« AnkstesnisTęsti »
a thick undergrowth of spikenard, ferns, bedstraw, colt's-foot, rue, bidens, ampelopsis, aster, wood-nettle, horse-balm, sunflower, and an attendant host of plants. Our butterfly is now sunning its damask feathers on the topmost leaf of yonder wood-nettle, now creeping around its edge, and revealed only by the translucent shadow responding to the gentle fanning motion of the wings. In another moment we catch the fiery gleam in a sunbeam as the sylph again soars above the herbage to settle among the tall sunny leaves beyond; these also are nettles. Now it floats above our heads and alights upon the pale green plant at our elbow, and what is this? It is a wood-nettle. And thus it fits by the hour, draping the underwood in ethereal festoons from every nettle spray among the copse.
A closer scrutiny of these plants will throw a little light upon this discriminating flight. The leaves are seen to be partly devoured, and an occasional one appears to droop with an unnatural attitude, a position readily explained when we discover the angular pitch caused by the severing of the three prominent veins close to the stem, the edges of the leaf being also drawn together below. Upon plucking one of these leaves, and looking beneath, we discover the curious recluse, at once explaining the artful tented leaf and the presence of the butterfly — the gray spotted and spiny caterpillar of the Comma Angle-wing, so named from a bright silvery character on the under side of the lower wings.
To be sure it may be said that the nettle is not a particularly difficult plant to distinguish. Indeed, old Culpeper, the herbalist, assures us of the fact that “ It may be found even in the darkest night by simply feeling for it.” But such hap-hazard botany is not the necessary resource of our butterfly. The discrimination of a nettle, botanically considered, requires a much deeper insight. How is this insight possessed by the Comma? Let us see. Yonder on the stone wall a clambering hopvine would seem to afford a tempting sporting-ground for a small brood of red butterflies. On nearer approach they prove to be the Comma joined by a few near relatives equally interesting. Here and there our careful search discloses a tented leaf precisely similar to those already described, while beneath we may discover the same spiny
tenant. Continual search reveals a number of similar spiny caterpillars, though variously variegated, and perhaps a gilded chrysalis or two among the stems in the crevices between the stones. Suppose we now transfer them all, perhaps a hundred or more specimens, to our box and await the transformation from those pendent nymphs which soon will begem the interior. After the lapse of a fortnight, upon opening the lid the former sleepy hollow seems to have blossomed with painted wings. Here shall we find our Comma by the dozens, and very likely also counterparts of all the bright tribe which fluttered above the vine upon the wall-Semicolon and White J. A bright orange butterfly is now seen sunning itself upon the young elm tree near by. We cap
ture the insect with our net and find it identical with the Semicolon in our box, while examination of the elm leaves reveals not only the suggestive empty chrysalis shell, but several thorny caterpillars beneath those well-known tented leaves.
If we care to continue our investigation among the herbage, we may discover these same caterpillars upon the little clearweed in the dank shade of the orchard, a succulent plant hardly a foot high, the very opposite to a nettle in its glossy smoothness; and also on the pellitory, a companion weed. Upon all of these plants, in addition to the various nettles, I have found the insects, and once on the hemp. I have also seen their deserted tents on the paper-mulberry, an exotic tree, only sparingly cultivated, but a careful search has failed to disclose the caterpillar on any other plants. Other authorities include the sugar-berry tree. Here, then, we have the following summary and complete list of plants which the butterfly has selected as the repository of her eggs: wood-nettle, great stinging nettle, and all other nettles, false nettle, all the elms, clearweed, pellitory, hemp, paper-mulberry, and sugar-berry tree. What light does our botany throw upon this list? Turning to “wood-nettle” we are referred to “Urticacea," or the “nettle family," wherein are disclosed all of the above species of plants, which actually complete the list of genera and nearly all the native species of the order.
An equally remarkable fidelity to a single group of vegetation is seen in the example of our beautiful black Swallow-tail butterfly — the papilio of the umbelworts, or Parsley family.
