BOOK REVIEW: “Native Host Plants for Texas Butterflies: A Field Guide”

What can I say? I love Texas! I am a Rhode Island native and in 2017 and 2018 I visited Austin and all of the night life it had to offer. During the day my girlfriend and I would go hiking, checking under rocks and logs for scorpions and tarantulas. In addition, we were always on the lookout for the local butterflies, hoping to see something we wouldn’t normally see in New England. One of my favorite parts of travelling is experiencing insects and arachnids that I’m not accustomed to.

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Something else I have been pretty clear about on here is my love of field guides, especially when it comes to butterflies. “Native Host Plants for Texas Butterflies” was a book that came up as a recommendation for me on Amazon and since it features two of my favorite things, I knew I wanted to check it out. In the past few years I have become very interested in guides covering smaller areas than just the east or west coast of the United States, knowing that they can be more complete in their information.

Even though I am a Rhode Islander, field guides to other parts of the country are always fun as oftentimes, butterflies that are common here can be found elsewhere and it is always interesting to see what are accepted as food plants in other states as compared to Rhode Island. Since there aren’t many books available just on butterfly foodplants, I thought this book would be a great addition to my entomology library.

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I will admit that initially I was thrown off by this book when I started to read it as to up to this point, I have only used field guides of butterflies whereas each butterfly species entry featured a few accepted foodplants. This book goes the opposite direction by showing the plant and then emphasizing the butterflies that use it as a caterpillar foodplant. Though this format took a little to get used to, I actually now prefer it and wish more books were available following this style.

This book is key for anyone from Texas who wants to do some butterfly gardening. Most people miss the fact that successful butterfly gardening is more than just adding some butterfly bushes and pollinator flowers to your yard. Though these plants will most certainly attract these flying beauties to your garden, unless there are also plants for these butterflies to lay their eggs on, their visits will be short lived. The pollinator flowers will attract the butterflies to your yard; the foodplants will keep them there! So what do you want? Occasional visitors or season-long residents? This book will help assure you get the latter.

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This book features 101 native plants to Texas that butterfly caterpillars use for food. Each entry is very detailed and never gets scientific; this is a very user-friendly guide. Multiple pictures are used to display the plant in question, showing leaves, stalks, flowers and where necessary seed pods and fruits.  There is then a map of Texas not only showing the eco-regions of Texas but also where the said plant can be found. Then there are seven categories (Description, Leaves, Flowers, Fruits, Habitat, Other Common Names and Remarks).

The Description category is just that, a description of the plant as a whole. Leaves describe the leaves in a clear and concise manner, though the pictures for me work better. The Flowers section not only describes the flowers but also tells what the blooming season is. Under Fruits, sizes and shapes are described as well as what the resulting seeds look like. The Habitat section describes where these plants can be found in nature and is a great cross-reference as to how it will do in your home, based on where you live compared to the native-range. Other Common Names is an important category as most animal and plant species feature multiple common names so this will help better identify the plant for those who do not like using the scientific names. Lastly is the Remarks section, that features all other pertinent information concerning the plants. Most are fun facts, adding to the interest of these plants.

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Lastly, for each entry, are the butterflies themselves. The adult butterfly and its respective caterpillar are shown. In most cases, only one or two species are shown with photos but then there is one more category called “Additional butterflies.” Here the common names of any additional butterflies that use the said plant as food. These butterflies, though not illustrated in one entry, are shown elsewhere in the book. In fact, this is my only complaint about the book. In my opinion, next to the name of the butterfly in this section should be a page number where the reader can go elsewhere in the book to see it’s images. Though you can always look the common name up in the index to find where it is shown (the page number with the image is in italics), by providing a page number next to the name will help finding the species quicker.

Despite the minor complaint, this book deserves to be in everyone’s library. Jim Weber, Lynne Weber and Roland H. Wauer have a masterpiece on their hands. I cannot recommend this book enough and I am truly hoping that other authors will take notice of this book and it’s format and follow suit, covering more areas of the United States.

~David Albaugh

 

 

 

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