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Look What Happens When You Grow Pearly Everlasting! Part 1

by Kristina Lefever

Most people have never seen a monarch butterfly eclosing (emerging) from its chrysalis, in large part because the western monarch is teetering on the brink of extinction, and has been sorely missed in the Rogue Valley landscape for a number of years. This year, we are super thrilled with the amazing increase of people looking for, finding, and sharing their sightings of both monarch butterflies and caterpillars, especially compared to last year! Not only are these butterflies an icon to pollinator lovers everywhere, the beauty of the transformation from the caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly is magical.

If you haven't seen it yet (or even if you have), ​enjoy this amazing and wondrous video shared by Vanessa Henson, a PPRV volunteer, who has supported almost 30 caterpillars in becoming butterflies this year!

However, too many other species of butterflies are also disappearing, especially in urban areas, in large part because their native ​"​host plants​"​ are disappearing as people change the landscape ​with both development​ (more concrete, anyone?)​ and ​so many ​non-native plants​ in their landscapes​. ​The layperson's definition of a "​host plant" is a plant the caterpillar must eat to survive and grow to become a butterfly.) Many butterflies are specialists like the monarch, meaning the caterpillar can eat only one, or a ​perhaps a ​few, species of plants. ​The plants must be native, because caterpillars evolved over the eons to eat only the plants they evolved with. ​So when host plants are missing from the landscape, the caterpillars that depend upon them will be missing too - no caterpillars​ .... no butterflies. The American Lady butterfly, Vanessa virginiensis, has 3 primary host plants: Pearly Everlasting, Cudweed, and Pussytoes. These are the only plant species on which the American Lady female butterfly will lay her eggs, because these she knows these are the only plants her baby ladies will eat. And we know for a fact that our native Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea, is a favored host plant of the American Lady! Because, drum roll, please....we have lots of caterpillars in our Pearly Everlasting! We are so excited!

Thanks to Dr. David James for confirming the butterfly species in my 9/1/22 post in the Butterflies and Months of the PNW Facebook group!