In the early summer we may find upon the garden fennel or parsley the beautifully marked caterpillar of this species — bright apple-green, with circling bands of sable velvet studded with golden yellow buttons. The caterpillar is easily recognized anywhere, and its habitat is wide. Let us examine its bill of fare. The plants commonly attributed to this species are parsley, fennel, carrot, and celery. Harris found them also on poison-hemlock, cicuta, dill, caraway, and anise, to which list I can append the further additions from observation : wild carrot, sanicle, with its tenacious burrs in the woods, angelica, archangelica, cow parsnip, and lovage. All of these will be found to follow in their natural sequence in the classification of our botanies, under the order umbellifera.
This strange fidelity of the Asterias to a single order of plants I had noted even in boyhood, and had welcomed my butterfly as an infallible aid in my botanical study. But one day my confidence was shattered by the discovery of a number of caterpillars feeding upon a creeping, round-leaved plant growing by the edge of the brook-a prostrate succulent herb, seemingly devoid of flowers, quite distinct from all the other food plants, and new to me. I simply noted it as an exception, and lowered my butterfly a peg in my esteem. Not until years later, in the more serious pursuit of botanical study, did I discover what a rare lesson in botany the Asterias had wasted upon me; that the little unknown plant was in truth a distinct umbelwort like the rest — the water-pennywort. In the lead of the little white butterfly of our gardens (Pieris oleracea) we may be introduced to an entirely new tribe of vegetation, for whether among the yellow mustard fields of Holland or the pepper-grass of the New England roadside, the cruciferous plants are to them the cream and spice of all creation.
What lover of the country will not own his tribute to the omnipresent little yellow butterfly, companion of our September fields, its folded wings like a tiny rudder of gold taking the helm of all the wind-blown goldenrods of the roadsides; whose bright bevies rim the borders of every mud-puddle, rising from their obscurity to swarm in mazy tangle about your carriage as you pass ? Honey sippers and tipplers, they now would seem to fulfill the impeachment of the “idle revelers” of the poet; but such inference is unjust, for though now content in the sweets of aster, solidago, and other autumn blossoms, these are but their recess flowers. Their previous and most busy attention has already been bestowed upon another widely different class of plants. This Philodice butterfly is one of our most accomplished botanical authorities — a botanist who knows beans, in very truth; for where is the genus of the bean tribe of vegetation that it has skipped in the choice of fosterplants for that future offspring ? -- Lima beans, scarlet runners, peas, sweet peas, wild beans, indigo, red clover, hop clover, white clover, puss clover, medic, medicago, lucern, melilot, rattle-box, vetch, and many more, all of the leguminous or bean tribe. (See page 644.)
Here is a near European relative of this same butterfly which feeds upon “Coronilla and broom and other diadelphous plants,” and another allied species that feeds upon Cytisus, all of which our botany of course includes under Leguminosa. It is interesting to note further that certain
individuals in this same butterfly tribe, Colias, exotic species in the heart of Brazil, continue the list among the tropical Leguminosa; all of which proves the close affinity between the animated winged genus Colias and the winged” corollas of the pea-blossomed flowers.
There are many other insects for which the pea family possesses special attraction. There is the tiny pea-weevil, a representative of a tribe of beetles whose early existence is spent within the ripening seeds— doubtless a common ingredient in our appetizing dish of
green peas.” This diminutive insect, indicated in the illustration on page 652, probes the pod shortly after the withering of the blossom and lays its eggs therein. The young immediately penetrate the peas and there fulfill their existence, emerging in the following spring as perfect beetles.
In the same illustration may be seen a singular rolled leaf upon a hazel branch, and concerning which I will quote a
page from my notes of years ago: “Those small rolled brown packets upon the hazels again! Shall I ever solve them! Precious goods done up in small parcels, but by what insect and how? This mysterious bundle committed to the hazel has been a poser to me all my life, I never yet having been
able to discover the artist at his work, for artist he is indeed. I found to-day a number of the prize packages freshly done up, the folded leaf yet green, though half severed by the teeth of the insect, and hanging pendent from the stem. A tiny yellow egg had been deposited at the tip of the
leaf,- as shown by analysis of unrolling, -and the leaf then folded in halves at mid-vein, then rolled from tip upward to stem, and retained in its compact coil by some touch of jugglery which I have not been able to
divine, as no gluten nor web of silk can be found. Just try and roll up one of these packages yourself, and without recourse to your accustomed
string leave it thus closely and firmly intact. No web, no gum, no stitch, but much of the know how. Whoever the clerk who does up these packages he has a long head, and has kept his secret from me very securely."
