By Mary Reid Barrow
A beautiful red-spotted purple butterfly loped across my driveway, looking for fallen persimmons.
It didn’t fly from persimmon to persimmon. It walked, more like a dog on the hunt.
Whenever the butterfly found one of the fruits, or the remains of one, it would put its head down to nectar.
This butterfly, so graceful on the wing, rolled as it strolled, its wings going from side to side in drunken fashion. When it stopped to nectar, it also reminded me of a hunting dog, because it looked just like it was sniffing when it took quick sips of a persimmon.
Most butterflies appreciate nectaring on fruit, but I have read that red-spotted purples particularly like it. This one sure did savor the tart little native persimmons that litter the end of my driveway after the first nor’easter blows through.
I don’t see red-spotted purples as often as I see butterflies like monarchs or our several swallowtails. At first I wonder if it’s not a pipevine or black swallowtail, but I know it’s not. It has no tails. Instead, the most beautiful iridescent blue radiates up from base of its black wings. Its underwings feature bright orange-red spots, thus its name.
As for my persimmon trees, they are natives, not the big orange Japanese persimmons. Instead, they are the ones that Captain John Smith said would “draw a man’s mouth awrie” if it weren’t ripe.
And they are the persimmons of the old country song about the ‘possum up a ‘simmon tree and a raccoon at the bottom waiting for them to fall.
If the critters don’t get them when they fall, the squishy seedy fruits make a mess of the driveway and are no fun to step on by mistake.
Sometimes I wonder why I don’t just cut it down. But then I see something like this red-spotted purple on the hunt, and I know why I don’t.
Here’s a quick video of the little butterfly looking for its sweets: