October 5, 2011
The last few weeks I have been spoiled with bloggable stories, but this week I needed inspiration. I took a stroll out to the North Campus to see what I could find, and was excited to happen upon the first North Campus caterpillar. The caterpillar I found was in the last and final "J stage" of its larval lifecycle, just about to pupate.
Easily recognizable, Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are striped and spiny. 24 hours later the caterpillar had metamorphosed into the pupal stage, aka chrysalis.
If you look close, you can see the developing wings. This pupa is a Gulf Fritillary butterfly, Agraulis vanillae, native to Mexico and the southeastern United States where its passion vine food plants are also native. However, this species is now very common to our region because of all the passion vines that have been planted in yards, parks, and also in the North Campus! The species of passion vine I found the caterpillar on was Passiflora 'Lavender Lady' cultivar, which is a cross between P. amethystina and P. caerula.
Typical alien-looking flower of passion vine, 'Lavender Lady' cultivar. If you want to encourage these butterflies in your own yard, try planting a few passion vines of your own. Here is a list of the other passion vines we plan on planting in the North Campus: Passiflora edulis Passiflora caerulea Passiflora alatocaerulas