Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)
I feel like I finally landed my white whale! I've been trying to get a decent shot of one of these guys all summer, but it just wasn't happening.. seems like they'd flutter away as soon as I got close. Then the other day as I was leaving work, I pulled up to our parking lot security guard shack, and saw this guy floating around the container garden placed at the rear of the shack. (Incidentally, I planted this container, too... the guard shack is rather barren and dull, so each season I do two containers to place at the east and west ends to brighten the area up a bit - some of our security guards have become quite avid butterfly watchers now!)
I admired the butterfly, started to pull through, then thought "no, no, I can't do it..." so I backed up, parked the car, and hopped out with my camera to try for a shot or two - and got these!
The zebra swallowtail is the state butterfly of Tennessee. They are becoming rarely seen in urban areas as development destroys stands of their only host plant, the pawpaw (Asimina triloba). Pawpaws are native to (and grow quite happily in) the entire eastern half of the United States, west to Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The range for the zebra swallowtail is exactly the same - as long as their host plant is available! So if you live in this area but hardly ever see these beauties, plant a pawpaw!
(Pawpaws can be hard to find, but they ARE available! Order them online from TyTy nusery, or bug one of your local nurseries to get some in...)