A few words for Wordless Wednesday. . .
It always amazes me how wildlife finds a garden. It’s kind of like Field of Dreams — if you plant it, they will come.
Since arriving in Zone 10, gardening and all that it encompasses has been a daily learning process. Planting times and plants and weeds and pests are all quite different from my Zone 6/7 upbringing — and so too are the beneficial visitors.
The other day, I spotted this fluorescent orange body with black wings frantically fluttering for a place to land. It settled on the one coontie (pronounced coon-tee) in the yard; a plant I purchased and planted; a plant that petered out and I dug up, repotted, and nursed back to health; a plant that remains in a pot because I’m not sure where it should be permanently placed.
Coontie, a Florida native, is a cycad, one that the University of Florida IFAS Extension refers to as a “living fossil,” since it most certainly grew during the age of dinosaurs.
I’ve also since learned that it happens to be the solo larval host plant for the very rare Atala butterfly, my orange-bodied visitor that was once thought to be extinct in Florida. The larvae are able to withstand the plant’s natural toxins, which are then incorporated into their tissue. The bright colors on the larvae and adult butterflies are a warning to predators that they are toxic.
This Atala, once settled, spent a considerable amount of time on one narrow leaf — leaving behind the seeds of a future generation, a clear sign that this is where the coontie should have a permanent home.