Mariton: Bergamot and Butterflies

July 23, 2013

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

MEBUS TigerSwallowtailOnMonardaMaritonField0716

The Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is in full bloom at Mariton.  You will find patches of it throughout the third meadow along the Main Trail.  Where you find the bergamot in bloom, you will also find lots of butterflies.  Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, like the one above, are one of the more numerous species I see visiting the patches.

 MEBUS SpicebushSwallowtailMaritonField0716

Spicebush Swallowtials are just as numerous.  Isn’t the blue on this male’s hindwing spectacular?

Both of these swallowtail species can find lots of food plants on which to lay eggs at Mariton.  The Spicebush Swallowtail’s caterpillars thrive on (you guessed it) spicebush (Lindera benzoin), but they also can be found on the leaves of Sassafras (Sassafras albidum).  Both plant speces are in the same family, and both are abundant at Mariton.  The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars live on Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) and Tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera).  You will find no shortage of either of these tree species at Mariton, but the Tuliptrees are the more abundant of the two.  (Source for food plant information:  Jeffrey Glassberg’s Butterflies Through Binoculars.)

MEBUS WildIndigoDuskywingMaritonField0716

The Wild Indigo Duskywing would be a little bit more challenging for me to identify.  However, Carole got great photos with both open and closed wings to  make the identification easier.  Major foodplant?  Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) of course; unfortunately I am not aware of any growing at Mariton.  Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia) is also listed by Glassberg as a food plant for this butterfly, but I have tried to keep this invasive out of Mariton.  There is some Crown Vetch undoubtedly growing along some of the local roadsides and perhaps the bergamot attracts the adults from those areas.

Whether you want to enjoy the butterflies or the flowers, now is a good time to venture into Mariton’s meadows for a walk.