Edgeworthia papyrifera and the monarch butterfly

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Wintering over in the neighbourhood - the monarch butterfly

Wintering over in the neighbourhood - the monarch butterfly

The flower is Edgeworthia papyrifera (syn: chrysantha), often referred to as the yellow daphne. Botanically they are related although papyrifera makes a large deciduous clump and the very long leaves appear after flowering. While scented, it lacks the knock-out fragrance of most daphnes but it makes a stand-out shrub at this time of the year. We have seen the red-orange flowered form in Europe but as far as we know it is not yet available in this country. The bark of this edgeworthia is used to make a high quality paper.

Edgeworthia papyrifera, often called the yellow daphne

Edgeworthia papyrifera, often called the yellow daphne

The monarch butterfly is a minor personal triumph for Mark and we are delighted to see so many feeding on the edgeworthia. For some years, Mark has been sowing swan plants and managing them to encourage late crop monarch butterflies which are more likely to winter over here. Such is his determination that he sowed in excess of 1.1 km of swan plant seed last summer (that is 1100 metres if you measure out each single row end on end) to add to his other established swan plantations. In fact, for once the feed supply exceeded the demand of the caterpillars. This is one of the advantages of winding down the open ground production in the nursery – having well cultivated ground to sow straight into. Now he is increasingly targeting feed plants for the butterflies and we are hoping that surrounding neighbours who are also graced by our monarchs will do the same. This season’s first crop of monarch eggs are being laid and Mark even found a large caterpillar which had wintered over. We expect a bumper number of monarchs this year.

New Zealand has an abundance of interesting moths but they tend to be beautiful in a very understated manner. We are rather short on butterflies here, so the international monarch (which arrived here naturally so can be classed as native) is highly prized.