Thursday, February 25, 2010

Butterflies, Marigolds and Tomatoes

Yesterday afternoon was lovely and warm. Outside I saw the first monarch butterfly of the season. I also noticed another strange butterfly fluttering past. I know that New Zealand does not have many butterflies - only 17 have been recorded, some very rare, compared with Britain’s 69.

Research suggests the this one was probably a glabe copper. The same research reveals that the one which up till now I’ve called a red admiral is probably a New Zealand copper. Apparently the red admiral larva requires nettles, and as far as I know there is none around here. The other possibility is a painted lady, a recent immigrant from Australia.

The gloomy summer has meant few ripening tomatoes on the two plants that Anne has in pots. Lots of flowers and green ones. When I used to grow them in the old house veggie patch, I planted African marigolds alongside as companion plants to repel eelworms and insect pests. It’s not just eelworms that this plant repels. No dog will cock its leg over it either. This marigold actually comes from Central America; the Spanish took it home and from there it was taken to North Africa, where it did very well. When botanists found it there, they assumed it was a native.

The tomato also originally came from Central America. Once an Italian restaurateur told us proudly that the tomato had been the secret of Italian cuisine ever since Ancient Rome became a republic. I didn’t have the heart to disillusion him.

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