Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bloom, Crawl, Fly

I've been gone this week, attending the 2010 Independent Garden Center Show (IGC) in Chicago with Mom, and while I'm totally exhausted from the activities, a good time was had by all and I'm planning on doing it again next summer. There will be much more about the show in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

One of the first things I did when I got home Friday night was to take a walk through the garden. Four days away makes for many changes and it's fun to see them.  The garden phlox was blooming! I'd been lamenting the fact that it hadn't bloomed since I planted it two years ago, and wondered what I was doing wrong.  Beautiful foliage, but no blooms. 

I'd seen so many pretty blooms posted by others online, including some in my own zone, so I assumed that mine weren't going to bloom again this summer.  But right before I left for Chicago, I noticed flower buds on the two largest plants. Now those are in full 'Blue Boy' glory:

Phlox paniculata 'Blue Boy'

When I walked out to see if this phlox was as fragrant as our wild phlox (it isn't), an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was sipping nectar!

They're actually lavender, perhaps a bit periwinkle, as many 'blue' flowers are. I'm thrilled to have this blooming in our garden - the first phlox ever.

As I walked further on out to Max's Garden to survey things, Lily accompanied me as she usually does, but was quickly distracted by something.  She sat very still, with an unwavering stare at something between the two tree stumps we use as resting spots under the willow tree.  I walked over to see, expecting it to be a small moth or butterfly.  She's very good at chasing them and she usually catches them, unfortunately, and eats them.

But it wasn't a moth.  Not exactly.  It was the largest caterpillar I've ever seen.  And you know I've seen (and raised) some BIG ones! I thought the Imperial Moth caterpillars were big, but this one had those beat, if not in length, certainly in circumference.

I picked it up and took it inside to show Romie, then looked it up online.  I'd not seen one like this in real life before, but its blue projections looked familiar to me.  It's the caterpillar of the giant silkworm moth, Cecropia.  The Cecropia moth is the largest native North American moth, with a wingspan of nearly six inches.

This caterpillar will overwinter here, wrapped up in a leaf, forming a silk cocoon, attached to a branch, stem or trunk of a tree or shrub.  A leaf isn't always used, however.  I released the caterpillar after a short photo session and we haven't spotted him since, though we know he's there somewhere.

I've seen a Cecropia moth, but it's been decades ago, and never on our property.  Obviously, there are a lot of native life cycles going on in our gardens that we've never been privy to before this summer! First, the Imperial and now the Cecropia.



Robin's Nesting Place said...

That is very cool! I hope you will be able to see the moth too.

Kara said...

Holy smokes! That thing is huge!! I don't think I would pick it up, I'm kinda wussy that way. But thank you for the amazing pics.

Kylee Baumle said...

Robin ~ I think it's totally awesome! I put it back and I just watched it for the longest time. It moves at a little more than a snail's pace, no doubt because of its size. That blue was unreal. More of a periwinkle and VERY noticeable! I hope we see a moth, too. There are likely other caterpillars out there since they lay many eggs at a time.

Kara ~ You know, I didn't even give it a thought when I picked it up. Not creepy at all. It kind of feels weird when it walks on your skin though. Kind of "sticky." LOL

F Cameron said...

That's amazing!

I've been "off blog" lately due to real work (got to earn a living, too). The caterpillars and butterflies are here in amazing numbers. Saw my first Monarch cat this morning -- tiny beginning. Hope there are many more.

That Bloomin' Garden said...

What great pics Kylee. Do you have a favorite website to use for identifying them?

Kylee Baumle said...

Cameron ~ I know how that is! Luckily (or not, depending on how you look at it!), I've not been real busy at work this summer, so I've had time to blog and write more.
We seem to be having way more butterflies here right now, too. Especially the Red-spotted Purples, which are actually black and blue (LOL). They are EVERYWHERE! The Monarch cat population is down, but I lost their favorite plant this spring - swamp milkweed. It was large, so I'll have to get another for them. They're on the other Asclepias species though, just not as many.

That Bloomin' Garden ~ Thanks, Kristin! I usually use Butterflies and Moths of North America. Sometimes I just google its characteristics, then hit "Images."

Jennah said...

I LOVE the kitty cat in the back of that one photo! Didn't notice it at first, but that's too cute :)

Kylee Baumle said...

Jennah ~ That's Lily! She's the one that alerted me to the caterpillar! Cats are so sharp - always watchful!

garden girl said...

Yay for the phlox! I'm so glad it's blooming for you Kylee. Phlox is one of my favorites.

Oh my goodness, that's a huge caterpillar. Good job on the ID. I love the brilliant blue and yellow spikes on its back.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have seen one of these in captivity but never in the wild. Lucky for you to have one in your garden. I hope you get to see it all hatched out next spring.

Dave@TheHomeGarden said...

Now that is a humongous caterpillar! You'll have to keep a lookout for the moth when it emerges.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

That's one huge caterpillar! It's cool!

Weekend Cowgirl said...

Lovely photos!

Annelie said...

OMG, that is HUGE!
Had to call the kids over to show the caterpillar.
The swallowtail must love purple and lavender. It went nuts over my purple/pink creeping phlox in the spring.

Unknown said...

Cool indeed, Kylee. Great photos, as always.

Kylee Baumle said...

garden girl ~ I'm sure enjoying it!

Lisa ~ I'm hoping to see the adult, too!

Dave ~ I'll be watching for it early next summer. Being brown as an adult, it's got good camouflage, so I'll have to really look!

Monica ~ I think it's cool, too!

Weekend Cowgirl ~ Thank you!

Annelie ~ Wow, I don't know if I've ever seen anything really going after our creeping phlox! I'm sure they do, I've just never seen it. It blooms earlier in the season and I don't usually see the swallowtails until after that's done here.

Jodi ~ Thank you! :-)

Kit Aerie-el said...

Wow, that is one psychedelic-sci-fi-looking caterpillar. Very cool that it's a native critter!
Glad you had a great time at the IGC too. Can't wait to see more about it!

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

That's one cool caterpillar/worm.I'm always amazed at the things I see anew in nature every day. Your pictures are beautiful, and I'm glad your phlox is blooming. Did you get everything planted from Buffalo?

Kylee Baumle said...

Aerie-el ~ It IS psychedelic! Maybe like something out of Alice in Wonderland! LOL. I'm going to work on the IGC post next!

Dee ~ I know what you mean. I actually go to the garden, searching for some new insect or butterfly and I'm rarely disappointed! There's a LOT going on in the garden all the time!
I only bought three small plants at Lockwood's and a Joe Pye Weed and small Jade plant at Urban Roots. Yes, all planted! It was my mom that bought so many things! I'm sure she got those planted the next day after we got home. She doesn't let any grass grow under her feet! LOL.

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