There are more than a few Bradford pear trees on our 84 acre campus. One, a volunteer that sprouted next to our north parking lot has been dropping fruit. The rotting fruit is attracting flies, bees, and butterflies. One butterfly in particular is the question mark. It belongs to a group of butterflies known as anglewings, referring to the angular edges of the wings.
Question marks are named for small whitish markings on the underwings, a “c” and a dot. Together, the two marks resemble a question mark.
Here’s a closer view.
Both the common name (question mark) and specific scientific name (Polygonia interrogationis) refer to the mark on the wing. The genus part of the scientific name (Polygonia) refers to the angled wings (many angle).
Bradford pear trees are common yet non-native trees. Their white clustered flowers can be seen across the landscape as early as February and March up and down suburban and urban American streets. They’re extensively planted as shade trees.
They’re meant to be an ornamental, planted for their early blooming flowers and thick foliage. They have tiny (about 1/2″) inedible and sterile fruit. The problem is they cross-pollinate with other pears in the area and some trees actually produce viable fruit. They’re considered an invasive tree when they behave in that manner.