Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Queen butterfly on Simpson’s rosinweed

with 24 comments

Queen Butterfly on Simpson's Rosinweed 2438

Click for greater clarity and larger size.

Behold a queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus, on Simpson’s rosinweed, Silphium simpsonii. The butterfly outdoes the rosinweed here, but in the second month of this blog I showed a radiant picture of a similar species of rosinweed, Silphium radula, if you’d care to look back. And if you’re still in retro mode, you may enjoy revisiting last summer’s white rosinweed.

This picture of a queen butterfly is the third in a series I took at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on July 23, and the first to remind me of the actress Butterfly McQueen.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2013 at 6:18 AM

24 Responses

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  1. She’s a gorgeous butterfly, and I did look back at your radiant picture of the rosinweed and agree it is a wonderful flower. Coronation indeed 😉


    August 18, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    • I appreciate your liking the coronation as much as the butterfly. The orange butterfly against the blue sky reminds me that when I was growing up in Nassau County (on Long Island, New York), the two-tone police cars were painted with those colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2013 at 7:34 AM

  2. Very nice, Steve. Aside from getting a great shot, approaching from below like this is much less threatening to the bf making them stick around longer.
    Was that an advertising banner behind an aircraft in the upper left? 🙂

    Steve Gingold

    August 18, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    • He spends a lot of money hiring that airplane for each shot. 🙂

      Jim in IA

      August 18, 2013 at 6:59 AM

      • Yeah, and hiring that airplane really crimps my budget. It’s a good thing I no longer have to pay for film, too.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 18, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    • I hadn’t thought about the advantage that rosinweed, being so tall, conferred on me when I stalked these butterflies (there were several of them). As for the airplane banner, I might have approached it from above, but I didn’t have enough money to hire a second plane.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2013 at 7:41 AM

  3. Your butterfly looks very similar to our Monarchs. They will be heading south soon.

    Jim in IA

    August 18, 2013 at 7:01 AM

    • Yes, if you see the ventral surface only, the resemblance to a monarch, its close relative, is striking. Last year I showed the dorsal surface, which is the differentiator:


      I hope you’ve had a good crop of monarchs, because then we’re likely to many of them passing through Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2013 at 7:52 AM

      • That is really something. The mimicry is amazing.

        We should have a very healthy crop of them to share. The growing season has been good. We had more than enough moisture early in the spring. Lately it is dry and very normal temps. The crops and the local vegetation is bountiful. We walked two days ago at a county park. http://www.johnson-county.com/dept_conservation.aspx?id=4055
        The naturalized prairie is 6-8 ft tall with plants and wildflowers.

        Jim in IA

        August 18, 2013 at 9:43 AM

        • My impression is that the queen’s ventral resemblance to the monarch isn’t so much mimicry as the result of evolutionary divergence from a common form. Which of these two members of the genus Danaus, if either, was the original, I don’t know. Perhaps entomologists already know the history here, but I haven’t checked.

          In any case, it’s good to hear that you expect a healthy crop of monarchs in Iowa. Some years they’ve been plentiful here in late summer or fall, so I hope that’ll be the case again this year. I remember seeing (and trying to photograph) dozens of them in a field of flowering goldenrod and Maximilian sunflowers a decade ago.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

  4. It seems possible this is a young butterfly, one that hasn’t been fluttering-by for a very long time. It looks so perfect in its photo. There doesn’t seem to be the tattered edges and missing bits of wing that are so common with these beauties.

    Butterfly McQueen also played a minor role in one of my favorite films, made from one of my favorite books: Paul Theroux’s “The Mosquito Coast”. I think of it often, because there’s a would-be inventor on Weather Underground who’s spent years obsessively trying to convince folks that his “underwater tunnels” are the solution to getting rid of hurricanes, storm surge and general sea-level rise. I think he’s still in the R&D phase.


    August 18, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    • I think you’re right that the excellent condition of this one means it hadn’t been long in the world. I’ve seen my share of raggedy butterflies as well, but the pristine ones make for more appealing photographs.

      From having lived in Honduras I’m familiar with la Mosquitia, alias the Mosquito Coast, even if I never ventured into that region. I’ll confess I’ve also never read a book by Paul Theroux, which would be an easier lacuna to fill.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2013 at 12:50 PM

  5. This is an absolutely gorgeous shot Steve. Perfection. I’ve been wanting to check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, now even more so. Wow!

    Alex Autin

    August 18, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    • Because of all the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s native plants—and the flowers they bear—butterflies outnumber visitors to the site. You can help redress the balance, Alex, by dropping by. The Wildflower Center has reciprocal admission with plenty of other gardens, so if you’re a member of any other one check to see if your membership card gets you in for free here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2013 at 12:58 PM

  6. Quelle beauté ce papillon et surtout si bien photographié!


    August 18, 2013 at 11:46 AM

  7. Gorgeous photo, I really love butterflies so the difficulty of such a great photo is truly appreciated.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    August 18, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    • Thanks, Charlie. I spent a while trying to get pictures of these butterflies, and most of my attempts failed. I’m glad I managed to get at least one that worked.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2013 at 2:50 PM

  8. A splendid photo, amazing colours, great composition. One of your best, Steve.

    Mary Mageau

    August 19, 2013 at 8:07 PM

  9. Glorious shot – butterfly photos are everywhere but this one is really special.

    Tina Schell

    August 21, 2013 at 9:35 PM

  10. How beautiful the Queen is!  We had one venture up to the Chicago area a few years ago and caused quite a stir.


    August 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM

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