swallowtail caterpillars devour a fennel.
butterflies survived the long migration, and Hurricane
Patricia, so I felt like calling attention to a new wave
in the world of caterpillars. At almost every seminar I
give there is a stopping point about midway where I ask
the audience by a show of hands if they are caterpillar
friendly. I am delighted to say I sense a real change
within the gardening public. The caterpillar, once
perhaps considered the enemy of the garden has now
become the recognized reward, and woe to the lizard or
bird that picks one off.
before our recent Autumn Gardenfest at the Coastal
Georgia Botanical Gardens in Savannah, I took a couple
of speakers on a tour of the gardens and we found
ourselves lingering at a Christmas bush senna, not
photographing the beautiful yellow blossoms but instead
looking for a Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar. These are
among the most striking in the world of butterflies.
year, however, started my realization of how important
caterpillars had become. I received a phone call from a
lady that was virtually in tears. She had Monarch
caterpillars, but all of her milkweed had been devoured.
She asked almost hysterically if she could bring them to
us since we had so many milkweeds. At least I thought we
had many. She showed up with a box containing 100
caterpillars. I slowly walked through the garden. A
little milkweed plant got one caterpillar while larger
plants were gifted with two or three. It took no time
before I had few leaves as well.
year we had our own similar episode that became one of
hilarity. Despite having several large fennel and a few
parsley plants, it seems the "Fertile Myrtle"
of Black Swallowtails produced enough eggs and
caterpillars to create panic among the staff. The stress
led to them to go to the garden centers to buy more
plants in an effort to try to feed all of the hungry
our own real test of being caterpillar friendly caught
us all by surprise. Outside our new Andrews Visitor and
Education Center we have two glazed containers with
Improved Meyer Lemon trees. You’ve got to realize a
couple of things that make this caterpillar friendly
test a little more of a challenge.
got our start as a USDA Plant Introduction Station in
1919. All over the garden are trees, shrubs and bamboo
that Frank Meyer, the hero of plant exploration found
and brought back to the country. He is the one who
discovered the aforementioned lemon named in his honor.
That was just one issue in our true test of being
second test is probably more obvious. These two
containers are right at the entrance where every single
visitor enters the garden. What would they think to see
missing leaves or caterpillars, which would no doubt
just be worms to many of them?
test began so beautifully as a giant swallowtail made
her visit to the lemons. She would lay an egg or two
then drop down to get nectar from some red pentas. Then
she would return for a little more egg laying. We saw
the eggs, the resulting caterpillars and, in what seemed
like such a short amount of time, chrysalis. Every day
we would look. Then the call came over the radio. Norman
you better get over here. As you might have-guessed, it
was "Happy Birthday." The most beautiful
swallowtail had emerged, a process called enclosure in
the lepidoptera world.
the staff and a few visitors stood in awe as we
experienced nature at one of its finest moments. While
we were watching, I couldn’t help but think we too had
just passed the caterpillar test. Are you caterpillar
friendly? You will have many more butterflies if you