Butterfly in the Sky

Pipevine Swallowtail babies

Three years ago I tracked down an Aristolochia californica from Bay Natives at the SF Garden Show. I had dreams of Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars chomping on it, but so far they haven’t found it. I’ve heard it can take years… unless you get an awesome flickr message offering up babies in exchange for some food cuttings. On Friday we became proud parents of a hungry little group of caterpillars thanks to butterfly guru Timtastic (the link will take you to his sweet pics on flickr).

Anise swallowtail butterflies

Since we won’t be able to see our babies turn in to butterflies, Tim brought over a pair of Anise swallowtails to release out back. I got to hold them while they warmed up and took flight.

Anise swallowtail & Erysimum franciscanum var. crassifolium

For the rest of the day they hung out on our ginormous (we’re talking nearly five feet wide) San Francisco Wallflower, (Erysimum franciscanum var. crassifolium). As we rip apart the garden it’s a sunny site in the middle of the yard, that I know isn’t going anywhere. We’re leaving all the California natives except for the Dudleyas and Lewisias.

Collecting Aristolochia californica

Our Aristolochia californica is huge and happy! This is one of my favorite plants we have, so being able to raise caterpillars that will  use it is like a dream come true. That’s why I planted it. By the time we move, they’ll be big enough to release on the vine.

Caterpillar hotel

This is where the babies are living right now. They eat together in a big mass. So far they’ve gone through almost two leaves. I look at them at least once every three hours. They’re a great distraction to the stresses of packing and getting ready to move cross country in three weeks. I even made a butterfly garden pinterest board for Wisconsin. I admit it, I’m a pinterest addict. Where else would a find a recipe to make very realistic jello worms, or collect all my raised bed planter ideas in a pretty fashion? I’m starting all kinds of lists for plants I want to grow when we’re back in WI, too.

One last pretty pic

The Anise swallowtail hung out of the Phylica pubescens for a little bit. Thanks again to Tim for hooking us up! 

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