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One mid-August afternoon in 2005 Claire and I found ourselves on a rural road in Amish country near Killbuck, Ohio. We had driven up there to say our last goodbyes to Steve Dodd—our dear friend Debbie Voisin’s dad—an extraordinary man about whom I plan to write more later.
We like tooling around the back roads when we travel—what Claire calls one-lane roads since each driver only gets one lane in each direction.
As we slowed down to negotiate an “S” curve we couldn’t help but see ahead of us standing out from the rest of the standard roadside weeds clutches of tall (8′ or more some of them) thick-stemmed plants growing in the drainage ditch and a short distance up the hillside.
What made them noticeable besides their height were the flower clusters that crowned them—a sort of spray of small greenish-gray flowers with just a hint of purple. We might not have given them anything but a momentary glance—they were rather coarse in leaf and their subtle flower colors could easily be overlooked. Except for one fact. They were swarmed with butterflies.
Now one or two butterflies especially the small white “discount” ones that seem to be everywhere would be no big deal. But a dozen or two—and high quality top shelf ones at that! Not something you see every day!
So we stopped and had a closer look. It’s been years since I could identify anything other than your basic Monarch butterfly so what we saw that afternoon was an exciting novelty indeed. A half dozen or more butterflies (no Monarchs) were flitting around those odd-colored flowers. A magnificent sight!
We took pictures with hopes of identifying both the plants and their attendants. Later, Internet sources helped me recognize tiger swallowtails and meadow fritillaries (?) as the two most plentiful species.
Flash forward to this last weekend. Official Nine Pines Garden photo-chronicler (A.E. Brunsman III) and I were touring the garden whereupon I spied a tiger swallowtail amidst the buddleias. Amazed and thrilled was I!
Gus got a couple shots of it. Here’s the best one.
I can’t wait for the buds to break on the Eupatorium purpureum subsp. maculatum ‘Gateway’ (Joe Pye Weed)