If you plant it, they will come. Truthfully, when I ordered three maypop or passion flower vines, I anticipated the purple filigree flowers and fall maypops. I didn’t know they would come.
For two years, the vines performed as expected covering the lattice, cooling the carport on the west side of the house as the sun went down, blooming profusely, and making poppers in case any grandchildren showed up.
A surprise occurred about this time last summer when I found an obese caterpillar munching around a maypop leaf. As quick as my mother used to head for the encyclopedia, I headed for a search engine and typed in, “identify caterpillars.”
There was my caterpillar – bright orange with black stripes and black spikes sticking up all over! It seems the Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is a picky eater and only feeds on passion flower vines. So began my summer distraction as I watched the entire cycle from egg to butterfly repeatedly until I was left with stripped vines and a yard full of butterflies.
I’ve spent the winter and spring wondering about two things. I’ve wondered why Monarchs seem to get all the press. The Gulf Fritillary also has a migration cycle, spending winters in Florida, and is beautiful both topside and underneath. The upper layer is soft orange with a delicate pattern around the wings while the underside is even more spectacular. Showing off as it sips nectar from my nearby lantana (adult butterflies aren’t so picky about their food), the wings fold up showing off a pattern that looks like stained glass.
My second puzzle has been how long I had to wait for their return. Lush vines and abundant passion flowers have been enticing. Last week I saw a Gulf Fritillary butterfly and spotted an egg. This morning there are a couple of baby caterpillars, just small spiky black things munching their way around a maypop leaf.
They’re back! And with them a new puzzle. How do I keep myself on task with such an intriguing distraction just out the side door?