The Best Paw-Paws in Flordia

The paw-paw plant is a host for the Zebra Swallowtail. If you want to have these incredible butterflies, you need paw paws … it is that simple. So I have started adding these trees in the shady spot in the corner of my back yard.

This weekend, I got two Asimina parviflora trees from Terri at Pietro’s PawPaws. Her booth at the festival at Maggies Herb Farm was impressive. She had three different species for sale, all of which are native to Florida. She had a notebook filled with 8×10 photos showing different aspects of the paw paw story. Terri answered any and all questions, and she had a hand-out on how to plant and care for the trees I bought. Her customers don’t just get plants – they get an education.

Many places sell the Asimina triloba species of paw paw. It grows in Florida, and will host Zebra Swallowtails. But triloba is really for places that are further north – it requires 400 or more chilling hours, and does not reliably set fruit this far south. The species that Terri sells are native to Florida and are proven producers, so her customers get delicious fruit year after year as well as giant zebra butterflies.

Many nurseries also sell paw paws in normal round pots. This is not the worst thing in the world, but it is definitely not the best. Using tall, narrow pots with rectangular edges leads to trees with a larger, better developed root system … so that is what Terri does. These plants are quicker to get established and more resistant to water stress.

Pietro’s PawPaws has a list of species that includes Asimina obovata (big flower paw paw), Asimina pygmea (pigmy paw-paw), Asimina incana (wooly paw paw), Asimina angustifolia (long-leaf paw paw), Asimina reticulata (netted paw paw), and Asimina parviflora (small flower paw paw). If you are thinking about getting paw paws and want to do it right, talk to Terri. She recently bought a domain name, and is working on getting a website up and running; I will update this article with a link to her site when it launches. You can also find her email and other contact information here.



Monarch Butterflies in Decline

It was not so long ago that beekeepers and scientists sounded the alarm over a sharp decline in the survival of bee colonies. And now, there is evidence that the population of Monarch Butterflies is also under pressure and declining.

According to University of Kansas insect biologist Chip Taylor (who has been tracking Monarchs for decades), the number of the orange butterflies dropped by 59% last year. And that is just one drop in a long downward trend. There were almost 20 times more Monarchs flying around in 1996 than there were last year.

Some of the factors that are believed to be responsible for this decimation:

  • Increased use of Herbicides, which have wiped out critical habitat (like the Milkweed Plant).
  • Logging
  • A Reduction in the Conservation Reserve Program
  • Fluctuations in the weather

While this is bad news for butterfly lovers, at this point, there is cause for hope. No one is talking about extinction quite yet – the population can rebound if the pressures are removed. People are planting more butterfly milkweed. The government of Mexico has taken action to protect the areas where Monarchs overwinter.

Links for Learning More About the Decline:

Female Monarch Butterfly Image
Monarch – May 2007, taken by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson. Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.




The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo

Butterflies are one of the most popular themes for tattoos. How popular? lists it as the 9th most popular design (and the fairy, a mythical mix of human and butterfly, is hovering right behind at #10).

So why are butterflies so popular? Butterflies are an archetype, a “universally understood symbol.” Not that this symbol means exactly the same thing to all people. But here are some common associations:

  • Freedom – the ability to fly anywhere
  • Beauty, Elegance and Grace
  • Delicate, Femininity
  • Metamorphosis or transition (especially relevant to young people and the changes they go through).
  • Happiness, a care-free attitude

It’s also worth noting that 6 of the top 10 designs involved flight in some way… angel, wings, dragon, phoenix, butterfly, fairy.

If you appreciate both tattoos and butterflies, you might like this gallery of 20 Sweet Designs For Butterfly Tattoos.

Freud, Jung and Dream Dictionaries


Backyard Nature Therapy

The idea that simply being in nature can heal is not some far-out New Age idea … it is apparent to anyone who observes their own reactions.

Jack Spirko (The gun-toting Libertarian producer of The Survival Podcast – hardly the granola type) describes how when he was working a stressful job, the first thing he would do in the evenings was to go out into the yard and water plants (even when they did not need water at all!). Only after his self-prescribed nature therapy had eased his stress did he continue with his evening routine. Here is a link to Jack discussing the value of gardening and other nature based therapies with James Sellars, a licensed social worker.

This effect has also been measured in medical research. One study on the preventive medical effects of nature therapy found that people’s heart rates dropped approximately 6% while blood pressure went down 2% in a natural forest setting. Also measured were changes in two markers of the ‘flight or fight’ response: the stress hormone cortisol (down 12%) and adrenaline driven nerve transmission (down 7%). Many researchers think it is likely that such nature therapy is like meditation or exercise – with regular practice, the effect becomes greater.

Nature therapy involves a number of different mechanisms. In the past decade, it has become common knowledge that bright light is one way to fight some forms of depression, including Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Bright light on the skin also increases vitamin D and leads to the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels. These types of ‘phototherapy’ may be part of the answer – but they don’t explain it all. Nature therapy can also involve light or moderate aerobic exercise – maybe not enough to satisfy the health optimist, but recent research has shown that even a little exercise is much better than none at all.

And just the idea that there is a quiet, green spot waiting for you can be helpful if you are stuck in traffic or having a bad day in a cubicle. Why not unplug from the TV a bit and start developing that oasis in your backyard?