Great Southern White (Ascia monuste)

Reward of “Weeds”

Dateline: April 13, 2012*

Pepperweed, larval host, edible by humans, so the seeds are somewhat prolific, roots are shallow allowing you to keep it in check

Central Florida. I’m a big believer in “let it grow, let it grow, let it grow” (hey, we have no white stuff down here, and I love that tune). I’ve learned to be the great observer in the garden and often by happenstance I get my best wildlife encounter rewards from a passing flash in the yard. This is when I generally learn something new about nature. This week, while walking the garden I got a few more rewards from “weeds”.

Technically, a weed is “a plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing it is not wanted.” For some reason our society (present company excluded) has taken to planting things which are technically out of place and calling it beautiful. The plants that should be actual residents of the given habitat are scalped, pulled or, worse yet, sprayed to keep them at bay. Fact is they are doing nature and our environment an injustice by replacing what Mother Nature is trying to provide naturally for her creatures. I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I appreciate the less than lovely more so than what is touted as proper landscape materials in many garden magazines.

I have a meadow of rich diversity. Many would call it a weed patch. The plants occur naturally, so they are far from weeds in my eyes.

Great Southern White Butterfly Caterpillar eggs. Sometimes the weeds provide the rewards

The other day I was watching a white butterfly flit from plant to plant. It was spending a lot of time around the Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum). I tried to photograph the butterfly but it moved too fast, or perhaps I am just to slow. I’d seen similar before and knew I had a photo somewhere but I really wasn’t positive of the identity. Searching, I discovered it is a Great Southern White (Ascia monuste). I’d say it is a positive I.D. since the larval hosts include members of Mustard family (Brassicaceae) and Pepperweed qualifies. Further reading stated eggs are laid groups of about 20 and on close inspection of one of the plants, I saw tiny yellowish-orange dots dangling from a leaf of the plant. My old photo also shows blue antenna clubs.

Great Southern White Butterfly If you don’t leave some less desirable native plants, you’d miss out on this beauty

Being a little selfish and not wanting the lizards to eat the eggs I potted up the plant and placed it within a butterfly net. Since then the eggs have disappeared but I haven’t seen any caterpillars. Of course caterpillars are cagey. Read on.

American Lady Caterpillar on native cudweed shows the reward of weeds

Yesterday I saw an American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) busy by the Cudweed (Gamochaeta spp.). Again I tried to photograph, but it was not to be. I did head over to the plant it was near to inspect for eggs, but old eyes couldn’t find any. Then I noticed a web-type tent at the top of the plant and took a small stick to knead it apart. AHA! A caterpillar! I grabbed the plant and headed over to a display case with a screened top. Again, I am being selfish, but my curiosity and educational thirst has gotten the better of me. I’ll feed it daily and wait for it to go through metamorphosis.

Hidden in a web-like tent on this cudweed, is a future American Lady Butterfly

I felt so rewarded by my new encounters. So, if you want to learn close-up about your native fauna, stop fighting Mother Nature and consider that the beauty of your garden could be coming from the visitors that will grace it. If you leave the flora for those that belong in your beautiful wildlife garden you’ll see beauty beyond belief. Reward from “weeds”…Food for thought.

American Lady Butterfly….the Reward of Weeds

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on April 13, 2012 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

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