Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Blue Oakleaf on a Pink Cassia

Okay, this is going to read like one of those puzzle pages, but .... guess the odd one out in this picture. The one that just doesn't belong here. No way !
No? Need another clue? Okay !

Is that better?
Hmmm..... could it be the orchids which are actually in bloom? No-o-o , they're looking good for a change, but that's not the answer.
Could it be the hairy strands winding around the tree? No again, that's just the roots of the orchid, clinging on for dear life.
Or that big fat fly on the orchid cane?

Look closer! That leaf ... why on earth is that leaf just stuck to the tree like that, defying all the rules of gravity ?
And that tree is a Pink Cassia. Which has lovely feathery leaves. So why am I photographing a leaf... a dead leaf at that? AND making such a big issue out of it?

Okay, I like to tease, so here's another look at this amazing leaf.
Hold your breath while I flirt with danger now (hornet stings can be fatal, you know).
Drum roll, please !
And ... Ta-DAH !!!
Isnt she absolutely gorgeous! Feast your eyes on Miss Blue Oakleaf, the reigning butterfly beauty to beat all beauties, in my opinion. The Blue Oakleaf .... South Indian Blue Oakleaf (Kallima horsfieldi) to be precise ... belongs to that special class that every gardener should love. She's a Leaf Butterfly!

I usually see her in my garden in Mumbai around October and then she lingers awhile. Her favourite haunt seems to be my Pink Cassia tree. Remember that grand party which the hornets threw ? It seems she is partial to Cassia sap. What an interesting leaf!

Vibrant indigo-blue flashes and winks at you every time she fans her wings open. At rest, though, no one would give her a second glance. Wings folded, she's perfectly disguised as an uninteresting dry leaf, complete with midrib and veins! She even has a slight curve of a petiole to help to complete the disguise. She certainly fools the hornets into letting her get up close and personal.
Beauty with brains ... I bet James Bond would've loved her !

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  1. That was so fun! You had me in suspense right up to showing this beautiful butterfly opening. Such a beauty.

  2. Great spotting, Sunita!

    It looks strikingly similar to the Sri Lanka Blue Oakleaf Kallima philarchus.

    p.s. You have turned me green with envy as I do not have any Oakleafs in my yard!

  3. You got me with that one. Scrolling down the post, I was feeling intelligent having spotted something odd about the leaf being there, BUT its a BUTTERFLY! Wow, that was a huge huge surprise leaving me in awe of nature, and of course You:-)

  4. Tina, the Blue Oakleaf is one of those butterflies that stop you in your tracks and make you gasp in awe. She's bea-u-ti-ful!
    And she's no scrawny anorexic thing either. Almost 10 - 12 cms I think. She really knows how to make her presence felt when she wants to.

  5. There's a Sri Lankan one too? Thanks for telling me, Amila. I've got to look it up. What fun!
    I think you need a Pink Cassia tree in your garden to attract the Blue Oakleafs. Well, at least you dont need to buy diamonds!

  6. Green Thumb, isnt she gorgeous! The first time I saw one, I couldnt believe my eyes. It looked too pretty to be real!
    Bravo for noticing it had something to do with the leaf :)
    Are you sure you dont have any of her relatives hiding out in your garden? I certainly didnt realise she was visiting me until last year.

  7. It is so gorgeous! Fatal hornets not included.

  8. Amazing, now that is a real beauty!!! You won't see those around here! Thanks for sharing.


  9. Fantastic. Stick bugs I've seen, but never a leaf butterfly. Many thanks for the intriguing post.

  10. Hi Sunita, This post was really fun...and then when I got to the answer I was so surprised. I love butterflies and would be thrilled to see one like yours. The next best thing is seeing her on your blog:) Thank you for sharing her!

  11. Sunita you have such beautiful butterflies, some I have never heard of. We do have one that looks like a leaf here, it is a seasonal visitor called the orian. It feeds on rotting fruit and is huge, but yours is spectacular!

  12. You have such a wonderful sense of humor, Sunita :) I do remember your lovely lady from the grand party. It's good to see her again :) It's truly amazing just how leaf-like she looks, but so gorgeous with those fabulous wings open.
    Watch out for those wasps!

