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Old 09-18-2010, 02:44 AM   #1
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Default Finally some cats!

The good news is I have 3 groups of cats (black swallowtail) at various stages on the bronze fennels.
They have completely rejected the Zizas I planted for them as a replacement for the fennel. I have 5 good sized Zizas (1 is an enormous plant) I planted last spring and hope they will seed more plants and attract the butterflies next year if I place them across the whole front garden.
Does anyone know if they are good self seeders? Are you seeing the black swallowtails using them as host plants?
I was pulling the fennel since its non-native and considered invasive (which seeds everywhere and seems to appear in every little niche in the garden overnight) until I saw a female start laying eggs on the plants.
I was wondering if they prefer the fennel or are just coming back to a plant they "remember" in that area? I know it's not the same butterfly returning but does the next generation etc, come back to the same area? I usually only see 1 female at a time laying eggs.

Even though I have many more milkweeds this year I have not seen any cats and I did have 5 or six last year. Reading through the threads I see most people are seeing less Monarchs. I have only seen a few adults feeding on the asters.
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Old 09-18-2010, 11:15 AM   #2
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Does anyone know if they are good self seeders? Are you seeing the black swallowtails using them as host plants?
They are good self seeders in my area. I have a couple of patches of them mixed in with little bluestem. There seems to be a few more zizzias each year.

There aren't a lot of black swallowtails in my area, but I've watched several go from egg to adult butterfly on the zizzias. I don't have any dill/fennel/parsley, so I don't have any preference comparison data for my yard.

I have read that many butterflies do seem to have a preference for one plant species when they are offered a choice among several acceptable host plants. And they do have different preferences in different areas/populations. It could be a "remembered" thing, or it might be that the preferred host plant is the one that is an active growth state when the female arrives. Caterpillars do prefer fresh new growth.

One thing that I have wondered about is that greater plant palatability for the caterpillars might also translate into greater caterpillar palatability for predators such as birds. Plants produce compounds that are designed to reduce consumption of its leaves etc., by insects and other herbivores. Birds and other predators avoid eating monarch caterpillars, for example, because of the unpalatable compounds that accumulate in the caterpillars.

In the case of garden plants like parsley, we have bred out some of those unpleasant compounds. So it seems quite possible to me that even if the black swallowtail caterpillars might prefer parsley to their native host plants, it may be a poor long term survival strategy for the butterflies.
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Old 09-18-2010, 09:46 PM   #3
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will-o-wisp,

Congratulations on your cats. I hope we all have better luck (more monarchs) next year.

I am unfamilar with zizas and did an image search which produced many images that had nothing to do with wildflowers, so I searched "Zizas wildflower" as a web search and your post here was the only hit! So, I still have no idea what the plant is.
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Old 09-18-2010, 09:50 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by NEWisc View Post

...One thing that I have wondered about is that greater plant palatability for the caterpillars might also translate into greater caterpillar palatability for predators such as birds. Plants produce compounds that are designed to reduce consumption of its leaves etc., by insects and other herbivores. Birds and other predators avoid eating monarch caterpillars, for example, because of the unpalatable compounds that accumulate in the caterpillars.

In the case of garden plants like parsley, we have bred out some of those unpleasant compounds. So it seems quite possible to me that even if the black swallowtail caterpillars might prefer parsley to their native host plants, it may be a poor long term survival strategy for the butterflies.
NEWisc,

It seems you know what ziza/zizzia are, but I couldn't find any info under your spelling either!

Anyway, I think you make a very good point about palatablity and survival. It makes sense to me.
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Old 09-18-2010, 10:22 PM   #5
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Morpho Butterfly 1 Zizea sp.

[quote=dapjwy;77993]NEWisc,

It seems you know what ziza/zizzia are, but I couldn't find any info under your spelling either!



Are these the Zizea aurea, Golden alexanders, & Zizea aptera, Heartleaf alexanders that are great butterfly attractors?!

Last edited by JulieRaeJ; 09-18-2010 at 10:23 PM. Reason: Wasted space
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Old 09-18-2010, 11:30 PM   #6
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Yes, Zizias are the Alexanders (I see that I did misspell it, sorry for the confusion):
Zizia* aurea: UW-Stevens Point Freckmann Herbarium: Plant Details Page
Zizia* aptera: UW-Stevens Point Freckmann Herbarium: Plant Details Page

There is also a southern species that is not in my area:
PLANTS Profile for Zizia trifoliata (meadow alexanders) | USDA PLANTS
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Old 09-19-2010, 06:51 AM   #7
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Ah, and I misspelled Zizia too, thanks for correcting that Newisc.
I can't edit my first post anymore to reflect the change.

Newisc, thanks for the seeding information.
If the cats go only for the new growth that is probably the problem.
The Zizia bloomed early in the season and I didn't remove the seed heads after flowering on all the plants. There was always some new growth and flowering through the summer but not alot.
Should I cut back all the flower heads early in the season so it blooms all summer next year?
I did see one of the black swallowtails land on the Zizia dried seed head to taste and immediately move on to the fennel flower which was fresh because I was removing all the flowers immediately to avoid self seeding.
The Zizias first bloom is very early in the season before I see any black swallowtails.
I read somewhere that these late cats will overwinter in the garden?
I did watch a very fat cat inch it's way across the driveway and back and disappear into the tangle of plants.
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Old 09-19-2010, 07:52 AM   #8
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[quote=JulieRaeJ;77999]
Quote:
Originally Posted by dapjwy View Post
NEWisc,

It seems you know what ziza/zizzia are, but I couldn't find any info under your spelling either!



Are these the Zizea aurea, Golden alexanders, & Zizea aptera, Heartleaf alexanders that are great butterfly attractors?!
Thank you, JulieRae.

I am familiar with golden alexanders--I've probably even seen the botanical name a few times, but it never stuck. I have some Zizea aurea that seeded in my yard on the side of the road...I've moved some into the hedgerow this year because those on the side of the road are mowed down. I'll have to look into Zizea aptera.

Thanks again.
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Old 09-19-2010, 07:58 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by NEWisc View Post
Yes, Zizias are the Alexanders (I see that I did misspell it, sorry for the confusion):
Zizia* aurea: UW-Stevens Point Freckmann Herbarium: Plant Details Page
Zizia* aptera: UW-Stevens Point Freckmann Herbarium: Plant Details Page

There is also a southern species that is not in my area:
PLANTS Profile for Zizia trifoliata (meadow alexanders) | USDA PLANTS

No problem. Thank you for the correction.

When I was reading up on natives in my teens and early twenties, I recognized a lot more of the botanical names--in print, but I rarely tried to pronounce them. So, when hearing them pronounced, I'd rarely recognized the name.
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Old 09-19-2010, 08:03 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by will-o-wisp View Post
... If the cats go only for the new growth that is probably the problem. The Zizia bloomed early in the season and I didn't remove the seed heads after flowering on all the plants. There was always some new growth and flowering through the summer but not alot.
Should I cut back all the flower heads early in the season so it blooms all summer next year?
...
If it were me, I'd cut back one or two plants every couple of weeks to encourage new growth at various times throughout the season. You could stll let some go to seed.
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