Seed growers generally do a good job of providing accurate information about what kind of plant will grow from the seeds that you purchase from them. Yes, the descriptions are sometimes a little exaggerated and written in “flowery” prose that push the edge of credulity. However, when describing the growth habit of the plant and the kind of fruit or flower that the plant will produce, they’re usually spot on.
But this year I grew one plant that wasn’t even close to what it was supposed to be.
I picked up a packet of Burpee’s Candy Cane zinnias at Lowes. The packet was beautiful – even the cashier remarked about what a pretty flower this was – so I decided to give it a try. I planted them in the front of the house and couldn’t wait to see the plants in bloom. I knew they might not be exactly like the picture on the packet but I expected them to at least be close
Candy Cane Zinnias????
The reality was of this zinnia was something else entirely! Instead of large red double flowers with white markings on fairly short plants, I got a hodgepodge of single and semi-double zinnias in white, pink, orange and red on gangly, sparse plants One plant had small fully double flowers that were white with a few red markings but nothing like the seed packet. The butterflies were attracted to them so I let them grow for a time. However the ugliness of them eventually caused me to pull them up and plant something else in their place!
When it comes to short zinnias with double flowers, I think I’ll stick with the Magellan series. They might not have striped blossoms but they grow well and are always filled with blooms. These plants actually look like the picture in the seed catalog!
The Candy Cane zinnia seeds were cheap so I’m not upset about their terrible performance. This just goes to show that occasionally what you plant isn’t always what you get!
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
I’ve been noticing a lot of parsley caterpillars on my young carrot plants. As these are the larval stage of the black swallowtail butterfly and there are lots of these butterflies in the garden, I wasn’t surprised to see them. I decided to take one and experiment to see if I could watch the process of metamorphosis.
In looking online I’d found that the 2″ green and black caterpillars were the final instar of the caterpillar’s growth. Earlier instars are small and often look like bird dropping – a great method of camouflage!
This final stage before metamorphosis has a little trick up its sleeve to protect it if it comes under attack. If the caterpillar is disturbed or threatened, a little yellow “forked tongue” called an osmeterium shoots out of the caterpillar’s head and can startle a bird or other threatening animal. In addition, it’s said to release a scent that can deter predators. It only took a couple touches to the caterpillar to cause it to use its osmeterium against me!
But back to my experiment…
I put the parsley caterpillar in a large jar with a number of parsley and carrot leaves. It spent the first day eating but the next day was very different. The caterpillar stayed on a branch of the parsley and didn’t move. It was bowed out slightly from the branch, attached by the two ends of the caterpillar. I wasn’t sure if it had died or if it was getting ready to form a chrysalis (cocoon).
The very next morning my question was answered. The bright green caterpillar was gone and in its place was a brown chrysalis. I’m amazed how quickly this all happened. Overnight the transformation occured.
Chrysalis in a Jar
I’ve trimmed off the leaves of the parsley stem that the chrysalis is on and placed it back in the jar. I’ll be looking for any changes along the way and hoping to see the emergence of a black swallowtail butterfly.