- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
As the long, hot days of summer slide into cooler, shorter days of autumn, seasonal changes are occurring in my garden. Not as many plants are blooming, the leaves on deciduous trees and plants are becoming drier and starting to change color. Some plants are producing autumn berries that will sustain many birds as insects, another source of food, begin to disappear.
Quite a few butterflies have been showing up in my garden to take advantage of flowers that are still blooming. Butterflies I have been seeing include painted ladies (Vanessa cardui), common buckeyes (Junonia coenia), fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus)and cabbage whites (Pieris rapae).
With the advent of winter, butterflies disappear since they cannot tolerate temperatures below 55°F or rainy weather. So, what happens to butterflies in the winter???
Some Butterflies Migrate
Some butterfly adults migrate south, overwintering in warmer climates.
Monarch butterflies are known for their astonishingly long spring and fall migrations. Both the eastern monarchs and western monarchs began their southern migrations in late August or early September from southern Canada/northern USA to their overwintering sites. The eastern variety generally heads to the oyamel fir forests in the mountains of central Mexico, whereas the western Pacific species have a shorter journey to California's coastline. You may see some western monarchs this fall resting or feeding on flowers in your garden as they fly through the Central Valley on their way their overwintering sites in coastal areas such as Santa Cruz, Pacific Grove, Pismo Beach, and San Diego.
Other Winter Strategies
Most butterflies spend winter in the same area they spent summer.
Some lay their eggs in autumn on, or close to, their specific host plants with the eggs hatching the following spring. The common hairstreak (Satyrium californica) eggs are laid attached to twigs of oaks with the caterpillars feeding on newly emerged spring leaves.
Some butterflies weather the cold as pupa within a chrysalis in a sheltered spot. During this time, the pupa will enter diapause (where development stops). An antifreeze chemical in their blood allows them to survive cold temperatures. Once the days lengthen, it will resume its transformation, emerging as an adult just as in time for blooming flowers that provide nectar. The tiger swallowtail's chrysalis (Papilio rutulus) will take refuge in deep shrubbery. The anise swallowtails (Papilio zelicaon) and cabbage whites also generally overwinter as a pupa in their chrysalis. Fiery skippers usually overwinter as pupae buried in leaves, but some adults will migrate to southern California.
Mourning cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa)go into dormancy as an adult. Their blood also contains an anti-freeze. They tuck themselves into cracks and crevices of rocks and trees.
Leaving the Leaves
- Learn which butterflies live in your area and grow native plants for those specific species.
- Offer nectar plants in the fall and spring months for butterflies that are migrating, emerging from overwintering, or getting ready to go into winter dormancy/hibernation.
- Skip raking the leaves in your garden in autumn and leave standing plants alone until midspring, so overwintering butterfly larvae, pupae and adults have a place to hide. If leaving the leaves on your lawn is too messy for you, consider not disturbing the leaves in your planters.
- If you find what looks like a dead chrysalis (many resemble dead leaves) in your yard, garage, shed, do not disturb it. A butterfly may well emerge in the spring.
- Avoid using pesticides as much as possible.
- Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site: https://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/butterflies
- Butterflies in Your Garden, Publication from UCCE Stanislaus County :https://ucanr.edu/sites/CEStanislausCo/files/345791.pdf
- Xerces Society - Pollinator Plants: Central Valley of California: https://xerces.org/publications/plant-lists/ppbi-california-central-valley
- California Native Plant Society: https://www.cnps.org/
- UC Davis Arboretum – Larval Hosts for Butterflies: https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/blog/larval-host-plants-butterflies
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener in Stanislaus County since 2020./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
Precautions and Harvesting Review
A reminder: before consuming edible flowers, one should always proceed with caution. The flowers should come only from your garden or other trusted sources that have not been sprayed with pesticides. Many flowers share common names, so always look for the scientific name (genus and species) to ensure you have the right flowers, since not all flowers are edible.
Harvest fully opened flowers in the morning right after the dew has dried. Carefully wash them, and as needed remove the stamens, styles, pistils, and sepals (the parts that hold the pollen and the green stems that hold petals together). Use as soon as possible for maximum flavor.
Edible Flowers from Fruits & Vegetables
- Squash flowers are often used in Mexican and Latin American cuisine. Use male flowers that have been removed after pollination. They can be stuffed with a variety of foods, and fried or baked as appetizers and side dishes. In addition to being delicious, they look stunning.
- Pea flowers: Rather than letting some flowers become pea pods, pick a few of these flowers to add a mild pea flavor to a salad.
- Onion/Chive flowers are grown primarily for their bulbs or stems. However, the flowers, along with other parts of the plants from this family have a mild garlic or onion flavor that works well in a range of recipes. Some varieties can remain green all year, thus providing a year-round source of flavor for salads, soups, etc.
- Elderflowers are one of the most common examples of edible flowers and are used in a wide range of drinks such as elderflower cordial or syrups.
- Cherry blossoms are also edible from fruiting cherry trees. They are often an ingredient in Japanese cuisine. They can be pickled in salt and vinegar.
- The blossoms from fruiting plums, peach, citrus, and apple trees, and almond trees are also sometimes eaten, but are generally used as garnish or decoration.
