Above is a picture of a Gulf Fritillary butterfly, also known as a passion butterfly, feeding on the nectar from the passion flower vine in my back yard, as well as pollinating this beautiful plant. The passion vine, passiflora incarnata, is the exclusive host for Gulf Fritillary larva. Last year at this same time, the plant was very young, as we had just put it in the ground after ordering it from Crimson Sage Nursery. The butterflies managed to find the tiny new plant, amazingly enough, and laid their eggs all over the young leaves. The kids and I marveled at the caterpillars and chrysalides, enjoying watching the life cycle from eggs to butterfly.
(above is a butterfly just emerged from it’s chrysalis as well as one of the caterpillars with it’s black and red stripes and black spines on a branch denuded of leaves)
Soon enough though, the caterpillars started to eat every last leaf of the plant down to nothing, and I began to fear for the life of my young passion vine, so, regretfully, we began pulling the caterpillars off and squishing them. I comforted myself with the thought of allowing the plant to thrive, and creating a home for the butterflies the following year. Well, now that year has passed, and the plant has taken over the wall on the garage and produced many beautiful blossoms, and indeed, the butterflies have returned. This year I hope to allow them free reign now that the plant has grown so hearty and vital, and we’ll all enjoy another season of observation of the butterfly life cycle.
Also last year a little later in the season, on Halloween to be exact, I was processing some hummingbird sage leaves that I had dried and which were ready to be jarred and labelled. As I pulled the leaves apart from their bundle, I noticed they were very sticky with spider webbing. Inside the bundle, a very large green spider reared up to protect her egg sack from me, the giant intruder. I took the mother and her many children out to the garden and placed the dried herbs at the base of the living sage plant and let them be. I checked on them for several days afterwards and watched her move her offspring to the living plant and stay in one spot for weeks on end. I also did a little research and discovered she was a green lynx spider. She stayed in her spot for months, and then finally she moved on and I didn’t see her again until just the other day, when I discovered her, or one of her children, at the base of the passion vine. After observing her for many days, in one particular spot, I watched her catching and eating a cabbage butterfly. I felt like I was visiting with an old friend. I also felt so rich from the simple observation of the interconnected workings of my little passion bush. Butterflies, spiders, bees, me, and many more, all working together in the web of life to keep one another in health and balance, which includes a fair amount of death and destruction in the process of balancing the overall whole.
In addition to all this exciting activity with the butterflies and spiders, I harvested flowers and made a tincture from the blossoms, which is almost ready to filter and bottle (the picture on the top left above, with a stone to hold the blossoms under the menstruum). I also dried some of the leaves for tea. Passion flower is a powerful anti anxiety helper, as well as a gentle and effective sleep aid. A dropper full of tincture in warm water before bed can help with relaxation and sleep, or the same dose during the day if anxiety is arising can help to calm the nerves and ground the fear.
May your oncoming Autumn be filled with golden light and the wealth of the natural world. May you nourish all you meet and be nourished by them in turn. Om Shanti. ~Liz