Pipevine Swallowtail at Rancho

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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.

9 thoughts on “Pipevine Swallowtail at Rancho

  1. Barbara,<br />Pretty cool finding so many Pipevines! I have never seen one in my trips to CA.<br /><br />However I was on the Blueridge parkway in VA one year and estimated seeing 900 Pipevine Swallowtails in about 5 miles along the parkway. Still stands as a record high count for the state of VA.

  2. That is so exciting! Well, I&#39;ve planted 3 Aristolochia so far, and I&#39;m getting pretty good coverage. Wonder when the butterflies will appear…

  3. Maybe they should sell a kit: 1 pipevine plant, 1 pipevine swallowtail egg case… I&#39;m hoping to make it up to Rancho in a week or so when I have a little bit of vacation/furlough time coming up. It&#39;s been too many years.

  4. Oh, it looks so lovely filled in like that! I need to convince some clients that they need this plant, but I think they get turned off by the flowers. Personally, that&#39;s what draws me to them!

  5. Indeed, the butterfly and plant are cool. I don&#39;t remember seeing the butterflies in past years but it was so busy working at Rancho that I may have missed them. Wonder how long it takes, on average, for them to find the plant. Christine, I can&#39;t believe anyone would be put off by the flowers. They are so interesting. To each his own, if guess.

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  7. I have one of these in my garden — neat flowers. And yes, I&#39;ve seen those butterflies on it! I&#39;m in San Diego…

  8. Such a cool plant, Barbara. I&#39;ve long wondered if it would be worthwhile to give this one a shot in my garden, as it hails from out of our range. But I&#39;m now convinced that it&#39;s at least worth a try. Mo&#39; betta if the Pipevine swallowtail follows suit.

  9. Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com

    I learned about pipevine last year at a butterfly refuge in Sonoma County. Glad you are spreading the word!

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