Sunday, August 2, 2009


This is the Gray Hairstreak Butterfly. It is one of four butterflies I have found that use the Rose Mallow as a host plant. So often I've read the list of "butterfly plants" never sure which attract the adults for nourishment and which are hosts to the caterpillars. So I'm on a quest to learn those connections. I'm beginning with the Rose Mallow which is pictured below and is a popular plant with the glissanding crowd. Back to the Gray Hairstreak. Can you see the thin tails coming off the end of the back wings? They fall off easily and allow the butterfly to escape predators when grabbed. This is a very pretty butterfly with bright blue and orange irridescent dots on the soft grey to taupe coloring. It is small and well worth looking for. Oh, but not until mid afternoon as they sleep in! The Painted Lady, above, also seeks out the Rose Mallow. She's hard to miss in her glory of color. She was named by the 49er's because her color reminded them of the women they saw at the end of the day. Above is the Common Checkered Skipper. It is a very fuzzy butterfly, not a moth as I originally thought when I saw it. Skipper's are a large class of butterflies that are rather small and wide winged. Most are fuzzy like this Checkered one. They are very cool to watch. The Question Mark butterfly is the fourth butterfly that uses the Rose Mallow, below, as a host plant for its larva. The larva are prickly, energetic little caterpillars. Fun! And I was amazed to find out that the Question Mark butterfly winters over as an adult here in Minnesota! Most others winter in the pupal (inside their chrysalis) stage or as eggs. In order to survive, the Question Mark must get out of the snow and wind, and seeks out rock and wood piles. Those butterfly houses? Yup, Question Marks use them in the winter. Rose Mallow is wonderful for many reasons in addition to being a critical support plant for the flying flowers among us. Mallow readily seeds itself and is a native plant here. That means it doesn't need fussing like watering and weeding around. It also has a very deep tap root that reaches deeply into the soil to find trace minerals and nutrients leached out of the surface soils inhabited by most plants. The following spring those nutrients are released into the soil as the leaves of last year's mallow decays making them available to the rest of the plants. In other words, Rose Mallow fertilizes the whole garden. It also makes a nice tea to settle upset stomaches because it has a natural musilage in its leaves and roots. It gently coats both the stomach and small intestines. I'm always amazed that the plants we need in any given time are usually in full bloom or glory. Acid stomachs and fiery emotions are typical of the hot part of summer - July and August - just when the Rose Mallow blooms. If you're planning the rhythm of your perennial garden, she blooms at the end of the lilies and just before the hydrangeas. Place her next to them for - she fills in the lilies and looks great against the dark backdrop of the hydrangeas. Oh, pull those seedlings as soon as you notice they are in a place you don't want them...tap roots. Let me know your thoughts and questions.