Turk’s Cap Lily

It took five years, but I finally had a blossom on my Turk’s Cap Lily (Lilium superbum) and it was well worth waiting for.

Lilium superbum - a Kentucky native flower

I got a very different view when I looked into the blossom.

Lilium superbum

The Turk’s Cap Lily is a tall slender plant – about four feet tall. It’s considered rare in Kentucky and I have never seen it growing in the wild. However, I understand it grows in Eastern Kentucky on Black Mountain, and its blooms attract numerous swallowtail butterflies. I’m thrilled to have seen it flower in my backyard and I want to see it in the wild.

This blossom brought two quotes to mind. My father’s favorite Bible verse was Matthew 6:28, “Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin.” And after waiting five years for this flower to bloom, I appreciate this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

Tropical Milkweed

Oh, happy day! Early last Thursday morning I checked the garden and was thrilled to discover a beautiful Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) on my annual Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica).

Danaus plexippus on Asclepias currassavica
Monarch caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed

This is the first time I’ve grown Tropical Milkweed, also known as Bloodflower,  and I’m delighted to know the Monarchs like it. It’s a tall slender plant and has been easy to fit among my other garden plants. It also has a beautiful blossom.

Asclepias currassivica blooms
Tropical Milkweed blooms

I’ve checked the North American Butterfly Association website and the more I read about this plant the more I’m impressed. It’s not native to the U.S. but is grown in a wide range, does not seem invasive, and attracts Monarchs. Sounds good to me. If you’ve grown Tropical Milkweed, I’d be glad to know your experience.

P.S. I realize this is short notice but I’ll be doing a presentation on Raising and Attracting Butterflies, at the Lexington Arboretum on Tuesday, July 19th, 10 a.m.- noon. I’d be glad to have you join us.

Update/Caution:  I had a scary experience after cutting Tropical Milkweed for some Monarch caterpillars.  Apparently I got some of the sap in my eyes, and by the next morning I could barely see.  Read the full saga. If you are working with any milkweed plants, be careful to keep the sap away from your eyes and wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done.

Butterflies and watermelon

I’m not seeing as many butterflies this year, so I decided to put out some watermelon to see what it would attract. Sure enough, I had three different visitors.

If you look closely at the small white markings on the underside of the wings of this Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis), you can see where it gets its name. You may need to use your imagination! I’ve never seen this butterfly nectaring on flowers, but I have attracted it with over-ripe fruit before.

Polygonia interrogationis

Seeing this Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton) was a special treat. I saw one in the backyard for the first time last year, and this is the first I’ve seen this year.

Asterocampa clyton

The silhouette of the American Snout (Libytheana carinenta) makes it easy to identify, and makes its name rather obvious. What looks like a “snout” is actually elongated mouth parts (or “palps”).

Libytheana carinenta

The caterpillars of all three butterflies feed on Hackberry trees (Celtis occidentalis). We don’t have any Hackberries  in our yard, so I’m glad our neighbors do.

I’ve heard other people say they have seen fewer butterflies than usual around Lexington this year.  I’m curious what you’re seeing.