Monthly Archives: July 2008

Polyphemus Moth

I found the remains of this large, magnificent moth the other day, on the path to the barn. It is a Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus), part of the Giant Silkworm Moth family. This is the first large Silkworm Moth I’ve seen here; they are usually nocturnal. Check out the antennae which look like tiny feathers. (Ellen Sousa photo)


These guys spin their cocoons using silk, but not the same kind of silk traditionally used for textiles, which is produced by the different (but related) Silkmoth (Bombyx mori). Early colonists to this country tried with little success to develop a silk textile industry around the American Silk Moths.

Since Polyphemus Moths obviously live around here, you’d think that I would have at least spotted their caterpillars, which are conspicuous: (Photo by Bruce Marlin).

800px-Polyphemus_caterpillar_bigThe host (food) plants of these caterpillars include shrubs and trees in the Oak, Birch, Maple, Willow and Rose families, all of which abound on our property. So I’m going to keep a closer eye out for these cats which produce only one generation each year in New England.

Summer Vases

Habitat gardens are not just for wildlife! Bird and pollinator-friendly plants not only feed birds and butterflies but they also produce abundant blooms which make great bouquets! Plant lots of seed-producing and nectar plants that bloom at various times throughout the season so you’ll have plenty of flowers to share with family and friends.

Some flowering plants such as Zinnia will actually bloom more heavily if some of its flowers are cut.

Here’s a vase from the last week at Turkey Hill Brook Farm, containing Shasta Daisy ‘Alaska’, Lamb’s Ear, Catmint, Hydrangea, and Phlox.


Below is another vase I cut yesterday. This one contains Drumstick Allium, Purple Coneflower, Musk Mallow, Shasta Daisy and Catchfly. All these plants (except for the Allium) reseed on our central MA farm. If I don’t like where they pop up, I just move them to a better spot, or I pot them up and give to friends and clients.



Here are some other easy-to-grow bird and butterfly-friendly plants suitable for our climate that you can cut for flowers:

Verbena bonariensis (reseeding annual in New England)
Sunflower (annual and perennial)
Swamp Milkweed (perennial)
Black-eyed Susan (perennial)
Cosmos (annual)
Zinnia (annual)
Gayfeather/Liatris (perennial)
Lilac (shrub)
Blanket Flower (perennial)
Yarrow (perennial)
Goldenrod (perennial)
Korean Mint (perennial, heavy reseeder)
Globe Thistle

The Habitat Gardening Ideas page at has more pictures of summertime vases.