Butterfly vines and Swallowtail butterflies

We have been growing a particular vine, for years, just for the Birdwing butterflies whose caterpillars depend on it. Just what the vine is called and which butterflies depend on it are, however, recurring questions – for us as well as for the many other people who love the butterflies. This post pulls together information from botanical and entomological books and websites to try to settle both questions.

Very briefly, all species of butterflies in one group of Swallowtail butterflies have specialised to feed exclusively on one group of closely related plants. The butterflies are the Troidini, a “tribe” (in scientific language that’s a level between “family” and “genus”) of Swallowtails (Papilionidae) and the plants are the Birthworts (Aristolochiaceae).

Our Troidini are the Clearwing Swallowtail (Cressida cressida), Red-bodied Swallowtail (Atrophaneura polydorus) and all of the Birdwings (Ornithoptera species). The Aristolochiaceae we’re interested in are in the genus Aristolochia, or used to be, and many of them are known as Dutchman’s Pipe vines.

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Burdekin Plum Jam

Having collected and ripened enough Burdekin Plums to make some jam, as described in my previous post, I began experimenting. My results after many hours of simmering were mixed – but that’s what experimenting is all about, isn’t it?

Burdekin Plum Jam Recipe 1 – Del Turnbull

Big panful of ripe plums
Water
Sugar
Jamsetta [pectin]

Cover plums with water and boil gently for 1 ½ hours.
Strain and measure juice. (Put fruit out for wallabies, they love them.)
To every 5 cups of juice add 4 ½ cups sugar and ½ pkt of jamsetta.
Boil for 10 mins, try on a saucer in the fridge. If the surface doesn’t crinkle, boil another 5 mins and try again.
When it crinkles pour into preheated sterilised jars (in oven at 50 deg for 10 mins).
And that’s it.

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Burdekin Plum

I was introduced to the Burdekin Plum fairly soon after arriving in Townsville so I’ve known the fruit for twenty-five years or more, but somehow without getting around to eating one or knowing much about them.

A bucket of Burdekin Plums, many of them quite under-ripe

That looked like it would change when we moved into a house that had a big tree in the neighbour’s yard, overhanging our roof, and the time has come: we had the tree trimmed last week and picked up a couple of buckets of fruit afterwards, too many to ignore.

History and botany

The Burdekin Plum, Pleiogynium timoriense, is native to coastal Queensland and its range extends through New Guinea, the Pacific Islands and Indonesia to Malaysia. It has been here, with surprisingly little change to the fruit, for at least thirty million years according to Andrew Rozefelds and Ngaire Kane whose article gives the best introduction to the species I have found.

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Backyard bananas – an update

Anyone searching Green Path for “banana” will get a lot of results but none which give any sense of what has been happening in my garden recently. A reader sent me a compliment, a request and an offer (all in one email), so I thought I could reply here, via a general update on my backyard banana growing.

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Anderson Park Botanical Gardens and Conservatory

Anderson Park is the largest of the three botanical gardens managed by Townsville City Council. We have been conveniently close to it in Mundingburra for so long that we take it for granted but a couple of recent visits reminded us how pleasant it is; reminded us, too, of the Conservatory and the exotic fruit garden.

Bismarkia and other palms in Anderson Park
Bismarkia and other palms

The Conservatory

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