Since the writing of the above, though not yet any more enlightened as to the author of this hocus-pocus bundle, I have several times observed a suspicious-looking brown beetle nosing among its folds, and in his strange make-up fully realizing the unconscious prophecy of the “long head,” for the insect is one of the weevils, which are noted for their extensive frontal development.
From Maine to Mexico another small noctuid known as the Cotton moth is found, its chosen haunt being indicated by its name. “Its food plant in the North has not yet been discovered," says a prominent entomologist. Look to your hollyhocks, altheas, and mallows, my scientific friend, for here you will certainly find the recluse in congenial company. Here is the little gourd expert, a tiny moth that shows no evidence of inherited dyspepsia, though its broods devour indiscriminately the leaves and green fruit of cucumber, water-melon, gourd, muskmelon, pumpkin, squash, and wild star-cucumbers, all of course in the same botanical family.
BUSH-CLOVER, WILD BEAN.
Then there is that great green Sphinx caterpillar, which is the pest of the tobacco grower and the fine prize of the small boy entomologist, and whose loud-humming, long-tongued moth hovers about our twilight honeysuckles — one of the largest of its kind. It is hardly necessary to mention that this is the same voracious feeder which we find upon tomato and potato plants as well as occasionally upon the red-berried nightshade, ground cherry, and apple of Peru — all included in the Solanum family.
Once when a boy I found a voracious sphinx upon“ pusley” and reared it to the moththe white-lined sphinx. The following year I found the same caterpillar on the flowering portulaca in the garden, and I have no doubt he is also as fond of the “spring beauty" as are the poets if we could only chance to observe it, for the Purslane family embraces all these plants.
The botanical acumen of the sphinx extends to various other plant tribes. The sphinx Kalmice knows not only the mountain laurel but many other heathworts, notably whortleberry, azalea, cranberry. The Oleander sphinx finds the oleander flavor in the creeping blue-flowered periwinkle or “myrtle" of our gardens. Another black and yellow individual, whose name I do not know, is true to the madder family. Another takes the pine, spruce, and hemlock in its exclusively coniferous diet.
There is a beautiful moth known as the rosy Dryocampa. I have found its black-horned caterpillars on sugar maples, silver and red maples, and one day discovered it also on the box-elder. How did this little moth know that this ash-leaved bough of spring was only a maple in masquerade? Who but a skilled botanist could ever have identified it but for its winged seeds ? What the Dryocampa does for the maples the Thisbe butterfly does for the “arrow-woods," and the Phaeton and Lavinia butterflies for the figworts. The white snowball of our shrubberies is a favorite haunt of the former insect, but it finds the nanny-berry bush an equally attractive Viburnum, while the painted-cup, snakehead, and toad-flax form the principal choice of the last two insects, which preside over the family Scrophulariaceae. Among the more modest wild flowers we find the same revelation. The violets have a whole brood of faithful dependents. The handsome silver-spotted Aphrodite butterfly knows that the tall yellow violet of the woods is only a less conspicuous cousin to the blue “bird-foot” species, and that the pansy is but a vain descendant of the wild “Johnny jumper” of past ages which the progenitor of all the aphrodites sought for the care of its offspring.
The great Compositæ have many experts, likewise the oak, pink, polygonum, mint, and ranunculus families. The “Copper butterfly knows that the acid sorrel is a relative of the curled dock. There are many disciples of the Rose; keen senses that discover it in the apple, cherry, plum, hawthorn bramble, cinquefoil, spirea, and strawberry. The Apple tree moth is an example, never intrusting that waterproof circlet of eggs to any tree outside of this family, most commonly contenting herself with the apple and the wild cherry. (See page 652.)
I might indefinitely prolong the list of testimonials to this divine plan of association between the insect and the plant; and while it is not a necessary assumption, inasmuch as “we have no experience in the creation of worlds,” it would seem a perfectly justifiable inference that each species of butterfly and moth was originally created with a special affinity for some congenial order of plants. From this postulate it would then appear that this power of nice distinction has de
FLAT-POD, CRESS, ALYSSUM.