Friday, August 20, 2010

All Together Now

Back in the spring, we started some Wooly Pipe Vine (Aristolochia tomentosa) from seed. Our purpose was to provide food for two butterfly caterpillars - Pipevine Swallowtails and Polydamas Swallowtails.

The seeds were slow to start but we finally have a couple of vines growing, and the other day we discovered our first batch of Polydamas eggs. The butterfly lays the eggs in a group, and they resemble small yellow pearls.

 Polydamas caterpillars are what is known as gregarious feeders, meaning they essentially travel in little caterpillar herds around the plant as they eat. They do this until they reach the fourth instar or so, when they move off to finish this part of their life cycle in a more solitary manner.

Wooly Pipe Vine, according to our research,  is the only pipe vine actually native to Florida. All other species, including the more commonly sold Dutchman's Pipe Vine (A. elegans or A. gigantea) are non-natives, and their proliferation has caused the native species to dwindle to the point that Florida considers it endangered or threatened. Being as it's nearly impossible to find Wooly Pipevine, it's not surprising people have turned to the more easily available alternatives. If you're willing to give it a try, though, Wooly Pipevine can be grown from seed - we ordered ours from Summer Hill Seeds.

We consider it a bit of a victory any time we lure a new species to My Florida Backyard, and we were glad to return from up north and find a new visitor had stopped by. Building a wildlife habitat takes patience and time, and it's nice to be rewarded along the way!


  1. Thanks for the info and the link: Its often hard to find good natives!

  2. Wow, how neat is that. Thanks for the link.


  3. How exciting it must be, FloridaGirl, to see those eggs and cats! I do get the polydamus butterflies in my garden, but I've yet to see a pipevine swallowtail here. They are so beautiful! Thanks for sharing the link. I agree with the other commenters...natives are so hard to find.

  4. Great "harvest" of cats. I didn't know that the other type of pipevine wasn't native. Thanks for the links to all the info. Hopefully, there will be more native plants available in garden centers, that are reliably native, as we gardeners ask for them.