Butterflies 'n Your Garden

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It is actually with a lot of difficulties and cost that we keep these pleasant and fragile creatures out of our gardens. A well maintained garden is not a place for them because they risk exposure and thus become vulnerable. Moreover, the indigenous plants that are modified by the horticultural advents as well as the exotic plants in our well maintained gardens to make it look attractive to human eyes rob the butterflies of their food which they constantly search for.

I attended a workshop on attracting wildlife (not elephants, for sure, even though I would not have minded that) which opened my eyes more widely to see the flowers that are not usually seen with the skimming/browsing eyes of our fast world. There they are - on all those plants that we have been uprooting because they meant nothing more than weed to our eyes. Now, we follow the practical instructions of the butterflies in deciding which is weed and which is not. Believe me - the cost of gardening as well as the stress of maintaining the garden has dropped like a waterfall. And, what more, at any given time, there are dozens of butterflies in our garden and its surroundings. Here is an attempt to share my newly found micro-world with you.

Thanks to the enlightened George van-der Poorten who took us outside the lecture hall during lunch, down the stairs and across the road to the neglected patch of weeds and showed as the un-seeable flowers on the weeds which get trampled many a times and those hungry butterflies, who looked nothing then. He told us “They are indeed beautiful, if you photograph them and enlarge and look at”. He was sooooooo right. 


Red Pierrot (Talicada nyseus)


She is small. Striking with her colour combination.

As a matter of fact, next time when you get yourself a saree, try her colour combination. You will look striking as well.

She is there in the garden, but not always visible.

Kalanchoe”, a succulent, is said to be her favourite plant for reproduction.


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Here, you see her feeding herself on the “Daspathy” flower. (Please drop me a line if you know the botanical or the English name of the flower). The arrival of that flower in our garden by itself is an interesting story. There is a lady at the ‘Peradeniya Pola’ area who waits with dignity for alm. I need to stop the car and get down to give her something because it appears that she doesn’t move about freely and easily. One day I saw these flowers in full bloom close to where she stays and I told her to keep some dry flowers for me. She had taken a lot of trouble to plant them in nurseries made up of discarded wide-bellied plastic bottles cut crosswise. That made it very easy for us to start the patch for ‘Daspathy’.

My husband, who has taken for painting after several years of being engaged in matters of consequences, made the bamboo fence around them (saying that it gives character to the garden from a painter’s point of view) and also gave wooden support to each plant (to prevent her collapsing under the weight of her own creations – as always). Further more, my hubby’s brother-in-law from Colombo took some dry flowers with him saying that they add these flowers to the water they used for bathing the little girl born to his daughter just six months ago.   


White Four-ring (Ypthima ceyloncia)


She is small and a low flyer.

I could always find her in the garden with many of her relatives.

She appears to feed on many different plants.


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It is the white basal part of her hind wings (shown clearly on the photo below-left) makes her the White Four-ring. If not she could be mistaken for the Jewel Four-ring.

In the photo above, she is feeding on a very tiny 5-petal flower which is only about 5 mm in diameter. Because of this tiny size of the flower and also because of the extremely low number of flowers on the plant which by itself is not a show off (as can be seen on the photo below-right), this plant is considered a weed if not for the butterfly point of view that we have adopted in our garden as of late. Could anyone help with the name of this plant and probably its medicinal values?   

She also feeds from the insect-popular flower named Tridax procumbens (below-left) which is considered not only as a weed but also as a pest plant by gardeners and constantly removed from every garden and field. Nevertheless, some of the potential therapeutic activities of Tridax procumbens are antiviral, antibiotic efficacies, wound healing activity, insecticidal activity and anti-inflammatory activity [Ref: Suseela, L., Sarsvathy, A. and Brindha, P. 2002. "Pharmacognostic studies on Tridax procumbens L.(Asteraceae)". Journal of Phytological Research 15 (2): 141-147].


Small Cupid (Chilades parrhasius)


She is so small that you need to photograph her to see her beauty.

She is a low flyer.

I could always find her in the garden with many of her relatives, just as the White Four-ring.

She appears to feed on many different plants as well, just as the White Four ring does.

I captured her feeding on the Tridax procumbens – the insect-popular plant just outside our gate.


She is a miracle for she looks so different at different angles with the designer ash-blue on one side and a totally different colour and design on the other.


Who is she??


She is tiny. I am not sure if she is a butterfly.

She is very fond of the flowers in this particular plant (shows left and below-right). A detailed photograph of the plant is given in the White Four-ring’s section above requiring identification. Even though other butterflies also visit this plant, she is found always feeding on the flowers of this plant with her many relatives. 

Shown below-left is another butterfly attracting plant which she is fond of. Despite its tiny flowers, the numerous numbers of violet flowers on the plant at any given time make the plant popular among gardeners. Also, the steady stems of the plant make it suitable for low level fencing (1 to 1.5 feet high). That is indeed a blessing for these butterflies whom only a trained eye could spot.

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email: rshanthini@pdn.ac.lk

updated on May 25, 2010