Look What Happens When You Grow Pearly Everlasting! Part 2
Photo by Ethan Robison
by Kristina Lefever
Just think - if we hadn't have been growing Pearly Everlasting in our propagation nursery, it's possible that 50 American Lady butterflies might not have flown!
Apparently a momma Lady checked out our nursery a few months ago, discovered about 75 4" pots of Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) seedlings, and decided it was a perfect place for her little ones .... which of course she would never see. (Photo of eggs from 'Life History of Cascadia Butterflies' by David G. James and David Nunnallee.)
We agree - our nursery was the perfect place! A perfect place for us Pollinteers to learn a lot about this butterfly, and share the experience with others!
The first thing we learned was that it is hard to feed American Lady caterpillars, since their diet is limited to primarily 3 species of plants - Pearly Everlasting, Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), and the non-native 'cudweed' (Gnaphalium spp.)- according to "Life History of Cascadia Butterflies."
Since we had none of these growing in our gardens, once all of the seedlings had been consumed we had to ask for 'bouquets' from friends - thank you Linda Kappen, for your efforts, Suzie Savoie for yours, and also Karen Layfield for letting us 'graze' your patch! The cats definitely appreciated the groceries!
It was exciting to watch the process: the caterpillars would grow, the colors would change, they would begin to wander, and eventually find their spot to 'J'....
.... where they transform: they 'unzip' their skin one last time to reveal their chrysalis!
and then about a week and a half later, the chrysalis becomes transparent, and they eclose (emerge) into their final form - a beautiful butterfly.
We also learned that people loved seeing the caterpillars and chrysalis ....
... and also pondering the very chewed upon plants.... we could just hear them thinking: 'hmmm, would I want that icky-looking plant in my garden?' Because even we admit - the Pearly's were looking pretty icky by the time they were through with them.
But, since Pearlys are perennials that expect to be eaten, they are already growing back! So, those original seedlings in the 4" pots are still here to be sold or given away, and of course planted in our own gardens. Those plants, plus all the ones we hope will come up from the seeds we planted on Halloween weekend, will help ensure that we will be ready for the next batch of American Lady caterpillars who come along! And yes! We do have seeds for sale!
Enjoy more photos and videos in our photo album here.