April 21st, 2006
April Showers Bring Question Marks

photo: question mark butterfly
Question mark butterflies, Polygonia interrogationis, are attracted to hackberry trees.

We had wild storms last night and good soaking rain. Today I spent all afternoon enjoying weeding in the garden. It’s not a chore when the ground is so moist and giving. All sorts of butterflies were out, too.

I’m ashamed to say that I know almost no butterflies by name. Nor do I find the internet a good tool for learning about them because the sites I visited assume that you’re starting with a name.

So I can’t pay homage to butterflies as I should. To know something’s name is to distinguish it from all else. Butterflies remain to me more of a general idea than groups of specific instances. The only way I can “see” what I’m looking at is to take a photo.

Maybe one of you can tell me this ones name, so that when next I see it, I’ll smile in recognition.

by M Sinclair Stevens

2 Responses to post “April Showers Bring Question Marks”

  1. From Annie in Austin:

    I am pretty sure it is a Question Mark. Isn’t that a great name????????

    Jenny, another Texas Gardener, has a cool site for identifying butterflies.

    But there was an even better photo at a University of Kentucky site, although it was not as nice as yours.

    It was still too wet for me to weed–over 3 inches of rain and two separate hail storms beat the heck out of my caladiums. Not on the same level as those folks in San Marcos with the grapefruit sized hail, so I should just be grateful for the rain!

    Thanks, Annie! I knew my readers would come though for me. Yep, that’s exactly it. A question mark. Which is funny because when I was naming the photo file that’s what I wanted to call it. “Butterfly ?” I love learning something new. Some of the information you linked to said that a host plant is hackberry. I have plenty of those. I did look at Jenny Rasmussen’s site, but I would never have recognized the question mark from her photo. It looks completely different with its wings folded and viewed from the side, doesn’t it. — mss

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    M., this was a butterfly I had previously seen and identified a few years ago, back when we lived in the hills. Our last house was a few miles from here and there were hackberry trees there. So all I needed was a ‘brain jog’.

    Although I couldn’t have figured it out from Jenny’s photo without a prior encounter, the reason she shows the folded wings is that there is supposed to be a tiny white question mark visible when the wings are together. Other butterflies look similar but have a comma instead, so they are called Commas. But it is too difficult for me to see this!