Butterflies in the garden
Everyone is charmed by butterflies! They represent metamorphosis, hope through change and are symbolic of the life-cycle of all living things. Some are brilliantly patterned and coloured with kaleidoscopic markings.

Butterflies in the garden

Everyone is charmed by butterflies! They represent metamorphosis, hope through change and are symbolic of the life-cycle of all living things. Some are brilliantly patterned and coloured with kaleidoscopic markings. Others are a little more subdued and in this blog we look at two of the common ones in our Cape gardens and one that is very unusual and special to the Cape Peninsula, but not the best looker! We also look at some plants to encourage butterflies in the garden that you can plant for next year’s prettiest visitors.

COMMON GARDEN ACREA

You may have noticed that the common Acrea horta butterfly is everywhere at the moment. These are the little, soft- orange, black spotted ones that are flitting from flower to flower and settling on the lawn to rest every now and then. The Garden acraea is one of the most common butterflies in Cape Town gardens but can be found in woodlands and gardens throughout the moister regions of South Africa, and is also known from Zimbabwe.

HOST PLANTS

The male butterfly is more dark orange and the female paler in colouring. The female will lay her eggs in clusters of about 50 eggs on the underside of the host plant that the caterpillars like to eat. The amazing thing about these little butterflies, is that they only eat two known plant species. The first is the indigenous Wild peach tree, or Kiggelaria africana. And the second plant they eat is the Passiflora family of plants (passionfruits yes!) My father-in-law, George, has a large Wild Peach tree in his garden and every year it is covered in thousands of tiny caterpillars munching on the new leaves. Amazingly they don’t seem to decimate the tree as the Cape cuckoos and orioles love to devour them too. The walls of his house also bear the little spotted pupa of the caterpillars and lots of more teenager-stage caterpillars with their prickly armour.

LIFE CYCLE

“In summer the larvae take 4-5 weeks to develop, whereas in winter, development is arrested by the cold temperatures so the larval period is considerably longer. Mature larvae can move a long distance to find a suitable pupation site which is usually against a wall or rock. To pupate, the larva spins a silken pad to which the pupa is attached.” (www.biodiversityexplorer.org) After about 9 days, the newly hatched butterfly emerges slowly from the pupa. They usually spend an hour or so close by or on their empty pupa and then use their wings. I have seen them resting on the lawn with their wings a little crinkled still, flapping gently until they are ready. Their top wings are transparent and only the lower set have the spotted patterning. “Interestingly, this small, usually brick red and black butterfly and their caterpillars also absorb substances from their host plants which make them distasteful to most animals. The exceptions are the various cuckoo species which visit the Garden in summer; they apparently relish the Garden Acraea! The young caterpillars often fall prey to parasitic wasps, which help to keep their numbers in check.” (www.sanbi.org)

COMMON SMALL WHITE CABBAGE BUTTERFLY

Another small and very pretty butterfly that is common is the Small White Cabbage Butterfly. These are not indigenous and have been found to be the most common butterfly in the UK. Their caterpillars are the culprit on my cabbage leaves. They can munch through a crop of nice new leaves overnight! I do love these butterflies though and find their tiny one black dot on the wings so simple and elegant! I don’t mind a few caterpillars to have these pretties floating around. Planting a lot of other vegetables and flowering plants like nasturtiums and marigolds helps to confuse these caterpillars and butterflies and apparently helps to deter them from eating the cabbage leaves.

PENINSULA SKOLLY BUTTERFLY

Another very interesting butterfly that I don’t think I have seen before in the garden, is the Peninsula Skolly, Thestor yildizae. Apparently it is the only endemic butterfly to the Cape Peninsula and spends most of its time underground in the nest of the Pugnacious ant, where it spends its entire larval and pupa stage . It is a rather dull grey in colour, but with powdery like wings. “The female lays its eggs near an ant trail, from there the eggs are carried off by the ants into their nest where they hatch. The larvae of the Peninsula Skolly are fed by the ants who regurgitate their food. An ant attracting substance is excreted from glands on the larva’s skin, which the ants imbibe. This relationship continues for a year until the butterfly hatches out the following season. The adult butterfly does not possess a proboscis (long rolled up tongue) to feed on flowers and uses the stored up energy from the ant regurgitations to fly.” (Full Circle Magazine) How very odd indeed and amazing what nature does to survive!

PLANTS FOR BUTTERFLIES IN THE GARDEN

There are a lot of beautiful indigenous flowering plants that attract butterflies. Their nectar is loved by the butterflies who use their long, rolled proboscis to reach into the flowers. Some excellent butterfly plants are Scabiosa incisa and africana, all the Pelargoniums and Geraniums which also attract three other butterflies, the Water Bronze (Cacyreus fracta), Dickson’s Bronze (Cacyreus dicksoni) and the Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshalli). Asystasia gangetica supports up to 7 known species, hermannia, Imperata cylindra, Chrysanthemoides species, Hypoestes aristata, Pavonia burchelli, Cotyledon orbiculata, Plectranthus species, Selago species, Chaetacanthus setiger, Acacia karoo, Uvaria caffra, Vepris lanceolata an Ximenia species to name a few of the more common indigenous plants available in nurseries. Happy butterfly spotting!

And remember the Cape Town Flower Show is coming up, Grab your tickets here!

Bougainvilleas – So Bright & Bold

Cheer Up Your Garden With Some Bougainvillea Colour! Expert advice on growing this cheerful climbing shrub called the Boungainvillea.

Architectural Plants

Today’s blog is list of plants, shrubs and trees which can be used as architectural form plants to create an eye catching piece in your garden. By adding a couple of carefully chosen plants, trees and shrubs one can go far to increasing the appeal of your garden and adding interest and dimension. Turn dull uniform areas, into modern, jaw dropping show ‘pieces’.

Let Your Garden Shine

Who wouldn’t want to follow this path into the cool night air? So you’ve spent hours perfecting your garden; considered the most functional layout, the prettiest features, comfortable furniture, interesting plants, and your lawn is your personal victory. It’s such a pleasure to have such a beautiful and calm space to enjoy. Weekends with family and friends, perhaps by the pool, pets and children frolicking in the open air.

Attracting Garden Birds. Feeders & Beyond – Everything You Need To Know

Enjoy the beauty and heart-warming joy that garden birds bring. Learn how to attract various different birds to your garden.

Companion Planting for the Veggie Garden

It’s now a well-known fact that certain plants grow better when planted near to each other as they improve each other’s well-being and protect each other from attack by insect pests. Now this is the kind of gardening I like, letting Nature lead the way and do the work!

Child Safety in The Garden

Every year, many children are rushed to the hospital due to accidents that occur in the home and garden. Checking your garden is safe for the littlest members of your family is important and here are some tips and advice for making yours as safe as possible.

Artificial Greening – Our Growing Range of Artificial Plants

Don’t be fooled! Faux is the new cool! The new possibilities for using synthetic or ‘fake’ plants for greening up your interior and outdoor living spaces are reaching new heights, quite literally!

March is for Garden Maintenance

Essential garden maintenance tips on activities you need to perform during Autumn. A winter-ready garden guarantees a lovely Spring garden.

HELPFUL GARDENING TIPS FOR MARCH

The climate starts cooling down and in particular night temperatures go down. So this is the time of the year when you still practice summer maintenance but at the same time start planting and preparing for cooler climate gardening.

Garden Woes: Weeds & CutWorms

If you’re a gardener, you know that weeds, cutworms, and other pests can wreak havoc on your plants. But there are ways to fight back! Here are some tips for dealing with these common garden problems.

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