Monday, November 10, 2014

Here and there

I'm a bit late for Wildlife Wednesday (hosted by Tina at, but will link to it anyways since I have some lovelies to show-and-tell :)  My "butterfly-eye" caught a glimpse of some caterpillars and butterflies both in my home garden and at my parent's place out near Mason, TX.

At home I was excited to see this plump fellow eating the butterfly weed I planted just for him:

For years I've hosted swallowtail caterpillars on sacrificial fennel, but this guy appears to be a bonafide Monarch caterpillar (no green stripe). I'm glad to welcome him!

Less welcome is this cross striped cabbage caterpillar, which has turned my Brussel sprouts into swiss cheese. Happily, he and his kind have left my chard seedlings alone (I prefer the taste of chard anyway!).

I saw multitudes of butterflies near Mason, enjoying the late season wildflowers and riverbank milkweed, but they were mostly too fast for my camera! Some looked like sulfur butterflies, some were black swallowtails. Like my mother, for a long time I thought all the orange ones were Monarchs, but it turns out they are different types of Frittilaries instead (see the Gulf and Variegated Frittilaries below)..

Down by the James River (refilled by recent rains) we saw more butterflies and bees (and no snakes happily). I sometimes doubt things as pretty as lantana and salvias can really grow in the wild, but I saw a few wild specimens mixed among the persimmon and yucca plants near the riverbank. My boys love wading in the water, and I have to muffle my "Lonesome Dove" induced snake phobia (anyone remember the scene with Newt and the water crossing?) when they happily forget about media and technology and play in nature in the river..

As I walked along the banks multiple frogs hopped hopped away from my clumsy feet into the water. The one below is only the size of a quarter.

It is always lovely to see how my mother's truly xeriscape garden is doing at the house. It puts up with harsh Texas summers with minimal supplemental watering (once every month or two) and shows off some tough plants!

These enormous bushes of lantana (2 types) and rosemary started out in 4 inch pots.. They are all each at least 4 feet wide in diameter.

She planted an autumn sage somewhere inside the fence about 15 years ago and it has happily self seeded throughout the garden. The black spot in the center may be a swallowtail that was too blurry to catch!

Throughout the rest of the property my parents voluntarily spend their weekends chain-sawing cedar trees, spraying prickly pear and generally doing their best to undo 250 years of overgrazing to restore the land to native prairie. The colors are faded and many would see a dry arid place, but when they look at hillsides covered in big bluestem, little bluestem, sideoats grama etc they are deeply happy.

A funny story- they recently decided to get a quote on the cost of replacing their St Augustine back yard in Austin with a xeriscape garden (the St Augustine was there when they bought the house but has been decimated by grubs). The (friendly, young and non-Austinite) consultant came up with a pretty design and some good ideas, but lost my mother's interest when he proposed a whole bed of spineless prickly pear. She sees plenty of prickly pear on her weekend days (see below)! They have decided to do the work themselves (and go with a different plant in that bed).

An uncleared area left for animal habitat..

She does get the perk of being able to collect plants to take home- like these twist-leaf yuccas.

Don't worry, there are plenty left!

I also had fun comparing what I've planted as "specialty" transplants in my backyyard with what grows rampant in the wild such as this Lindheimer senna:
Barely started in my back back garden..

Happily ubiquitous. I gathered seeds and will spread them :)

I hope everyone enjoys the cold weather moving in this week- I brought back some firewood and am looking forward to using our new firepit at least a few times!


  1. Thank you for the beautiful photos and lovely narrative about your parents' home. It looks so wonderful and Texan! I do remember the scene in Lonesome Dove---hmmm worth a re-read, that one. So much in this post--monarch caterpillars (yay!) and lots of native plants-n-pollinators. Funny story about the prickly pear and the landscaper. So glad you posted!!

  2. Ha! The story about the designer and the opuntia is priceless. Do your folks have native milkweed growing on their property? I've got a packet of seed to try and get some antelope horn milkweed going here, but I'm not super confident I'll have great results. For a tough native plant, mikweed seems to be very particular about where and when it will grow...