Don't Forget Flowers from “Weeds!”
- Dandelion leaves and green ends of the flowers are bitter, while the petals and stamen have a mildly sweet flavor. Like elderberry, dandelion flowers can be used to make cordials or syrups.
- The daisies you might find all over your lawn have little flowers that can be eaten in salads or sandwiches.
- Clover flowers, both the white and red varieties, are both suitable for eating. The red flowers are the most flavorful and can be used in teas, syrups and a range of desserts.
As the two articles from last week and this week on edible flowers show, there is an incredible array of flowers you can choose from to expand your meals, desserts, and decorate your plates. Your local library is a good source for books for ideas, preparation, and recipes. I'm looking forward to collecting summer squash flowers from our vegetable garden, stuffing them, and grilling them!
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a Stanislaus County Master Gardener since 2020./h3>/h3>/h3>
Hibiscus are one of many flowers that are edible. Edible flowers can be used to add color, fragrance, flavor, and texture to foods. They can be added to soups and salads raw, used in entreés or desserts, make tea or flavored water, candied, breaded, or fried. They have the benefit of often being healthy while providing few calories.
Before consuming edible flowers, one should always proceed with caution. As with any new food item, slowly introduce specific flowers to the diet to see if any allergic reactions occur. The flowers should come from your garden or trusted source that has not been sprayed with pesticides. Do not use flowers from plants or bouquets that have been purchased from a floral shop, nursery, or garden center, as they may have been treated with pesticides. Many flowers share common names, so always look for the scientific name (genus and species) to ensure you have the right flower.
Choose flowers that have just fully opened, harvesting in morning right after the dew has dried. Flowers need to be carefully washed out, and in many cases, remove the stamens, styles, pistils, and sepals (the parts that hold the pollen and the green stems that hold petals together). Use as soon as possible for maximum flavor.
So Many Flower Choices!
Nasturtiums: these flowers have a delicious, peppery taste similar to watercress and their colorful blooms look lovely in summer salads.
Pansies: come in a wide range of colors with a mild lettuce-like taste which makes them popular for salads. The entire flower can be used.
Marigolds: some varieties have better flavors than others, so experimenting is a must. French marigolds have a bright, citrus-like flavor and a colorful addition to salads. The petals can be cooked in dishes and are sometimes referred to as “poor man's saffron.” Dried petals of African marigolds can be used to make a tea.
Dianthus or pinks: Their petals can be steeped in wine or sugared for use in cake decorations. The petals are unexpectedly sweet, if the bitter white base of the flowers is cut off.
Honeysuckle blossoms, as the name suggests, have a honey-like flavor. They bring a fragrant sweetness to jams, jellies, cakes, candies, and other sweet treats.
Roses: are often used in Middle Eastern dishes in the form of rose water which can add an intense flavor to a dish. The petals can also be sugared or used as garnishes.
Lavender: not only smells wonderful, but English and French lavenders have a sweet flavor used in a wide range of baked goods, ice creams and other recipes. However, use sparingly, as the flavor can be overpowering.
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a Stanislaus County Master Gardener with UC Cooperative Extension since 2020.
- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
With their complex social structure and “waggle dance” to inform hive members where food sources are located, honeybees are fascinating creatures.
But honeybees are not the only bees flitting about the flowers on our crops and in our gardens in search of nectar. There over 4,000 species of bees in California.
There are over 1,600 species of native bees in California. Unlike honeybees and Bumble bees, most are solitary in nature, and do not produce honey or wax for consumption by others. In North America, only the European honeybee and Bumble bees build hives and live in colonies.
There are 3 basic types of bee nesting:
- Ground nesting bees, which make up 70% of bees. Mining bees are an example of these.
- Stem and wood nesting bees, such as leaf cutter bees or mason bees, make up another 30% of bees.
- Colony nesting bees, such as honeybees and bumble bees make up less than 1% of all bees in North America.
Bees are in Trouble
Some ways you can help:
- Plant a garden full of flowering plants to attract bees and other important pollinators. Make sure you have something bloom during the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
- If you use a pesticide, choose one that is less toxic such as a horticultural soap or oil.
- Provide a space for nesting bees, with bee houses and bare patches of soil.
Upcoming Bee Talk
Date: Wednesday, September 14
Time: 3:15 – 4:15pm
Location: Modesto Junior College West Campus, 2201 Blue Gum Ave., Science Community Center in room 115
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a Master Gardener in Stanislaus County since 2020.
Native (Bee) Pollinators
Take a quiz on your knowledge of native bee pollinators, learn about the three types of pollinator nesting, and see examples of what types of plants pollinators prefer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOGDSNJJoh8&t=6s
Planting for Pollinators
Learn about the local native bee pollinators and hummingbirds you might see in your backyard, and what kind of plants they prefer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naL3BM5aP-s&t=5s
Butterflies in Your Garden
Find out how to have more butterflies in your garden, by learning which plants are required for butterflies to complete their lifecycle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHXSdtxicII&t=6s
Download the handouts from any of our classes by visiting our Classes and Workshops web page at https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Classes/
This post was originally published on June 24, 2021./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>