Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Butterfly Effect: Chaos Theory

Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas? was the title of a paper by Ed Lorenz who fifty years ago discovered the variability caused by something as slight as the movement of a butterfly's wings halfway around the world. I don't pretend to comprehend it, I just enjoy the butterflies who visit my garden and concern myself with planting flowers that they like.

A Spicebush Swallowtail  butterfly nectars on Pentas.

I read a number of science project papers by students who studied various aspects of butterfly life as affected by heat. They don't seem to mind the heat here at all, but I did find a Cabbage Looper (white with black spots) and a Dogface Sulphur (dark yellow with black edges) puddling on the cool damp floor of the greenhouse today.

Tiger Swallowtail nectaring on Duranta.

When I stepped back to get a broader view of Duranta, the Tiger
took off upwards. The pink is Crape Myrtle behind. Crape Myrtle is not
used as a nectar plant, but having more color in the garden seems to
attract more butterflies to the nectar plants.

Pipevine Swallowtail on Duranta.

 I'm hopeful that utterflies' flapping wings somewhere will bring us more rain. We had a couple days of cloudy weather and a few rain showers for which we are grateful. We could use a lot more rain and cooler days.

Gulf Frits are now evenly distributed between Duranta and
another favorite, Tithonia. As Tithonia gets rattier looking and
Duranta comes into more blooms, they seek the better nectar.

Every year I add more pics of the same kinds of butterflies and flowers and vow to stop doing so. When I go out to do garden chores, it's just so easy to slip a small camera in my pocket just in case. They never fail to show up and look pretty.


  1. I for one never tire of butterfly photos. You've shared some lovely shots in this post. I grow Duranta and Pentas too, but I haven't seen the variety of butterflies feasting on my shrubs as I see in your post today. Hopefully all the fluttering wings will bring heavy dark rain clouds soon.

  2. I, too, never tire of looking at beautiful butterflies enjoying the sweet nectar. Summer is definitely their time. Thanks for sharing!

  3. On the off chance you might care:

    There's a pretty good explanation of the butterfly effect here. The key is realizing that they're not talking about the actual world, they're talking about predictions. A computer simulation of the weather that begins with winds in Cleveland as being from the west at 5.15 mph will initially give similar predictions to another run of the same computer program that starts with west winds in Cleveland at 5.148 mph. The further ahead in time you go, though, the more the two models will diverge from both one another and from reality.

    This is why weather forecasters still can't predict things like the formation and track of hurricanes more than about a week ahead of time: the information the simulations start with isn't precise enough, and isn't fine-grained enough. Rounding errors accumulate, the predictions diverge, and eventually they're no longer any good for predicting what's going to happen.

  4. ... and I do care. Thank you, Mr. Subjunctive, for that nice link.

    It just makes my head 'bizzy' when I try to expound upon theories, so I left the details to those who also care.

  5. How could I possibly get fed up of looking at those beautiful Swallowtails. They don't even call on us here in Scotland.

  6. I love all your butterfly shots since I often forget to bring my camera outside or the butterflies flitter away before I can catch a picture. :o)

  7. You have captured many lovely butterflies! Thanks for sharing your link with me!


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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