Black Swallowtail

by Daisy


I’ve been wondering for some time whether or not the single clump of bronze fennel I grow in my garden has been earning its keep.

I don’t really cook with it, and it has grown so large, stretching over six feet tall and several feet wide, at one end of the asparagus bed.  Was it really worth having in our smallish garden where every square foot has to produce something edible or medicinal or super special?

I’m deciding it is at least super special.  First, I began reading about what a lure it is for all manner of beneficial insects, like:

  • parasitic wasps (which parasitize aphids)
  • lacewings (they also eat aphids plus caterpillars and many other pests)
  • syrphid flies (which eat aphids, thrips, and more and the adults are good pollinators)
  • tachinid flies (which target gypsy moths, cabbage loopers, Japanese beetles, armyworms, cutworms, sawflies, codling moths, peach twig borers, pink bollworms, tent caterpillars, & squash bugs)

Then, I spotted dozens of Eastern Black Swallowtail larvae chomping away on it.  So, the bronze fennel not only stays, it gets a gold star.

Here is one of the adult Black Swallowtails making a meal out of my Zowie! Yellow Flame Zinnia (which deserves a post all by itself):


And a side view:
Black Swallowtail butterfly larvae love members of the carrot family, Apiaceae, such as my fennel, but also parsley, dill, and Queen Anne’s Lace, to name a few.  I have some on my dill, too, but I don’t mind because they are so friendly and beautiful, and I have enough to share.
I love to watch them chomp along the stems, getting fatter and fatter.  Soon they will enter the pupal stage for overwintering.
I learned something fascinating about their response to danger–they have an organ called an osmeterium that they can turn out when threatened that looks like a forked tongue and emits an odor which is repellent to predators.
That is impressive.
P.S.  If you know how to cook with bronze fennel I’d love to hear about it.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Cinnamon Vogue July 29, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Wow what great photography. These pictures are fabulous. As for bronze fennel this is the first time I have heard of it, so had to Google it. My impression is Fennel is Fennel whether bronze or not.

I do use a Fennel in a pasta meat sauce. It is quite fabulous. Here is the recipe : 1 lb ground beef, 3 cloves garlic, ½ onion, ½ green bell pepper, ½ red bell pepper, 1 canned mushroom (I use fresh instead), 1 big can of Hunts crushed tomatoes, 1 small can of Hunts tomato sauce, one small can of Hunts tomato paste, 2 nice pinches each of basil and oregano and about half tsp of fennel seed, 1 teaspoon sugar, Season All to taste on the ground beef, and Salt.

Katie Homemaker July 30, 2013 at 5:24 am

Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos with us. We have an oh-so-attractive weed patch on the side of our house with quite a few Queen Anne’s Lace shoots growing in it. I think you just spared their lives! Just goes to show that everything in nature has value and purpose. Thanks! Have a great day!
BTW- I am hungry just reading about this pasta sauce. yum

Janet July 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Cucumber salad with fresh cukes, onions, vinegar, salt and fennel.

Sauted summer squash with squash, onion, butter, salt and fennel.

Donna McFarland July 31, 2013 at 4:28 am

Braised fennel w/white beans & red onions…. slice fennel like celery, as well as the red onion. Braise all in a lil bit of olive oil, add a can of cannelli beans (drained), and a can of broth. simmer till thickened. YUM!!!

Penny July 31, 2013 at 6:36 am

If you allow your fennel to go to seed, collect the seed and add to your dairy goats feed. You will see an increase in milk production in about three days.

Jessica S. July 31, 2013 at 7:55 am

I LOVE your zinnias!!! They are so pretty, esp. with the butterfly. Great photography…

Patty July 31, 2013 at 8:43 am

Sautee with olives, a little garlic, pine nuts until clear like sweating onions. Sprinkle romano cheese over top. Serve with pasta, rice, or over greens.

This is served plain as an appetizer at an Iron Chef’s restaurant…

Doreen July 31, 2013 at 10:46 am

Funny I came I read and left. I loved this post and was so blessed by it. I too have many plants I give to the butterflies and their not so beautiful caterpillar. Some times you have to appreciate the good that comes from bad times and things. God’s grace, peace, light, and love to you. In Jesus’ service Doreen

Doreen July 31, 2013 at 10:47 am

I came back to comment. O:)

Barb July 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Those pictures would also make a beautiful quilt.

Daricia August 1, 2013 at 8:07 am

Chipmunks got my bronze fennel shortly after I planted it this year, but I plant it every year for the caterpillars and the pretty color and texture in the garden. Zinnias are a favorite, too. I hope you will post about yours later. Thanks to your other readers for the recipe ideas…will have to try some of those.

jana wilson August 7, 2013 at 10:09 am

We had the exact same experience this year: a huge, beautiful stand of bronze fennel in my herb garden that I don’t like the taste of…dozens of caterpillars…so I let them eat it all up! Went on vacation and came back to zero pupae. Wonder what happened to them all?

Cindy A October 17, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I have loved Fennel seeds on pizza ever since I found them in the little packets that were included in Chef-Boy-R-dee pizza mix. Haven’t eaten that stuff since the 80’s but I do put Fennel on pizza anytime I can.

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