It took the death of an oak for me to start raising gulf fritillaries. My yard is small and much of it is paved, so I have limited garden space. I had been wanting to plant passionvine, but heard that it could spread far, and unpredictably. Where would I make space for it?
Then, last June, our laurel oak fell over. Onto both of our cars. When we had it removed, I paid extra to have the stump ground. For months, Amy and I pondered and debated over how to replace this shade tree. I let things grow, and we soon had a hedge of native shrubs around the stump area. It consisted of several fanpetals and beautyberry bushes, plenty of Bidens alba, some dog fennel, and a single pokeweed. I turned this into a pollinator space.
As one of the beautyberry bushes grew nice and large, I thought about something I’d noticed in parks around town; passionvine loves to grow on beautyberry. The shrub makes a good trellis for Muscadine grapes, too. Here, finally, was my chance to plant passionvine, and see some new caterpillars in the yard.
I planted vines on opposite sides of the large beautyberry. The vines grabbed it, and after a few months, met each other at its top. Then the fun began.
Rob Diaz de Villegas is a senior producer for television at WFSU Public Media, covering outdoors and ecology. After years of producing the music program OutLoud, Rob found himself in a salt marsh with a camera, and found a new professional calling as well. That project, the National Science Foundation funded "In the Grass, On the Reef," spawned the award-winning WFSU Ecology Blog. Now in its tenth year, the Ecology Blog recently wrapped its most ambitious endeavor, the EcoCitizen Project.
Rob is married with two young sons, who make a pretty fantastic adventure squad.