Friday, August 11, 2017

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

The Gulf Fritillary Butterfly has been the one butterfly I have seen the most, both in my Jacksonville and Leesburg, Florida gardens. It is a very pretty orange-colored butterfly that has marking on the underside of its wings that are most interesting. At quick glance, seeing the underside, you might think Monarch Butterfly!

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
I recently photographed the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on several different visits in August 2017 to the Lake County Extension Service's Discovery Gardens.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Visiting the Butterfly House at Discovery Gardens on Monday, August 7th, I noticed a small Gulf Fritillary Butterfly in the cage at the back. It looked possibly newly arrived and a bit in distress. I stopped by the office and asked to get word to John, the leader there. When I came back on Thursday, the door was lying on top of the cage. I did see a small Gulf Fritillary Butterfly flying around the Butterfly House!

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
This butterfly was photographed most often on the Jatropha integerrima plant which was more like a small tree at the entrance of Butterfly House. Throughout Discovery Gardens, I noticed another larger Jatropha. The Jatropha is in the spurge family, native to Cuba and Hispaniola, and often known as peregrina or spicy jatropha. It is a flowering plant I would like to add to my front yard gardens in Leesburg, Florida.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Underside - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Underside - Discovery Gardens
In the photo above, you get a good view of the underside of the Gulf Fritillary. Notice how different it is from the orange-colored topside! It has sections of its wings that resemble a Monarch Butterfly -- at least I think so!!

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
In this photo above, you see how the Gulf Fritillary has nose-dived into the Jatropha flower! I think this gives you an idea of how attractive the Jatropha is to butterflies, particularly this species.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
"The sexes are dimorphic. Females are somewhat darker and more extensively marked. The forewing cell contains three black-rimmed white spots. The undersides of the wings are brown with elongated silvery-white spots." ~University of Florida, Entomology and Nematology Department

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Check out the larva -- there is a great photo on UF's page along with more interesting photos and information! "The mature larva is bright orange with numerous black branched spines." "Black and orange stripes warn predators of the toxicity of the caterpillar which protects it from predators."

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
The Gulf Fritillary Butterfly is "of the family Nymphalidae and subfamily Heliconiinae. That subfamily was formerly set apart as a separate family, the Heliconiidae. The Heliconiinae are 'longwing butterflies.'" ~Wikipedia

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Learning more about the Gulf Fritillary, I find the story of the Chrysalis stage most curious! Please take a moment to read that segment of the Wikipedia reference. I was hanging on the part about when "it begins to pump the fluids from its bulging abdomen into its shriveled wings." That action is much like the Monarch Butterfly!

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - Discovery Gardens
If you live in Florida, you too have probably observed the Gulf Fritillary! It is common to all 67 counties of Florida. I am now on the lookout to observe the purple passionflower, a host plant. The female butterfly will lay its "small yellow eggs singly on or near leaves, stems or tendrils of the purple passionflower." That is one beautiful host for such a beautiful, and often-seen, butterfly!


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