Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for September 22nd, 2011

Clammyweed revisited—and visited

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Two-tailed swallowtail; click for greater detail.

Those of you who have been subscribers to this blog since the last week of June may recall the photographs of clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra, taken from the side and the top. For whatever reason, I’ve noticed more of this drought-defying species in 2011 than ever before. My latest encounter with it was just yesterday, when I found some growing in the completely dry bed of Barton Creek in south Austin. As I was looking at the plant, a two-tailed swallowtail butterfly, Papilio multicaudata, began fluttering about as it gathered nectar from the clammyweed flowers.* Swallowtails are among the largest of all butterflies that we have in this part of the world, with a wingspan of from 3 to 5 inches, and I’ve usually found them to be quite skittish. This one, though, probably eager to get whatever nourishment it can during the drought, let me get close and take lots of pictures. Occasionally a too-sudden movement of my camera startled it away, but after flying about for a while it always came back.

Note—if you can take your eyes off this attractive butterfly—that the clammyweed is satisfying insects in at least two ways: the destructive way of whatever ate all those little round holes out of the leaves at the left, and of course the non-destructive way of the swallowtail.

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* When I posted this entry I misidentified the butterfly as an eastern tiger swallowtail. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a two-tailed swallowtail, but as you can see from the first comment on this post, Shelly pointed me in the right direction. Thanks to Shelly, and also to Val Bugh for further confirmation. Live and learn.

© Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2011 at 5:54 AM

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