Ready for the Caterpillars

Cuckoo flower (Cardemine pratensis) with Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) behind

Cuckoo flower (Cardemine pratensis) with Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) behind

The wet fields by the River Pont in Stamfordham burst into spring colour at this time of year with the robust yellow flowers of marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) and the more subtle lilac of cuckoo flower (Cardemine pratensis).  The cuckoo flower is an important foodplant of a couple of butterflies, the orange tip and the green-veined white.

Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

It’s been an appalling spring for butterflies so far this year but the small yet robust green-veined whites are made of sterner stuff.  These are probably the most widespread of all our butterflies, coping with some harsher upland conditions than are found in Stamfordham.  They look very similar to their cousins the large and small whites which are both more often known as cabbage whites.  These green-veined whites often also get lumped in with the rest but cause little harm in the garden.  While large and small whites are going for cabbages, sprouts and the like the green-veined whites are just looking for cuckoo flower or garlic mustard, though they may have a go on nasturtiums now and again.  The top side of the wings are often dusted in grey but the name comes from the underwing where the veins are picked out with a greenish tinge.  The female has a couple of black wing spots on the upper wing which distinguish her from the male of the species.


About thehutts

The Hutt Family from Northumberland
This entry was posted in Flowering Plants, Invertebrates, Northumberland and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ready for the Caterpillars

  1. viv blake says:

    Interesting detail – I’ve wondered about those black spots, and now I know!

  2. thehutts says:

    But the other whites also have black wing spots in different configurations; even then the female tends to have more obvious ones. Also different broods have differing prominence of spots.

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