrete and lawn desert.

  3. You've got some nice butterflies coming in! I've not seen a gulf fritillary or a queen around here. That blue is new to me, too. The only flower that's still blooming here is the aromatic aster. I LOVE that plant!

    1. I think the blue butterfly may be a Reakirt's Blue. I have seen Eastern Tailed Blues as well. You gotta love a plant like aromatic aster that blooms when nothing else is.

  4. Nice captures dude! First class.

  5. Wow...that video pretty much says it all...I'm so jealous! We actually had more butterflies this year than in any other year I can remember since moving here...but it's nothing like that!

    1. I enjoy inviting butterflies into the garden. They are still hanging around, but their food sources are about to go away until next year.

  6. If you build it, they will come. You must be building very well. Butterflies, bees and other pollinators add so much to the music and beauty of the garden while helping us get 1/3 of our food.

    1. Marilyn, I rarely put a plant in the garden just because it is pretty. They have to provide food, shelter, or serve some other purpose before they are worthy of space in my suburban oasis.

  7. Thanks again for a wildflower ID. Your posts are so timely. White mistflower up at the Heard Sanctuary in McKinney is THE place for butterfly action today. So busy it almost needs a bouncer at the door.

    1. It is amazing how many insects that mistflower attracts. I never see American Snout butterflies in my garden until the mistflower blooms and then they cover the plants.

  8. Great photos. What type of camera are you using? I'd love to know.
    Your Common Buckeye photos are magnificent. What a sad name for such a lovely creature. Nothing common about it!

    Enjoy those butterflies.

    1. David, the camera is nothing special. It is a Canon PowerShot S5is. One day, I will get another camera that give me better control of focus and close ups. Until then, I take multiple shots and hope for a good one.

  9. My Gregg's mistflower is in it's second summer. It's very leggy and flopping all over the ground, green, blooming a bit, but taking over other plants and bushes. Does it ever get more woody and bush-like? I'm trying to contain it a bit in a tomato cage, which is not a good look! Thanks for any ideas.

    1. Gregg’s mistflower really does not get woody. I have several patches and the one I started two years ago has an open area in the center where the stems fell over. The more established patches are all growing upright. I do not know if floppiness has anything to do with the maturity of the patch. Gregg’s mistflower does expand its footprint each year. It is pretty easy to pull out if it spreads into an area you do not want it to. You could try cutting back the stems to see if they will branch out.


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