News, Tips

Native Plant Growers – Planting Wild Violets Helps the Fritillary Butterfly

by Robin Wolf

Native Plant Growers
Tuesdays, weekly from 10:00 am to 11:00 am.
Meet at the garden with green fence & flags near the Community Center at the entry to the small parking lot.
No Drop-in fee.

The Seniors Club has a Native Plant Growers drop-in group. We are creating a habitat for butterflies, including the beautiful orange and black Fritillary. The Native Wildflower Garden is near the Civic Park Community Center.

California native violets are the only plant on which most Fritillary butterflies lay their eggs. In the fall, the female Fritillary deposits her eggs at the base of California native violets. The eggs spend the winter there in a sort of insect hibernation called dispause. When spring comes, caterpillars hatch and begin munching violet leaves. Like Monarch caterpillars who only eat milkweed, native Fritillary caterpillars only eat native violet leaves. Wild violets used to cover many parts of Contra Costa County. But these violets are disappearing along with California’s Fritillary butterflies.

Wild Violets are a beautiful, low-growing, sturdy perennial plant that is easy to grow. It makes a good ground cover or border for taller plants. Here are two native violets that our Native Plant Growers are putting into the Civic Park garden. They might interest you for your garden.

Dog Violet, Viola adunca, (also called Hookedspur Violet) is a perennial with blue, purple or white flowers in the spring and summer. This drought tolerant ground cover grows about 1 foot high, and spreads. It likes part shade but can take some sun.
Evergreen Violet, Viola sempervirens, (also called Redwood Violet) is a low growing perennial, 6 inches tall that spreads. It blooms with yellow or purple flowers in winter and spring. This violet likes full shade or part shade and is drought tolerant.

Planting California native violets will help increase the population of Fritillary butterflies.

News, Tips

Native Plant Growers – Swallowtail Butterflies Are Returning to Civic Park



Swallowtail Butterflies Are Returning to Civic Park

by Robin Wolf

The next time you come to the Civic Park Community Center, you might want to look for Swallowtail butterflies along the creek. These large yellow and black butterflies began returning to the creek bank after habitat restoration got under way. The WC Watershed Council has removed invasive ivy over a 200 foot stretch of the creek bank and replaced it with native fescue grass. As a result, Swallowtail butterflies are retuning to the creek area.

Swallowtail butterflies like to lay their eggs on the leaves of the valley oaks and coast live oaks that line the creek. Caterpillars hatch and eat those leaves. Then when full-grown, the caterpillars drop to the ground to make a chrysalis from which a butterfly will emerge. If the caterpillar drops into ivy, the chrysalis and emerging butterfly will probably be lost. The butterfly may emerge too deep in the ivy to be able to climb out without damaging her delicate wings. Butterflies only lay their eggs on native plants and ivy is not native. Thus, she will not be able to lay her eggs on ivy to create the next generation. However, when the native plant habitat is restored, the caterpillars drop into native grasses and can finish their life cycle.

If you take your grandchildren to Civic Park and happen to see a swallowtail, please ask them not to chase or touch the butterflies.