A tiny Gulf Fritillary Butterfly egg hides among the veined bracts of a passionflower flower bud.
I’m an avid gardener with an appetite for plants much larger than my tiny garden will allow. It’s truly a jungle out there. Several years ago I became enamored with passionflower (passiflora) vines, and bought many rare varieties online and planted them near my fences. They are currently ravenously “eating” my garden, and even try to grow up my window screens and sneak in my window on occasion.
Part of my passion for passifloras is simply an admiration for their beautifully exotic blooms, but another reason I wanted to grow them is because they are the larval host plant for the caterpillar stage of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae). I love butterflies.
Well, plant it, and they will come. Many mama Gulf Fritillary Butterflies visit the passifloras along my fences, laying eggs all over the vines, tendrils, leaves, and even flowers. Teeny tiny caterpillars emerge, eat their egg cases, and then begin their journey to adulthood (this involves a lot of eating and pooping, and the occasional shedding of skin that has become too tight from all that eating). After shedding its skin for a final time, each future Gulf Fritillary Butterfly enters the chrysalis stage, where it usually hangs out on the fence or under some leaves, looking like a dried brown leaf. Then something amazing happens; a beautiful butterfly emerges, and the cycle begins again.