It’s that time of year again!
The illusive zebra swallowtail butterfly is emerging. Equally beautiful are the emerging flowers of the swallowtail’s host plant, the pawpaw tree.
For a glimpse of this butterfly I recommend a stroll along the umbrella magnolia trail at Kemper Park (Charlottesville). In central Virginia you will find this butterfly in association with soils supported by the Catoctin formation, a mineral rich geologic substrate that is part of the Blue Ridge Province. The pawpaw trees love this rich soil (as do trees such as redbud, green ash, and hackberry).
You will see other woodland butterflies there as well, one of these will likely be the question mark butterfly. Unless it is flying it can be very hard to see. I found it dangling from a dry leaf under a shrub about one foot off the ground. The butterfly itself looked like a leaf, and if it weren’t for a quick glimmer of bright orange from its upper wing, I wouldn’t have seen it at all! Can you find it in the picture below?