The life cycle of the Atala Butterfly (Eumaeus atala), also known as the Coontie Hairstreak. This butterfly is native to southeastern Florida and the Caribbean Islands.
In the state of Florida it is still considered endangered due to loss of habitat and to some extent loss of its host plant, Zamia integrifolia (Coontie). First, in the 1800’s, several factories in Florida produced starch from the underground swollen root of the Coontie plant. Then in the early 1930’s and up until present day, habitat was lost due to development. Then, added to starch production and habitat loss, was the over collecting for the plant trade. All of these factors, almost led to the extinction of the Atala butterfly, which needs this plant to carry out its life cycle. Today, the butterfly’s numbers have rebounded, but its population remains fragmented due to the continued development in southeastern Florida, especially Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Zamia integrifolia is now protected, and is illegal to harvest from the wild. Coupled with this, the plant is in abundant supply in cultivation, and regularly sold in nurseries for the homeowner to plant to attract this beautiful butterfly. Richard Lyons Nursery currently has this plant in stock.
After a brief hiatus, we are back with another installment. This week I am highlighting a group of plants that are commonly called Elephant Ear Plants. These plants belong to the genus Alocasia. They are native to Asia, and they instantly give a shaded area that tropical look due to their very large leaves. Richard Lyons Nursery has the plants shown below plus some very large varieties not pictured.
Looking outside from the front window of the nursery house, a tall slender palm tree with bright red fruits hanging downward in clusters has caught my eye. The palm tree is Gaussia maya, the Maya Palm Tree. This palm tree flowers from several sites up and down its trunk. The fruits start out green, but ripen from orange to red when mature. This palm is native to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Young palms should be grown in shaded areas, but as the tree mature it can tolerate more and more sunlight. It can attain a height of 20-30 feet with a slender solitary trunk 4-6 inches in diameter. The trunk also has prominent leaf scar rings which gives it just a little more character.
Richard Lyons Nursery has this palm in stock in 15gal. containers 4-5′ tall.
This week’s featured plants are two native asters in the Smphyotrichum genus. Symphyotrichum dumosum (Rice Button Aster), is a mounding herbaceous plant native to eastern North America. In Florida, it is present in most of the state, but most noticeably absent from Hendry, Palm Beach, and Broward counties. The three counties just south of Lake Okeechobee. It occurs in drier prairie and grassland habitats. This Aster has pale lavender blossums, which are present in the fall and winter months in South Florida. The flowers attract Skipper Butterflies and honey bees.
Symphyotrichum carolinianum (Climbing Aster), is a woody vine/shrub, also native to eastern North America. It also occurs in almost all of Florida, except the western most Panhandle counties. Unlike its cousin, this aster grows in the wetlands of Florida. The flowers are very similar in size and color to the Rice Button Aster, and they also attract Skipper Butterflies and honey bees.
If you desire some color in the fall and winter months, these plants are for you and are available at Richard Lyons Nursery.
Mimosa strigillosa (Powderpuff or Sensitive Plant) is a wonderful groundcover which is relatively drought tolerant. It is native to Miami-Dade County and most of the counties north of Lake Okeechobee. The name ‘powderpuff’ is derived from the shape of its pink flowers resembling a powderpuff. The ‘sensitive plant’ comes from the fact its fern-like leaves close up upon touching them. Even the force of raindrops causes the leaves to close.
It is also the host plant of the Little Yellow, or Little Sulphur Butterfly (Eurema lisa). This butterfly occurs in southern parts of North America, including South Florida.
Richard Lyons Nursery currently has this plant in stock.