Parsley is one of the most well-known herbs, and if you missed the fall planting, there is still time to choose a preferred selection for late winter/spring planting.
An herbaceous biennial, parsley is an easy herb for containers or small garden spaces. You may purchase a small pot at the nursery or grow from seed. Realize that seeds do best when soaked in warm water for 24 hours prior to planting and may not germinate for several weeks. Be sure to mark the area well so you remember not to overplant with another herb or vegetable.
Choose an area or soil that allows for good drainage and full sun in the cooler months. During the heat of summer, parsley does prefer a little break from afternoon sun. Consider planting in pots so plants can be moved during the hottest months. Plants will prefer water during times when rainfall is lacking, but the taproot does allow the plant to survive some drought.
There are different types of parsley you may choose but the most common types sold in stores are the curled leaf parsley and the Italian parsley. The Italian parsley has a stronger flavor and holds up a little better during cooking.
Curled leaf parsley
Parsley is an attractive plant as a garden border or in a mixed container but will likely have a visitor during the warmer season that will feed on the leaves. The black swallowtail butterfly will use parsley as a host plant so plant enough to share with the butterflies.
Attracting Butterflies into Your Landscape
Have you been itching to add some life and color into your landscape? Why not plant a butterfly garden?! Butterfly gardens are a great way to add movement and life to an otherwise stagnant landscape. Most butterfly gardens are not only an attractant for our Florida butterflies, but are also a magnet for hummingbirds and beneficial insects. To start your garden all you need are a few key plants.
Gulf Fritillary. Photo Courtesy Scott Jackson.
Incorporate at least one host plant and one nectar plant into your garden. The host plant provides a suitable habitat for the female butterfly to lay her eggs. These eggs will hatch and the baby caterpillars will eat the leaves of the host plant. Host plants are often not as showy as nectar plants, nor are they even necessary to attract adult butterflies. However, while nectar plants invite butterflies into your garden to feed, host plants offer them a reason to stay and reproduce. And you can watch this entire cycle unfold in your own garden!
Most of your butterfly attractant plants will do best in full sun to partial shade. Try not to apply pesticides in areas where you want to maintain healthy caterpillar/butterfly populations. Providing water for butterflies is very important and easily done. One option is to fill a clay tray with sand and then place a rock in the center, where the butterfly can perch. Keep the sand wet, but avoid standing water. Feel free to contact your local extension office for more information on our winged friends!
Zebra Longwing, our state butterfly! Photo courtesy Scott Jackson.
Here are a few examples of butterflies and their preferred host plants:
o Host Plants – Fennel, Parsley, Bishopsweed
o Host Plants – Pawpaw
o Host Plants – Wild Lime, Hercules-club, Citrus spp.
o Host Plants – Ash, Black Cherry, Tulip tree, Sweetbay Magnolia
o Host Plants – Partridge Pea, Cassia
o Host Plants – Passion Vines
- Zebra Longwing (State Butterfly of Florida)
o Host Plants – Passion Vines
o Host Plants – Milkweed, Butterfly Weed
Here are nectar plants that will have the butterflies swarming to your garden:
- Blanket Flower
- Sage (Salvia spp.)
- Butterfly Bush
- Blazing Star
- Stoke’s Aster
Second instar, Black Swallowtail larva. Image Credit Matthew orwat
Busily devouring dill and fennel, the lime green, black striped caterpillars in the UF IFAS Extension Washington County Office have quickly become a popular attraction. It is fortunate that the South’s climate is warm enough to allow for three generations of this species every year.
Larvae Busily Devouring Dill. Image Credit Matthew Orwat
Soon, the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes asterius ) butterfly species will continue their pupae stage by forming a chrysalis and emerging as one of Florida’s most recognized swallowtail butterflies.
The chrysalis is formed by two glands located inside the caterpillar that secrete silk. The silk threads stick together and harden when exposed to fresh air. The hard, protective coating is usually camouflaged from predators and blends in with the environment. Inside the chrysalis, the process of metamorphosis continues as the adult structure forms while the juvenile structure breaks down. The insects are very inactive during this time as they grow and change. This stage can last from two weeks to an entire season in temperate climates and tropical dry seasons. When hormones indicate it’s ready, the butterfly emerges by splitting the chrysalis open either biting its way out or using spit to soften the ends.
Green Chrysalis. Image Credit Don Hall UF IFAS
The Black swallowtail has quite a heavy appetite for such a small creature. They eat a variety of plants in the carrot family (Apiaceae) such as dill, fennel, parsley, celery, and carrot leaf. In addition to these cultivated species, they will feast on mock bishopweed, roughfruit scaleseed, spotted water hemlock, water cowbane, and wedgeleaf eryngo. They have also been known to enjoy Common Rue (Ruta graveolens L.).
They exhibit several interesting behaviors throughout their life cycle. For example, when they feel threatened the Black Swallowtail larvae will exhibit yellow antennae-like structures called osmeterium. These flare out and emit a foul odor, like rotten cheese, if one’s finger gets too close.
Osmeterium on display. Image Credit Matthew Orwat
Even though they are voracious plant eaters and honorable defenders of their territory, butterflies play a vital role in agriculture by pollinating crops and flowers. They’re an indicator of a healthy ecosystem; an abundance and diversity of butterfly species illustrate the overall health of an area. With their acute sensitivity to contaminants and toxins, butterfly populations will not be found in polluted areas. Recognized for their beauty, butterfly watching has also become a popular hobby and pastime.
Photo courtesy of Donald Hall, University of Florida.
It’s never too early to think about planning a butterfly garden. For more information on creating a backyard butterfly habitat, download this 4-H fact sheet for kids and parents. For more information on this specific butterfly, visit the UF IFAS EDIS website for a publication on the Eastern Black Swallwtail.
Additional Content by:
Julie Pigott Dillard, Director, UF IFAS Extension Washington County