  13. What an unbelievable camouflage! I thoroughly enjoyed the visual and verbal feast in your post.

  14. You cassia tree attracts so many interesting creatures to the garden. It seems as fearless of you, as of the hornet. What beautiful colours are revealed on the tops of the wings. I find much of the wildlife in your garden fascinating.

  15. Totally stunning, not only your post but the “Bond girl” too...!

    Your garden should be included in the must see section of Mumbai....!

  16. Absolutely stunning! I'd never have guessed seeing that 'leaf'. We don't have Oakleafs around here. I'm still dazed at such beauty!!

  17. you know a lot about butterflies. i'm impressed. thanks 4 d information you left on my blog.

  18. Amazing!
    Great post, I was thinking why is Sunita showing us a picture of a leaf stuck on a tree - What a lovely butterfly!

  19. Hi Sunita, thank you, thank you, thank you for showing us this beauty. She is stunning and magnificent, words are up to the task of describing the elation I felt when you revealed the leaf to be hiding a butterfly! Ohhh, it is too much! :-)

  20. So beautiful!

    SO extraordinary!

    Hadn't heard of this kind of butterfly before.

    I wish I had them in my garden.

    (Bit unlikely in Dorset, England! . . . but still!)


  21. HHG, I think its almost impossible to separate her from the hornets. Pity! But some ladies love the bad guys... must be that aura of danger that gets to her !

  22. Eric, have I finally found something that doesnt have a twin in your garden? Maybe you should just start scrutinising all those dry leaves with an eagle eye, and who knows...

  23. Stick bugs are really interesting creatures, arent they Marta? But unfortunately they dont open up to reveal such beauty. I'm so glad you liked this post :)

    You're welcome, Jan ! :) I had a ball of a time writing this too . But I was praying that no one would think that this post was too juvenile.

    Helen, that Orian (orion?) butterfly is so beautiful ! I was a bit indignant on her behalf to find out that they had named her Stinky Leaf Butterfly. Why on earth would anyone do that to such a gorgeous beauty ? ! I bet they were jealous!
    I found two last month which look somewhat similar to the Orian but managed to get photos of them only with their wings closed but the colouring is very similar. Could a few of the Orians have travelled to India instead of the Caribbean? Latter-day Christopher Columbus of the butterfly world?

  24. Thank you, Kerri! I think I was inspired :)
    Oh yes, those wasps! I still cant believe how foolhardy I was to stick my hand so close to it.

    Shailaja, I'm glad you liked this post. If you scroll back to November 2008 in the archives, there is another post featuring more butterflies, if you're interested.

    You're so right, Northern Shade, the Cassia tree seems to be the local YMCA for all the flying backpackers.
    I think she was overcome by the prospect of so much Cassia sap within a few inches of her. She was not too aware of anything else which was going on. Without that, I'm sure I couldnt have got within 10 feet of her!

  25. Thanks, flowergirl!
    BTW, maybe you could look out for her too. One site on the Net claimed that she is endemic to the Western Ghats.

    And you too, Nebu. I'm sure you'll find her in the hilly tracts of Kerala at other times of the year. Definitely in Mundakkayam, I'm sure.
    My garden a must-see? That's a good one! And I'm sure I'll be the main attraction, running bare-foot up and down the garden after the butterflies and birds, camera clutched tightly to me. I'm quite a sight, I can tell you!

  26. Are you sure, Kanak? The map I saw showed her presence in the North-East too. I'm sure Assam, the butterfly capital, will definitely have her or some cousin.

    Blossom, I learnt almost all of it through observation and the rest of it is on the Net . Not much to be impressed about actually ;)

  27. Oh Karen, you painted such a vivid picture of your perplexity that I burst out laughing!
    She is stunning, isnt she?

  28. Frances, you're welcome! :D
    I know exactly how you feel. Even though I've seen her quite a few times now, each new time is like a real revelation. Glorious!

  29. Truly amazing, Sunita.

  30. Thank you. I knew you would like it :)

  31. Now that's a unique, beautiful force of nature, isn't it?

    Phenomenal. Thank you so much for the fabulous photos and the fun write up.

