A few days ago, the weather was fine and I had decided to play hooky from my job. Don't worry, I requested the time I grabbed by camera gear and set out for nearby Coopers Rock State Forest. Out near the trout pond, I came across a beautiful butterfly that I managed to shoot with my telephoto lens:
Meet the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor).
The angle of this shot must have been just right, because the blue iridescence isn't always apparent, as noted in the following shot:
Same butterfly at a different angle.
The name of this butterfly got me curious. Pipevine Swallowtails aren't all that common around here, and what is it with the name "pipevine" you ask?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
After a bit of Googling, I came across this site Butterfly Garden and Habitat Program, which gave a bit of background on the history of the pipevine in American horticulture. It explained that the pipevine is the sole food of the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar. It turns out, however, that the pipevine genus, Aristolochia, has more than 500 species. But there is only one native American species upon which the Pipevine caterpillar will dine: Aristolochia macrophylla.
These day, my go-to for natural science is iNaturalist. Here is what they have to say about Aristolochia macrophylla. Now one of the neat things about iNaturalist links is that the page for a specific species has links to a map, which shows the locations where something specific like Aristolochia macrophylla. have been found. Zooming in on the North American continent and down to West Virginia, we find many sightings. Some of the local sightings are at the West Virginia Botanic Garden along the Access Road Trail. Sadly, there is only one other sighting, and that is along the Mon Chateau Trail from Coopers Rock. My goal is to go back to the trout pond and see if I can spot the wiley Aristolochia macrophylla near where I took my photos.
I found a few more interesting links, among which are
- Missouri Botanical Garden
- The Aristolochia page in Wikipedia, where *ahem*, you might see a very suggestive picture and link to the Aristolochia labiata.