Baptista australis (False Indigo) is in bloom again. And I am grabbing the horns of a dilemma. Each year this plant plagues me with thoughts of doubt. Shall I cut it down after it blooms? Maybe I better press a stalk with blooms to remember it by?
It is one of those plants that you planted but are sometimes sorry you did. The blue-violet of the blooms are a delicious color. I always wish that there was a food that color so I could eat it. Not including candy. Shouldn’t Earthlings have a luscious delicious purple fruit to eat. Not the purple of grapes, but purple this color.
I start to cut it down but then I say to myself, “ But, it is the host to so many butterfly larva. Okay, most of those butterflies I rarely see around here, but you never know.”
For the curious Baptista australis is the host plant to the following butterfly larva.
• Orange Sulphur (lives in Philadelphia)
• Clouded Sulphur
• Frosted Elfin
• Eastern Tailed-Blue (lives in Philadelphia)
• Hoary Edge
• Wild Indigo Duskywing
The female butterfly of each species, lands on the leaf of a plant, tastes it with her feet, and if tastes right (with the correct chemical makeup) then she lays her eggs. If it tastes wrong she moves on. The chemical makeup means the caterpillars will be able to digest it. This is why it is important to plant native species, caterpillars can only eat certain native plants. And non-native plants won’t do. The correct plant is called a butterfly host plant.
The problem with Baptistia australis, is the habit of the plant. It needs to be surrounded by open space not forced to stand at attention in a hoop, by a fence, which is where I have it. Otherwise it flops over and completely dwarfs the highbush blueberry shrubs. And we can’t have that.
Each year around March I begin to worry I cut it down last spring and can’t remember that I did. I wait with anticipation for the first green stalks to poke out of the ground. Finally, they poke up and ease my mind. I think I just have to grow up and live with it.
Thank you, Baptista australis for being so beautiful. Thank you for feeding bees and butterflies. Wado.
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