Thursday, April 12, 2012

Winged Lilacs

American Lady butterfly
I was delighted, a few evenings back, to find my Korean lilac fittingly buried by gracefully-flitting brown-orange butterflies.  The lilac season in Kansas is already nearing its end, somewhat shockingly on this premature April date before they normally have even started blooming. Two different lilacs bring up the rear in my garden, the Syringa meyeri 'Dwarf Korean Lilac' pictured at the right, and the 'Josee' hybrid pictured below.

It is the Korean lilac that is the more fragrant of the two, and the American Lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis) were robbing it for nectar en masse, six or eight of them at a time.  The American Lady's are one of the Brush-footed butterfly families, and are of moderate size and, I would judge, merely moderate beauty as butterflies go.  I enjoy butterflies as a denizen of my garden, but I've never been as particularly fascinated or captured by them as I am, say, by rose varieties or bird species.  I've never made a concerted effort to be able to identify them on sight beyond the usual knowledge of when a butterfly might also be a swallowtail, or is instead a moth.  I can identify a Monarch, but I take no pride in that ability as I recognize that most young schoolchildren can identify Monarch butterflies due to the intense popular press the Monarch's enjoy.  Fly a few thousand miles as an extended family effort twice a year and it seems everyone thinks you're special.

My poor 'Josee' was neglected by the butterflies that evening, but I felt it was also making a special effort for my attention by showing off its subdued color hues against the variegated iris at its feet.  'Josee', as previously mentioned, may not be my most scented lilac, nor have the strongest coloration ('Yankee Doodle' has that distinction in my garden), nor does it have anything special like the picotee flowers of 'Sensation', but it does have one big advantage;  it was the first of the reblooming lilacs released and it really does, occasionally, dole out a panicle or two for my enjoyment in August.  Any lilac willing to defy its ancient nature to that degree for me will always have a place in my garden and my heart.


  1. I'm only now starting to concentrate on butterflies - beyond the "charismatic megafauna" types. I think what got me started was twofold: interest in native pollinators and learning about the caterpillars I was finding munching away on some of my plants. They can be rather a challenge.

  2. I'm really at a handy cap here living in Sweden. We have such a terrible short growing season compared to where I come from San diego where things are year round there.

    Love the story and the pics. I'll bookmark you to favourites here Professor. My Lilacs here aren't even close to bud swelling yet. The pictures are so nice I can almost smell the fragrance. LOL

    Thanks, Kevin

  3. Gaia, good luck. The butterflies are, as you said, a "challenge."

    Kevin, thanks, glad you enjoyed.


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