Visited the garden yesterday to have a look around and say hello to some friends. While walking in the Cultivar Garden I was especially excited to see many black swallowtail butterflies flitting around the verbenas . Turns out they are the pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor).
This interesting and beautiful butterfly has only one larval host plant, pipevine (Aristolochia californica), and is only found in places with this plant. Of course Rancho has lots of pipevine. Much of it on a slope below and east of the Cultivar Garden.
The plant is not locally native, and so neither is the butterfly, yet when one arrives so does the other – I wonder how the butterfly knew. Not to be out done by the swallowtail, the pipevine plant is pretty interesting too. It is pollinated by carrion feeding insects and fungus gnats, which explains its unusual flower – with both a unique shape and smell.
Other plants now blooming at Rancho include the Island bush poppy (Dendromecon harfordii), many barberries (Berberis spp.), California lilac (Ceanothus spp.), western redbud (Cercis occidentalis), flannelbush (Fremontodendron californicum), a few manzanitas including the very showy Arctostaphylos australis, Fremont’s death camas (Zigadenus fremontii), and of course the annual wildflowers are coming up, to mention just a few.