Gulf Fritillary | Nature | Anjeanette Illustration Photography

It is so cold outside folks. I am trying to take myself back to warmer times...this past summer my son and I had the opportunity to watch the Gulf Frilliary butterfly life cycles up close and personal, every day as we checked our mail!

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Beside our mailbox I planted some of Tennessee's state wildflower, the Passion Flower, which has both personal significance and serves as the main food source for the caterpillars. They are rubbery looking wild things up close, and are more than a little punk rock in my opinion. I even named one Vivian! Maybe even named one Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

The spikes are not sharp little daggers however, they were flexible and more like how new prongs feel each time I tried. I have heard it said they can sting but have never experienced it, and sites differ on reports of this. They fattened up on those tasty leaves fast and got BIG. Yep, it looked like I was attacked by worms-my neighbors have pretty much given up on me as they say I have all these 'weeds' like wildflowers and milkweed ;)

 

We waited everyday anxiously to see if we could view them shedding and eating their skin (nom nom nom) I love butterflies so I can ignore the holes. Although we saw some discarded skin never got any action shots. Here is a link to a sitewhere we saw more about this stage of the development: http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/gulffritillarytwo.php

Other friends in my garden- yep I let baby bunnies nestle right in the lawn and lettuce alike and everybody is happy- more than enough to share! I pray over my home and garden and the critters usually just take what is rotted off of what I was too lazy to gather so we are all good. No poisons here please.

Elizabeths Secret Garden has a lot of great photos and information on the entire cycle as well. She calls the Passion Flower a passionvine, appropriate as this guy will wind all over. Beautiful native plant to decorate my plain wooden mailbox. The vine and flower itself can be found in cultivated gardens and overgrown abandoned fields alike, winding over trellis and telephone poles or trees in the woods. I like a hearty native that is gorgeous and requires just about nothing from me! There are numerous medical and herbal qualities to the plant, which can be investigated with a Google, I do not harvest merely appreciate for the view.


My interest in the flower is also spiritual, and symbolic. Someone looked at these beauties and connected them symbolically to Christ and the crucifixion. While I think it was a healthy dose of imagination, I respect the heart and contemplation that went into a moment with God and brought forth the reverence to see the event of the cross in a flower. Here is a great info graphic and link to the symbols.

Image via Carolyn-Marie & Healing Properties of Passion Flower Power

Image via Carolyn-Marie & Healing Properties of Passion Flower Power

The 'pillers continued munching away until in the space of less than 24 hours we saw what looked like dead leaves or brown fruit bats who need some lotion, popping up all over-the chrysalis.

And here one is emerging! Look even a Wooly aphid came over to watch...oh wait there are Woolys freakin EVERYWHERE!!!!

And here one is emerging! Look even a Wooly aphid came over to watch...oh wait there are Woolys freakin EVERYWHERE!!!!

Did I mention Orange is my favorite colour? It was great seeing a little bit of the sun today, especially when the days are so short- but I cannot wait to see a big orange summer sunset again!