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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!

12 Responses to “Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge – First in a series”

  • Fabulous shots. I have never seen this butterfly. I’m looking forward to seeing the next installment in your series.

  • Jane Lovedahl:

    I have just seen the beautiful photos of the Blue Swallowtail!! What a joy to see in detail the features of this delicate creature and to learn more about it’s habitat and characteristics. In addition, the links and information on the Button bush were appreciated and enjoyed.

  • Lita:

    Awesome photos, Amber!
    I think your butterfly book has a typo; the term you’re looking for is ‘Batesian mimicry,’ rather than ‘Bartesian.’ Henry Walter Bates was an English naturalist who conducted some ground-breaking studies on mimicry in butterflies and other insects.

  • Thanks for the info. That must be why it was so hard for me to find! Duh. I’ll double-check my book as well.

  • Ok, I checked my Audubon field guide and it used the correct spelling, “Batesian.” Don’t know how I got off on “Bartesian!” Argh.

  • AJ:

    Beyond a shadow of a doubt, these are the most amazing snapshots ever taken of this species of butterfly!

  • Julie:

    Lovely! These swallowtails feed on pipevine or Dutchman’s pipe. I’m going to try to plant some.

  • kirk:

    My girlfriend and I saw this butterfly, while hiking in Laguna Beach. We were amazed by the beauty!

  • Julie-sounds like a plan. I am going to add some milkweed varieties to my native plant garden, and some good ‘ol parsley!

    Kirk-this is a lovely butterfly, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  • Hi

    I am a wanna be artist and would love to draw your blue Swallowtail Butterfly and I am asking your permission if I may use you photo as a reference copy.
    Thank you you in advance for your answer

  • Christa:

    Hello Amber,

    I am an architect working for a firm in Mumbai which has designed a biodiversity centre for butterfly conservation in the area of Sikkim. I am in the process of updating our website and would like to post your photograph of the butterfly Pipevine swallowtail perched on the button bush as reference for one of our “inspirational images.” May I have your permission to do this? Your name would of course be visible below the image as the photographer.

    Thank you,


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