Monday, September 8, 2008

More Butterflies and Gardens

My cousin and I got into an argument on the phone yesterday (she preferred to call it a debate) on the merits of Sarah Palin, a subject I definitely will not get into here. She ended the conversation with the statement that we probably would find that we agree more than we disagree, if we had the time to really sit down and talk things out. Feeling that I needed to get away for awhile and clear my head after she hung up, I set out for the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden to take photos of the native plants and to meditate on butterflies once more. It worked like a charm.

The Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden is a very small garden that is part of the larger Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach, CA. It is devoted to drought tolerant plants of California and other parts of the world that share our Mediterranean climate. They have sectioned off the garden into areas labelled Bird and Butterfly Habitat, Meditation Garden, Beach Bluff Natives, etc., but the garden really just flows from one section to another and the butterflies in particular didn't seem to feel they needed to stay in one area.

The Monarch Butterfly above was one of about 8 Monarchs that were flitting around the garden. This was the only one that settled down long enough for me to take a picture. There was milkweed in the garden, which is their favorite plant, but there were plenty of other plants to attract them. This one, who favored me with a long pose, chose a dormant salvia to rest on and grab some sun. Monarchs are amazing butterflies that can often be seen anywhere in California, and in most of the U.S., because they migrate. Not only do they migrate, but it takes longer than one life-span for these butterflies to complete the route. It may be the second, third, or even fourth generation that finally returns to their winter locations in the spring. My husband and I were fortunate to see huge numbers of these butterflies roosting in the trees of Big Sur several years ago. It's an amazing sight.

Another visitor to the garden was this Marine Blue Butterfly.

The milkweed that was planted in several places is Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa. It comes in several colors from red to orange to yellow and is found throughout the U.S. except for Nevada and the Pacific Northwest. It has its very own bug, the small and large Milkweed Bug, the latter of which was in abundance in the garden. The bugs feed on the seeds which are neatly lined up inside these long pods. I guess they were in seventh heaven to find so much milkweed because I found them all over the plants and sometimes piled on top of each other. Apparently, their bright orange color is to warn predators, like birds, that they are bad-tasting. After trying to eat one of these bugs, an inexperienced bird will never eat another one!

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