Two Exotics

Passion flower, or passion vine, is a fast growing vine native to the south east. It climbs, but doesn’t need to in order to bloom. I often find it sprawled along the ground hidden by the local weeds of the season, the flower peeking out from behind a mass of greenery. Its showy flower is edible. It’s visited by bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and songbirds.

To my eye, passion flower looks primordial, otherworldly, certainly tropical. Actually, most species of passion vine occur in Central and South America, the neotropics. I know of two here in North Carolina, the one shown (Passiflora incarnata) and yellow passion vine (passiflora lutea). There are hundreds of other species south of the border.

Passion vine is the host to several species of butterfly, including variegated fritillary and gulf fritillary. They lay their eggs on the plant and the larvae eat the leaves.

A native tropical flower, passion vine.

The last time I saw a gray petaltail at the museum was in April of 2011, on the Dinosaur Trail. And then, I wasn’t sure it was actually a gray petaltail. It never perched, so I didn’t get a good look at it. All I remember is seeing a large gray dragonfly zoom by me as I walked the trail. They are, though, unique in being the only large dragonfly in the area which is gray and black. What else could it have been?

Gray petaltail.

It’s perhaps appropriate that I saw the gray petal tail on the Dinosaur Trail. The family of dragonfly of which gray petaltail belongs (Petaluridae) has been around at least since the Jurassic. They were zipping and cruising around the ancient swamps and fens with the dinosaurs, over 150 million years ago.

The family name Petaluridae breaks down to mean petalon=leaf ura=tail, abdomen. And of course idae=offsrping, indicating family, that is, petaltail family.

Gray petaltails like to perch vertically on tree trunks, making them nearly invisible when perched and motionless on a tree with gray bark. It’s likely I walk past them more than I know.

The gray petaltail in the photo was spotted as it landed on a railing.

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