(American Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, photographed by Frank Model – 5/1/2007 Petersham, Massachusetts)
The first in our new series to better learn our butterfly taxonomy, we’ll take a look at the subfamliy of Lycaena, the gossamer-winged Coppers. Here’s a broad selection of them to check out! Notice the morphological similarities:
(male Bronze Copper, Lycaena hyllus, photographed by Frank Model – 10/4/2007 in the Wayland Community Gardens, Wayland, Massachusetts)
(female Bog Copper, Lycaena epixanthe, taken 06/17/2010 in Ocean County, New Jersey)
Here’s the Massachusetts chapter’s big page on Coppers! Enjoy:
(Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar hanging out on its host plant Chamaecrista fasciculata)
Also known as Showy Partridge Pea, Sensitive Plant, and Sleepingplant, Patridge Pea is native from southern Florida to northern Minnesota, It looks best when planted in groups and is easy to include in most medium to large size gardens. A short-lived perennial that is grown as an annual, partridge pea has bright yellow flowers that incorporate easily into many garden border combinations. Try pairing with liatris for contrasting colors and plant forms.
Partridge pea also provides pollen for a number of other insects and birds relish the seed pods that follow the flowers.
(Via bonap.org, dark green areas represent where Partridge Pea is native, while light green areas represent where it is not native but common.)
Importance as a caterpillar food source: Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, and Little Yellow caterpillars all use partridge pea as a food source. All three of these butterflies range widely over the southern U.S., with Little Yellow’s range being restricted eastward.
Partridge pea is also used as a food source by Ceraunus Blue caterpillars which are common in far southern regions, usually late in the summer; found all year long in southern Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas.
Gray Hairstreak caterpillars also include partridge pea as a caterpillar food plant in addition to countless other plants.
Importance as a butterfly nectar source: A good nectar source that also attracts many pollinators in addition to butterflies.
Partridge Pea Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone: Plant annually
Bloom Period: Summer to fall
Bloom Color: Yellow
Plant Height: 24 to 40 inches
Plant Spread:18 inches
Light Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil Moisture: Medium to dry
Animal/Pest Problems: None
Nestor Gonzalez — Groundskeeper and Educator at the National Butterfly Center
“From the blistering cold, busy streets of Boston to the muddy backroads of sunny South Texas, I have been able to adapt to both lifestyles; however, I must admit that I was born for the outdoors. From the moonlit wee hours of the morning spent feeding our livestock to long hours of labor under the scorching skies in the gardens, here, it’s all good.
For a few weeks my career path was in Banking and Money Management. That is, until the day I came across an ad on Craigslist. I was so interested I applied. Little did I expect they would call within a week to schedule my first interview.
I was a nervous wreck that day. I was ill prepared, but so excited to go to the National Butterfly Center. It was March of 2014 and it had been raining. I didn’t care. Dress shoes and all I went trucking through the muddy Hackberry Trail. I couldn’t believe I saw an armadillo and all types of butterflies that I never knew existed.
I’ve been here about a year and a half, and now I educate kids about tarantulas! How cool is that? I have an African Spurred Tortoise for a best friend; and although I am sometimes embarrassed to admit I love the birds and butterflies, I can actually name a few.”
[Mike: Pictured below, Nestor and family! And a hungry turtle!]