Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Friday, May 11, 2012

This week in the garden - #14

This week has been mostly spent out of the garden. On Monday while working outside, I tweaked a muscle in my back and the rest of the week has seen me bent at a 45 degree angle when I walk and unable to do very much in the garden. On some days, the pain almost immobilized me, but it's getting better. I hope to soon be out weeding and pruning again. In the meantime, I got a lot of good reading done.

This afternoon, I stepped outside and noticed a swallowtail butterfly nectaring on the petunias next to the back porch. I glanced at it and thought, "Giant Swallowtail." Then I did a double take and looked again. No, not a Giant Swallowtail, but something completely different. Something I had never seen in my yard before.

It's a Palamedes Swallowtail! See that vertical orange stripe that is parallel to the butterfly's body? That confirms it is a Palamedes.

Here, you can see the stripe a little better, as well as the stripes that are on the body itself.

 Here is an actual Giant Swallowtail for comparison. You can see that these butterflies are mostly yellow underneath.

I am very excited to have a Palamedes Swallowtail in my yard. You might say it was the high point of my week! Unfortunately, I don't think I have anything for such a butterfly to lay an egg on. Their food plants are listed as red bay, sassafras, sweet bay, and avocado. Maybe I need to run out and purchase a bay or avocado tree.

I happened to have the camera with me when I found the Palamedes because I wanted to try to document some of the butterflies in the yard. After last year's horrendous spring and summer when butterflies of any kind were very rare in my garden, this spring has seen a veritable butterfly bonanza here. And not just Monarchs and the various swallowtails and sulphurs and Gulf Fritillaries, but a very diverse population.

The tiny Common Checkered Skippers have been very numerous. I almost never go into the garden without seeing some of these pretty little butterflies.

I find that the wildflower bed is usually a good place to look for butterflies. This stand of horesemint seems to be a particular favorite nectar plant for many varieties.

Varieties like this lovely Variegated Fritillary. The Gulf Fritillary is very common in my yard but this little butterfly has always been less frequently seen. This year, though, there seem to be lots of them around.

While I was checking out the wildflower bed, which is in my vegetable garden, I stopped by the raised bed that holds the corn.

 The color of the corn silk tells me that this corn will soon be ready. It is an old variety called 'Country Gentleman.' I've never raised it before so I'm very interested to see how it turns out.

The rains that we got this week - 1.2 inches so far - gave a boost to the corn and to everything else. I had begun providing supplemental water to several of my plants, especially the vegetables, that seemed to be suffering in the dry conditions we had had for a few weeks. But the rain took care of that - at least for a few days.  It was a good note on which to close out the week.


  1. How very exciting to see the Palamedes Swallowtail!
    I have never seen one.
    It has been a stellar spring for butterflies in my gardens too.
    Hope you are feeling better and back in the gardens soon.

    1. This was my first Palmedes, too, Sherry. Very exciting. Thanks for the good wishes.

  2. Fabulous Photos!!! Nicely Done!

  3. Nancy B's GardenMay 14, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    How exciting to have a Palamedes visit! If I were you, I probably would rush to the nursery and buy a host plant. Now , I look forward to seeing a Palamedes someday. I would rather see one wild animal in my yard than a hundred in captivity.

    This is my first year to have pipevine swallowtails only I'm out of pipevine. I have only seen the caterpillars and a female butterfly. The poor female was trying to lay eggs on a minuscule stump of the stem. I wait with great anticipation seeing a male. I hope Joshua's gets more pipevine this week.

    The drought from last year has caused me to learn a lot. All the grass in the backyard died and a huge variety of weeds replaced it. I pulled up all the plaintain and false nettle before I realized that they were host plants. I am in the process of putting in new flowerbeds and replanted cudweed in them.

    My nephew was teasing me about reading the gardening blogs. He said that he couldn't believe that are more people like me. (People who get so excited about butterflies and caterpillars) My nephew did take my sister and me to The Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center outside of Austin. The drizzle kept the butterflies in hiding , but the place was amazing.

    THis is a little long. I do miss the Chronicle blogs. My friends do listen to my butterfly talk, but they don't share my same enthusiasm.

    I enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Well, I certainly share your enthusiasm for butterflies, Nancy! I was very excited about the Palamedes and I do plan to get a host plant, although I haven't yet.

      My poor passionvine and spice bush are both consumed to the stems at present and I need to get more of those. My pipevine did not come back this year - not sure why - and I need to get more of that also. I foresee a trip to the nursery this week.