Wildlife Wednesday: A Feast For a Swallowtail

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You may count gluttony among those seven deadly sins, but our little Swallowtail didn’t get the memo.

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She was covered in so much wonderful sticky pollen by the time we spotted her, that we aren’t quite sure whether she is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail or an Eastern Black Swallowtail.  Since no white spots are visible on her body, we suspect that she is the black form of the female Tiger Swallowtail.

From my perspective a bit under her, while she enjoyed this rose of Sharon flower, it looked as though she was lying on the flower’s pistol, straddling it with legs akimbo.  You can see the pollen on her body, legs and even wings.

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These rose of Sharon flowers, Hibiscus syriacus, must be enticingly delicious.  We watch the hummingbirds stop by these shrub several times a day.  Other, smaller butterflies and bees flew in and out and around while our Swallowtail feasted.

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These beautiful trees are easy to grow in full to partial sun and reasonably moist, but well-drained soil.  They self-seed readily and grow with little attention from a gardener.  We let them grow in several places around the garden because they are so beloved by our pollinators.

You will find many different rose of Sharon cultivars on the market.  We’ve found many different ones growing around our garden, with new seedlings showing up every summer.  Rose of Sharon trees begin to bloom when they are just a few years old.

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We may lose a tree or two a year, as they aren’t very long lived and grow on fairly shallow roots.  The largest one in our garden tops out at less than 20′ tall.  This is a good landscaping tree that won’t endanger foundation or roof if planted close to the house.  Growing it near a window provides hours of summer entertainment as the pollinators come and go.

Although it’s not native to Virginia, Hibiscus syriacus has naturalized here, and fills an important niche in our summer garden.

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It is both beautiful and generous, and we enjoy watching the many winged and wonderful creatures that it attracts throughout the year.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

. . .

“Similar to a butterfly,

I’ve gone through a metamorphosis,

been released from my dark cocoon,

embraced my wings,

and soared!”

 .

Dana Arcuri

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

4 responses to “Wildlife Wednesday: A Feast For a Swallowtail

  1. What a sloppy pig!
    Your rose of Sharon look so happy! They technically should like our climate here, but they always seem so pale. I believe that the color is a normal, but not too unhealthy, response to the slight alkalinity. I pollarded mine annually so that they always had vigorous new shoots that were greener than foliage on spur growth.

    • That’s a good idea , Tony . I often prune some of ours hard , but haven’t tried pollarding. I may try that next winter to see how some of our trees respond . Soil PH makes quite a difference in how plants perform , doesn’t it ?

      • Oh, I did not meant to recommend pollarding. I just did it because it worked well for mine. If yours are vigorous enough, you would not need to invigorate them. I happen to like pollarding, but I also know it is not for everyone.

        • Some of our Rose of Sharon seem to lose vigor after a few years. They are a bit crowded and reach tall without growing very wide. I think pollarding may actually help some of them. A Master Gardener neighbor tells us she does this every year to keep hers a consistent height near her windows. I’m open to experimenting 😉

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