  32. Esther, I didnt mean to leave your comment unacknowledged. I went linking up to your blog and before I knew it, I was sidetracked!
    Isnt she pretty! I feel like the mother of the bride now with everyone exclaiming over Ms. Oakleaf, but she really is amazingly gorgeous, isnt she?
    Esther, I wouldnt put it past belief to find her suddenly appearing in Dorset. I mean, if the touch-me-not (mimosa pudica) which is a nasty weed in India can be treated as an amazing novelty plant and babied by collectors elsewhere, well... :D
    Till she makes her appearance there, you can enjoy her here or maybe make a trip to Mumbai in October. Easy!

  33. Force of nature ... what a powerful word for this wisp of beauty. But thats exactly how she affects me and, it seems, everyone who's seen her.
    Glad you enjoyed this post, Martha! (can you imagine Ms. Oakleaf settling in that huge basket you had posted about?)

  34. Hi Sunita
    Thanks for the comment. The Geranium pratense It´s real. It´s also available in pink - white.

    What an amazing butterfly. Now I have closed my mouth :o)

    Gunilla in Sweden

  35. This butterfly is absolutely gorgeous! I have never seen anything like it! Lovely! /Helen

  36. Beautiful! How fun. That is definitely something I haven't seen before - thanks for sharing it with us.

  37. What a lovely post! I enjoyed that.

    As usual great writing with the lovely pictures. The whole matched only by the lovely butterfly.

  38. Gunilla, that really was an amazing geranium. And whoever named it had a great sense of humour:)

  39. Yes, isnt she gorgeous, Helen! Right now I'm imagining her sitting on your trees. Can you picture her bright indigo-blue against that whitish bark? !

  40. Thanks, Pam.

    Raji, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. And thank you for building up my confidence!

  41. What an usual beauty! It really does look like a leaf, nice disguise. :)

  42. That's the most amazing thing I have ever seen!

  43. Sunita, A real beauty indeed. Thanks for introducing me to a butterfly I've not ever seen or heard of before. A truly unique shape and color. You've got me curious... I'll be researching if we have such a think as a leaf butterfly in our area. Lovely visit!
    Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

  44. Racquel, her disguise had the hornets so completely fooled that they didnt even grumble as she was getting closer and ever closer to their precious Cassia sap.

  45. Me too, Barbee! I just couldnt believe that something which looked so drab with its wings closed could be so outrageously beautiful when she flaunted herself!
    I'm sure someone could fit a moral in there somewhere.

  46. Meems, now you've got me curious too!
    I've found that the plants grown in Florida are the same as the ones I have growing here in my garden in Mumbai. In fact, Eric (of I Like Plants!) swears that we are neighbours because of our identical plants. Now I wonder whether that extends to the butterflies that visit our plants too.
    Please let me know what you find out, wont you? I'd really like to know :)

  47. You captured my curiousity with this post the whole time I was reading! I loved it...and, wow, great capture of such a beauty, Sunita!

  48. An amazing find, Sunita. Your indigo-blue South Indian Blue Oakleaf is indeed stunning!

  49. Thanks, Kim. I just knew you would enjoy seeing her. Isnt she amazing!

    Hi Joey! Great seeing you here. Mmmm... she's really something else, isnt she? I cant help feeling that I missed out on seeing her for too many years (I just discovered her last year).

  50. A wonderfully exciting story, I really believed it was a leaf. It turns out it is the most fantastic butterfly. It must be so thrilling to see it for real. Your phtos are unique, you show and explain so well!

  51. The picture was fabulous and the writing build up was good too.

    I nver new you could spot such specimens in Mumbai. It just shows if you wait long enough and look hard enough one can shoot just about anything

  52. wow! where on earth, sorry where in mumbai do you live with a cassia tree and a garden? it is normally a garden of buildings. But the pictures are fascinating...

    Still i love Bombay - saw ' a wednesday' last week. fabulous.

