Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Shady Lady

We had to remove a tree in our front yard to allow equipment to have access to our back yard to construct our pool and lanai. The tree we removed was called an Orchid tree.  It has beautiful, pink orchid-like flowers throughout most of the year. It is a messy tree. It drops leaves and flowers all of the time. It is not truly a native tree. It originated in Asia and escaped from cultivation, so it is occasionally found in the wild in Florida. 

front yard specimen tree

Yeah, it's pretty, but we wanted its replacement to be a true Florida native.

We both began reading about native trees. We wanted something with a pleasant shape. We preferred not to have a deciduous tree. We did not care for a tree that dropped fruit, seeds or leaves. 

We read about the Black Olive tree (which doesn't produce olives), also known as the Shady Lady. The South Florida Plant Guide says:

The exquisite Shady Lady black olive tree, with its lush layers of tiny leaves on zigzagged stems, is one of the most beautiful South Florida trees. With the look of a natural bonsai, this tree lends an Oriental garden appeal when it's young. It grows in layered tiers with a distinct space between each set of horizontal branches. The tree matures to form a beautiful, well-shaped rounded crown.

We wanted to see this tree. It sounded like it would be perfect. We asked around, and lo and behold, we actually had one in our back yard already! How embarrassing! However, we had both admired the tree, so it seemed like the perfect replacement. 

We arranged with the local landscaper to get a large tree. We awaited its arrival... and watched, in awe, as it arrived and was transported and transplanted. 

We love our new tree, and can't wait to see it grow, providing wonderful shade in our yard!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Meet the Monarch

After our pool was complete we had to restore landscaping to meet the requirements of our HOA. Our community requires that 75% of our plantings be native. However, they do allow a bit more leniency in back yards where the landscaping isn't quite as visible. At the last minute we decided to disregard "native" and install butterfly gardens on the east and west corners of our pool "cage". Our landscape maintenance guy gave us the names of a number of plants that attract butterflies,  as well as the name of a wholesale nursery. Off we went. Among the plants he suggested we purchased: salvia, tickseed, scorpion tail, milkweed (lots of this), sweet almond and lantana. 

As always happens, I regret not taking pictures of the back of our truck becoming an instant garden. The plants were placed and planted and our back yard looked truly finished. 

It wasn't long before mama monarchs came. We noticed them laying eggs on the leaves. Then the magic began to happen!

Do you see the newly hatched caterpillar? He is about 1/8" in length. His egg case is directly below. The "eyeball" in the center right side of the picture is a caterpillar that is about to emerge. The black dot is his head. Before they are ready to emerge, the eggs are tiny, creamy white balls 

More very young caterpillars

We bought some more plants to bring onto the lanai. 
We placed them in a butterfly "cage"
It was fun to see the caterpillars grow, and grow, and 


We watched them form chrysalides. 
This one became detached and after taking the picture I pinned it to 
the top of the butterfly cage.

We had a "run away" caterpillar, and finally found the Chrysalis on the floor of the lanai. I meant to attach it to the cage, but didn't get around to it. Then... I noticed the coloration of the wings showing through the chrysalis. I needed to mount it so the emerging butterfly would have space to spread its wings.

When I picked it up to attach it to the screen of the butterfly cage, it popped open in my hand and the butterfly began to emerge. 

The miracle of life!

We took it outside and superglued the top of the chrysalis to a leaf of the milkweed plant. 

The story of the Monarch does not stop here. This is only one generation of four that this species goes through. There are four generations each year. The final generation butterflies are the ones that migrate to Mexico, via Texas, living seven months!


A protozoan parasite of monarch butterflies, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or OE for short, can travel with monarchs visiting the plants and become deposited on leaves. When caterpillars hatch and start eating the plant, they ingest the OE. ... Tropical milkweed can also interfere with monarch migration and reproduction. -Xerces Society

The Mister is a voracious reader and researcher. Soon after we became intrigued with the Monarchs, he discovered trouble in paradise! Most of the nurseries in our area sell Tropical milkweed. It is a perennial in this part of Florida, and has pretty orange and red flowers. Because it doesn't die back in winter, the protozoan lives on and can infect future generations of Monarchs. Additionally, the fourth generation Monarchs may resist the urge to migrate if there is a supply of milkweed where they are living, or along their migratory path.

What is Four?

Have you ever thought of the meaning of "four"?  Four is the number of: seasons in a year. corners and sides to a square. virtues....