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Our native California Pipevine butterfly, Battus philenor, is a handsome swallowtail notable for its deep iridescent blue color decorated with orange and white polka dots. It favors coastal scrub and inland riparian areas, but essentially is found wherever the native California pipevine plant, Aristolochia californica (also known as Dutchman’s Pipe for its strangely shaped flowers) is found. It is the sole host plant for this butterfly, which is consequently entirely dependent upon it for survival.
Among many food plants is Jupiter’s Beard, Centranthus ruber, a volunteer in our garden, shown above and at the bottom of this post. All butterflies, of course, have host plants where eggs are laid and caterpillars develop, as well as food plants that are sources of nectar during the insect’s butterfly stage.
Swallowtails that feed on Aristolochia mainly live in the tropics. This one is a northern pioneer of the species. The host plant provides the insect with toxic aristolochic acids, and the distinctive color and markings announce the toxins’ presence to potential predators, who take note and look for more palatable prey.
It is said of the pipevine plant that in the first year it sleeps, in the second year it creeps, and in the third year it leaps. In favorable conditions, the vine can climb to the top of tall trees. But is also content to crawl along the ground if need be. Our pipevine, shown above, is in its second year.
Art Shapiro has an excellent page with more information on Battus philenor. Las Pilitas is a good place to read about Aristolochiua californica and other native plants.
Originally native to the arid southwest of North America, the resourceful house finch (Carpodocus mexicanus), is now found in every U.S. state. After nesting, the finches gather into sizable flocks — ours are particularly fond of hanging out in the Pineapple guava (Feijoa). They are attractive little birds with a pleasing sort of bebop jazzy song (performed by the male). You can listen to it at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
This has been a good year so far for the Grüss an Aachen rose.
In recent decades Richmond has been aggressively developing its waterfront. Brickyard Cove, near Ferry Point, was once the location of a brick-making plant that used materials quarried from the nearby hillside. It is now an enclave of luxury homes and condominiums, along with a lively marina housing the Richmond Yacht Club, all set cheek to jowl with the industrial warehouses and tanks lining the city’s nearby deepwater harbor.
Yet vestiges of the old waterfront remain, for now. One is Ferry Point, where the skeleton of an old ferry terminal remains, alongside a fishing pier maintained by the East Bay Regional Park District as part of the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline. The pier was opened to the public in 2002.
Stipa arundinacea is one of my favorite nonnative landscape plants for our area. I like its copper coloration, its fountainlike shape, its toughess, its low maintenance, and the way its graceful stalks sway in the breeze. Not fussy about soil, light, or water, and drought and deer tolerant, it grows to about three feet all around. It’s said to self-sow, but my mine have not shown much sign of that. The one shown above is growing in a fairly small container, and I’m planning to up pot it. The green bit on the left of that photo is dietes, the purple in the background is rosemary. Right is detail of another specimen, which has been growing in the ground in the front garden for several years and still looks great.
This is a test of making a post sticky for a tag. At the moment this is only a test. Soon I will elaborate this tag.
Point Pinole pier with toyon bush in foreground.
A dashing new visitor to the garden.
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The little island to the left of the bridge is Red Rock Island, the only privately owned island in the bay. It marks the meeting of San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa counties. It’s for sale and can be yours for just $5 million (marked down from $12 million). It has no water, but plenty of manganese ore, if that’s your thing.
The small north garden has become a favorite bird habitat. The spiky foreground plants are asparagus ferns. The orange flowers are Iochroma coccinea, beloved of hummingbirds, and perching birds also favor the plant. The ground cover is probably oxalis, which I should remove before it takes over. The yellow grass is Stipa arundinacea, which is reliably attractive in our area. Against the fence on the right is Victorian Box (Pittosporum undalatum), which the birds planted.
The brugmansia is flowering heavily this year.