A visit by a distinguished earl
Updated on November 10, 2011:
A new butterfly has blessed Dokmai Garden with its presence. Many times while walking through the passage between the Orchid Ark nursery and an old longan tree (Dimocarpus longan, Sapindaceae) I have seen brown butterflies with a light blue or turquoise border on the hind wings. Yesterday I got an opportunity to photograph one. It is the male of the uncommon ‘Common Earl’ (Tanaecia julii, Nymphalidae). The female lacks the blue border.
The butterfly was described by Lesson in 1837, and is reported from India and Southeast Asia. Many varieties are described and this blue subspecies xiphiones is hitherto only reported from peninsular Thailand. Often when new butterfly species find their way to Dokmai Garden it is due to the presence of their food plant. With over 1000 plant species and no pesticides we offer an appealing buffet. It was hard to find data about this butterfly’s host plant, but the larva seems to prefer members of the Sapotaceae family.
Mimusops elengi (bullet wood or pikun in Thai) is the only Asian representative of this family in the garden, but we have many South American and African species. Indeed the trees look a bit ‘experienced’, but if that is due to the baby larvae of this flying flower, then I am happy to trade leaves for butterflies.
Text and Photo: Eric Danell