I spent a lovely day with a new friend at the Forth Worth Nature Center & Refuge. It was a hot, July day, but we spent the better part of it at a shaded pavilion located off the shore of a marsh area. It was fantastic! This article will be the first in a series, since I have so much to share from this one trip.
This is a Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), commonly called a Blue Swallowtail. Gorgeous! Apparently the larvae feed on plants that make them taste awful to predators, including birds. Because of this, other species of butterflies mimic their looks in hopes of warding off predators as well. This mimicry is called Bartesian mimicry. Interesting. (ref. National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Butterflies, Knopf, 1981)
This beautiful butterfly is perched atop a bloom, or “button,” of a large aquatic shrub commonly called Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). These shrubs are native to North America and to Texas – and there sure was a lot of wildlife in and around these plants. My guess is that the average person is not familiar with Buttonbush because it requires a lot of water – preferably IN water. I wouldn’t want to plant this in a rubber-lined pond – the shrub is woody and I think it might pierce the liner. I also cannot imagine trying to grow this in a submerged pot – it gets pretty big. Still, I was so impressed with this plant that I am going to find out if there is any good way to grow this around my home. This plant is a wildlife habitat all by itself – it provides seeds, nectar, cover and nesting sites. There is additional information about Buttonbush at wildflower.org. Way cool.
One last thing – I was interested to know what the term “Bartesian” meant. Believe it or not, I could not find the term defined on the internet. I *think* it is derived from the French philosopher and literary critic, Roland Barthes. I actually read most of the entire entry at wikipedia and followed a few links. I think I get it, but was amazed at how hard it was to find. And how long I spent looking!
I will be writing several more articles in my series based on my trip to the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge. Enjoy!