  53. I love the pictures.


  54. Trudi, it seems like she can fool even the best gardeners . Clever Blue! I get all tingly inside and a major case of trembling fingers when I spot her. I'm really surprised that I managed to photograph her without blurring all the shots. Full credit to my Canon !

  55. Thanks, Soul Searcher! Glad you liked this post.
    Mumbai has this tendency to constantly surprise you. You never know just what you'll find here next :)

  56. That's funny, Maddy! I just had another blogger here who was equally surprised about finding such butterflies in Mumbai. But this is so quintessentially Bombay! (Mumbai / Bombay, whatever you're comfortable with calling it) You have gardens of buildings (as you called it)sprouting in the most impossibly improbable places. And you also have a full-fledged wildlife sanctuary (complete with the odd maneating leopard or two)right slam-bang in the middle of this metropolis!
    I've heard rave reviews about 'A Wednesday' but havent managed to see it or 'Slumdog Millionaire' yet.

  57. Great post and a lovely butterfly. Your site makes Mumbai come alive...

  58. That's a incredibly beautiful butterfly and your post (the suspense) made it look even more beautiful. Enojyed this post Sunita.

  59. Thanks, MacGardens, thats a great compliment! Glad I could show you a very different side of Mumbai that you rarely see in movies or on TV.

  60. Isnt she gorgeous, Thomas! I wonder whether you've ever seen her in the forests of South India on any of your wildlife-photographing jaunts.

  61. Helou Sunita!
    I have a google-translator on my blog. If you choose english it translates the hole text. It's not a very good translator and it can be quite funny...but worth trying...Welcome back :9

    Now I will take a look at your lovely blog!

  62. That butterfly could've fooled anyone into believing it was a leaf. Loved the way you presented it. I am visiting your blog for the first time...and WOW! quite a place to hang out. I am lovin' it!!!

  63. You ARE a tease, aren't you! I liked the mystery :) That a stunning beauty and you're soooo lucky to have her in your garden!

  64. Hi Sunita,
    I live in Navi Mumbai... and as an ex-big gardener...now...apartment gardener ... I have to say it was so nice to find you ... now I'll look forward to your posts...
    Rajee Sood

  65. Hi Nina ! I guess that was pretty dumb of me - I should have looked around for the translator. Anyway now I've got to go back to yourblog and read it all over again :)
    (I can just imagine the funny translations which Google provides. That should be an entertainment in itself)

    Pak Karamu, thanks for visiting The Urban Gardener. I hope you liked it.

    Hi Shalini! Glad you liked this blog :)
    I'm sure you'll find this butterfly hanging around the rubber plantations in Kottayam or ... (I'm sorry, I dont know where you live now) other densely planted places . If you do find it, will you let me know? (I think I've been giving every one of my blogger contacts in South India an alert to watch out for this butterfly.
    And do come back soon!

    What to do, Chandramouli? I am like that only! :D
    Okay, okay, I know the Sunita bai impersonation can get out of hand if I dont rein it in.
    I just thought that such aorgeous creature deserved a special post. I'm glad you liked that aura of mystery. Fitting, dont you think?

    Hi Rajee! We must be sisters! Separated at the local mela, brought up in different gardens and all that ... true hindi filmi-style ! I live in Mumbai and garden in an apartment and in a big garden. Double the work, triple the fun ! :D
    Great meeting you too, Rajee. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog!

  66. Georgeous. And beautifully revealed. You've got a good eye, just to spot it!

  67. I dont think I would've ever spotted her if it had not been for those vibrant flashes of blue every time she fanned her wings open. Can you imagine how I felt when I spotted her. And that too in my own garden!

  68. That is excellent! Not just a marvel of nature but of photography as well. I fall into a happy daze when I read your blog - thanks so much for visiting mine.

  69. Wow.. truly stunning! Nice surprise it was!!
    Thanks for sharing :)

  70. Gardenia, how did I miss this? How rude of me! I'm so sorry.
    Thank you for all your nice words. I'm so glad you like my blog and photos :)

  71. Bonjour,
    nous avons rencontré un de vos papillons Blue oakleaf récemment,en Tailande,et nous avons pointé sur votre site, pour le décrire.
    Bonne journée et voir ici :


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