This morning was nice and calm and I decided to wander around and see what I could find in the garden. Found a few large Atala caterpillars munching on my coontie out back. They're very hard to take a good photo of, because depth of field is such a problem. Coontie are low-growing plants, so it's difficult to maneuver a tripod into position, so the "traditional" digital answer to this problem (aligning and stacking multiple exposures taken with slightly different focus points) is much harder to achieve. So the best I've been able to do is hold as still as possible, try to align the axes of the lens with those of the subject, and hope for the best. Here's a passable image, probably the best I've managed despite having the photo op literally 15 feet from my back door whenever I feel like it:After I was done frustrating myself with this subject in the back yard, I wandered around to the font, where I found this lovely Gulf Fritillary butterfly resting on the Bahama Senna: Unlike the ones flying up high in the passionvine out back, this one was very still. I suspect it was freshly emerged and still drying its wings; they're not normally this quiescent in the bright morning sunlight. The native plant society might not think too much of my garden, but the native insects appear to enjoy it anyway!
The Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) is one of the most common butterflies in my backyard, and it's one of the most impressive as well. Large and brightly colored, it's attracted to the nectar provided by the abundant flowers of the butterfly sage (Cordia globosa) that I have growing in several places, as well as to its larval host plant, any of several vines in the passionflower family. I have a couple of them; one is a cultivar of Passiflora incarnata, with very showy flowers: Another is the true native, Passiflora suberosa. The flowers of this second vine are much less showy but the plant is no less attractive to the butterflies for that reason: the attraction is the chemicals contained in the vine, not the nectar or the beauty of the flowers. The larvae eat the leaves and incorporate the toxic chemicals (cyanogenic glycosides) they contain. Here are some of the fruits and foliage of this "maypop" vine: The other day I found yet another species of passionvine that I didn't plant and haven't seen before, with intriguing red three-petaled flowers: When I first saw the flowers, they looked so much like the bougainvillea that's growing nearby (right down to the three stamens in the middle) that I simply assumed one of those flowers had somehow fallen off that plant and onto this volunteer passionvine that's growing up between the cracks on my patio. But closer inspection revealed the flower to be part of the passionvine itself, so I'm stumped. And unfortunately, since it's a volunteer vine in a bad location, it probably won't survive long. And on top of that, because it's growing up between paver cracks, it's situated too tightly for me to be able to dig it up and put it somewhere nicer; I just have to hope that it sprouts again in a more favorable location. If you look at the leaves in the picture above, you'll notice that someone's been eating them; here's a picture of the culprit: They sure look, um, interesting, when they're young, don't they? When they grow up, they look much more attractive: