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Gulf Fritillary

Years ago I planted a Passiflora x ‘Incense’ which is a hybrid of Passiflora incarnata and Passiflora cinnicata. What I did not know at the time was how aggressive this plant is in Houston. While it has the most beautifully complex flowers I’ve ever seen, it is becoming a BIG problem in the garden. It has taken over all three Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) on my driveway and is now moving around to the front of the house covering my azaleas (Azalea indica ‘Formosa’) and Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica ‘Clara’). Fortunately it dies back in winter, and I’ll have a chance to cut it back, but the seedlings are popping up all over the garden. Wish I had keep this one in a container from the start.

passion flower incense

While doing some reading on this plant, I found that the Gulf Fritllary (Agraulis vanillae incarnata) butterfly uses it as a host plant. Perhaps that is why I’ve seen so many of these small orange and black butterflies in the garden this month. They are not much to look at from the back, mostly orange and black, but wait until you see the underside of the wings. That is where they shine.


While I know that I have to control the growth of the Passionflower, part of me wants to provide as much of a habitat for the butterflies as possible. They are so beautiful and elegant to watch. This one posed for a few photographs that really showed just how delicate and intricate they are.






I love the vibrant color and detail on not only the wings, but the body and head too.


14 thoughts on “Gulf Fritillary”

  1. These are such pretty butterflies. I liked them so much a picture of one was my header photo last year. My passion vine did not return this year:( but I’ve been seeing some of these butterflies on my sedum.

  2. The Passiflora flowers are enough to make me want to grow it. Too bad the winters here are well beyond it’s range.

    Nice catch getting that fritllary posed with wings folded up. I’ve seen similar butterflies but none have let me get a look at their undies yet. Glad you cropped the photo to show the pretty face too.

    1. Passiflora is easy to grow from seed, so perhaps you can save the seeds before winter sets for next year?

  3. What amazing photographs. The flowers are so pretty, it is hard to believe they can take over so much in so little time. I always hate getting rid of those kind of invaders because, a flower is a flower, but you are smart to control them. The butterflies have to make it even harder to destroy them. Great post!

  4. I love both the Gulf fritillaries and ‘Incense’, but I had to remove ‘Incense’ from my old garden. As you have found, it was simply too aggressive and seedlings popped up everywhere. Luckily, other passionflowers are better behaved.

  5. Such a wonderful display of butterfly and flower. Looking at big bulging and colorful eyes of the butterfly, make us wonder what is BEAUTY through that lovely eye! ~ bangchik

  6. Your photos are so beautiful. I especially love your photos of the Gulf Fritillary. We get them here in Phoenix too.

  7. Meredith/Great Stems

    Jacqueline, I love those butterfly photos. I swear, he’s staring at me.
    The Passiflora that is native to Texas is Maypop. From everything I’ve heard, it’s much better behaved. It’s hard to find in nurseries except on occasion, but you can get the seeds from Native American Seeds (www.seedsource.com). My last one died (because I was foolish and didn’t give it proper care), but I’ve got new seeds to try again with.

    1. I thought the same thing. I was so lucky to have been there with the camera. I just took a rapid succession of shots as close as I could in hopes of getting some clear ones. It worked.

  8. The Passiflora is truly a beautiful bloom! It’s too bad it is so invasive. It makes you enjoy it less! Hopefully it doesn’t have such a deep root system that you will be able to control it. The butterflies are incredible. You are right, the underside of the wings are amazing! Your camera captured its beauty so well. Loved the up close pictures but the closer it got, the spookier it’s eyes got! Ewww, a shiver went up my spine 🙂 Butterflies are gorgeous creatures, tho!

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