O’ Cassia Tree, O’ Cassia Tree, how lovely are your branches…
Where some female Sulphurs are concerned, the verse above should read, how lovely are your blossoms. The brilliant yellow buds found on a blooming Cassia plant, are number one on these gals’ Christmas lists.
Christmas Cassia (Cassia bicapsularis), a vigorous, evergreen winter bloomer, decorates itself in golden blossoms of sunshine for the holiday season. It, along with several others, such as Desert Cassia (Cassia polyphylla) and Candlestick Cassia (Senna alata) serve as hosts to a variety of Sulphurs (Colias), including the Cloudless (Phoebis sennae) and several species of Oranges and Yellows.
Although female Sulphurs will place their tiny offspring upon the green foliage of the Cassia plant, they much prefer to set their eggs down upon its tender buds. Here, a newly emerged caterpillar can climb into a safe sun colored burrow which will provide him with food and shelter.
The lovely saffron flowers showcased by Christmas Cassias and others alike, are not only cherished by the female butterflies, but by their young as well. Sulphur caterpillars prefer to feed on Cassia’s bright petals, mimicking their yellow color while doing so.
Then, like a Christmas miracle, when the favored florets are gone and the green foliage must be consumed, Sulphur caterpillars miraculously turn a verdant hue. And, almost as if attempting a keepsake, often they retain, in the form of a yellow stripe, just a hint of the flowers they so adored.
To learn and see more about Sulphur caterpillars click the flower bud found at the end of this blog.
O’ Cassia Tree, O’ Cassia Tree, how lovely are your blossoms!