My Experience Growing Native Passionflower for Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Habitat

I have never raised butterflies before. Actually, I had my heart set on raising edible plants. Passionfruit are similar to pomegranate, with juicy sacs around the seeds. However, I discovered that a certain butterfly's larvae exclusively eat this plant and are very plentiful in my area.

In late Spring 2018, I dug up 3 passionflower vines from a nearby clearcut and transplanted them in my front yard. By the time the plants outgrew my store-bought trellis, the caterpillars arrived! They ate the plants til they were nearly bare. The caterpillar population declined, the plants grew back, then the caterpillars came again. This time, they did eat the plants until they were completely void of leaves. I spent this first year observing the population increase & decline and the status of the plants.

in Spring 2019, more than 3 passionflower vines have sprouted near the transplants from last year! They must have developed a good root system before the caterpillars stripped the leaves. I now have 7 individual vines! These vines are behind those growing in the clearcut, which already have rigid semi-woody vines, stiff tendrils, and many flowers. They are long enough to climb the nearby shrubs/saplings. Meanwhile, 4 of my vines are 5 ft long, most of which is still fairly flexible for training on the trellis. I have 1 open flower and several buds. 3 vines are new sprouts.

I observed the caterpillar population last year, rather than interfere, because I wanted to find out how many caterpillars the plants could sustain (and, of course, I didn't have the heart to thin them out, condemning some caterpillars to starvation). I expected to replant this year due to the devastation the caterpillars caused, but was pleasantly surprised to find the plants grew even more stems from the roots!

I did not observe many pupae transform into adult butterflies in 2018. Most of those that made it to pupa stage must have died while inside the chrysalis. I only found 3 empty chrysalides. I did not see any new butterflies drying their wings.

This year, I will tally the pupae and empty pupae. It's nice to know how many made it to adulthood. I could also tally the total caterpillars observed each day, after all, I count them anyway just for fun. I won't be able to get an accurate success ratio, though. The caterpillar numbers go up and down daily depending on new hatches and predation. There is no cover to protect them from hungry birds. Therefore, I don't actually know the starting number of caterpillars to compare with the ending number of empty chrysalides.

Posted by redpenny redpenny, May 22, 2019 16:05


Photos / Sounds


Purple Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)




April 15, 2019 05:30 PM CDT


Plant is about 2 weeks old. Dug up from the wild last year, transplanted, and regrew this year. It will be trained on a trellis then used to provide food/habitat for Gulf Fritillary butterfly.


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