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Garden journal entry


October 03, 2021. One of the reasons I plant pipevines (Aristolochia species) in the garden is to provide habitat for pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) butterflies, whose caterpillars are pipevine-picky eaters. Back in Pennsylvania, the one species I grew was Dutchman's pipe (A. tomentosa), a huge woody vining monster that climbed high into a neighboring weeping cherry tree. It may very well have attracted swallowtails (there was so very much of it, with many places to hide), but I never spotted their butterflies. Out here in Texas, my selections of pipevine have been decidedly more demure, thus far limited to white-veined pipevine (A. fimbriata) and Watson's pipevine (A. watsonii). Both are ground-sprawlers more than climbers, and not nearly as vigorous as the old Dutchman's pipe. At least the white-veined one has fairly substantial leaves, while Watson's leaves are narrow and unsubstantial (although the maroon arrowheads have an undeniable elegance). I always doubted that any one plant was sufficient to sustain a voracious caterpillar, but kept the plants out of curiosity. After recently completing the new rock garden zone, I transplanted one of each plant to the front of this new area, which I've been patrolling carefully to nip any weed infestations in the bud. I'm happy to report that on those patrols in recent weeks, I spotted a pipevine caterpillar on each of the plants – a few weeks ago on A. fimbriata, and today on A. watsonii. As you can see in the photo, there really doesn't seem very much for the poor thing to munch on, yet the caterpillar has reached what looks to be a viable size. I still haven't seen adults in my garden, but hopefully the youngsters, should they develop their wings, will spread the word about this little garden in suburbia. I'll be happy to plant more pipevines, now that I'm convinced: if you plant it, they will come!

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Last modified: September 09, 2009
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