Glassberg tells reporters collectors "could wipe out" the Miami Blue

Anne Kilmer viceroy at
Thu Jan 10 09:45:27 EST 2002

Ron Gatrelle wrote:

 > ----- Original Message ----- From: "Mark Walker" <MWalker at>

 >> To: "'Ron Gatrelle'" <gatrelle at>; "Leps-l"
<Leps-l at>

 > Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 3:28 AM Subject: RE: Glassberg tells
 >  reporters collectors "could wipe out" the Miami Blue
 > snip
 > I've looked for
 >> Balloon Vine with Dave Fine (he's out of Ft. Lauderdale) on several
 > survey
 >> trips throughout the keys in the last three years, and whenever it shows

 > up
 >> - it is quickly mowed, pruned, or destroyed by mosquito spraying.
 >> Mark Walker
 > I forget the exact year, but back in the late 70's on one of my rare
 > trips to the Miami area I found that Balloon Vine occupied several acres
 >  at just one spot on Key Largo.  It was on the Atlantic side and the
 >  area was an abandoned Motel or a partially constructed one  - the
 > place was an ugly weedy mess.  However, the Miami Blues were thick.
 >   They were "in my way" as I was looking for simaethis hairstreaks.
 >    There were thousands of seed pods and just about everyone you
 > looked inside of had larvae of one or both species in it.  There
 > were areas on the mainland too - a great many of the places I went
 > in the south Miami area had Balloon vine.  It really is a scraggly
 > trashy looking vine - that would go well up into the low trees.
 > One of the things Glassberg mentioned as a "threat" to the Blues and 
 >  leps was Hurricanes.  Well, hurricanes at the southern tip of
 > Florida and the Keys are only a "threat" to people.  They have been
 >  a vital part of the ecology of that area for thousands of years.
 > Species like the Miami Blue and Schaus Swallowtail are dependant on
 >  disturbed areas which are the only areas their second growth hosts
 >  can be found.


I hate to support Glassberg in any of his statements, but he's right
about the hurricanes in this instance.
If life were fair, Ron would be right, since he's right on the money
about hurricanes. But the Schaus Swallowtail was indeed nearly wiped out
by Hurricane Andrew (I think), which came along right when the
Swallowtails were vulnerable. When a butterfly is reduced to a tiny
fingerhold on a spit of land, it doesn't take much to extinguish it.
If there hadn't been a stash of Schaus Swallowtails being reared in
Gainesville, they might well be wiped out by now.
They were being reared by collectors, let me add. :-)
What we'll have to do for the Balloon Vine is make it a politically
desirable and popular vine, encourage schools and parks to use it as a
major part of their landscaping, train children to care for it, groom it
and keep it reasonably attractive, while treasuring those
butterfly-filled pods.
This, of course, we cannot do if the butterfly is listed as endangered.
I asked, a while ago, when I was butterfly gardening the Palm Beach Zoo,
whether we might have a few Schaus Swallowtails to rear on our Wild Lime
trees, of which we had quite a few. (I didn't mean right that minute; we
would have done considerable preliminary work, and involved quite a few
  The answer was no, because if the butterflies lived and thrived and the
colony expanded to neighboring parks and gardens, the Feds would be
involved in following them around and making life hell to the people
graced with the presence of the butterfly.

Glassberg is also correct that a collector *could* wipe out a colony of
butterflies, if it is sufficiently limited as to flight times and area,
and if the collector chooses to do that.
It is, of course, far more likely that the developer will wipe out the
habitat, and that the collector is trying to save, transplant, rear and
release ...
But, assuming that indeed there are only 30 or so Miami Blues, and they
are all at the site described, yup, a collector could do it. So could a
little lady with a pair of clippers and an enthusiastic group of kids
trying to "help" the environment.
As I remember the Tom Kral incident, when I, too, was subscribed to this
august list, he was mostly rearing butterflies raised from gravid
butterflies he had caught. But, when the folks counted up his score,
they figured it the same as if he had caught all those endangered
That struck me as unfair, but his other offenses were pretty dumb, in my
Neil has all this on his web page, where people who wish to wander
through all our postings may go and read it.
It is hard to believe that this was all only six years ago. Wow. I feel
so much older ...

Anyway, as you are wandering through the Keys, it might not hurt to
gather a handful of Balloon Vine seedpods wherever you find them, and
scatter them wherever they might be appreciated, Johnny Appleseed style.
It would be essential, of
course, to avoid that little colony, wherever it is, and to leave it
Would it better, do you reckon, to have local nurseries rear the plants
and sell the seeds, thus avoiding disturbing possible unfound colonies?
It's that "helping nature" thing again, I guess.

I enjoyed watching the Atala butterfly spread, with the eager assistance
of gardeners, collectors, nurseries and the Cooperative Extension
Agents. That involved planting the coontie, a slow-growing cycad which
is terribly expensive, and which the larvae may well kill.
Seems to me that the Balloon Vine would be easier to promote.
Y'all want to make up a recovery plan which we can apply before the Feds
jump in?

We need a poster for local schools, showing the plant, its flower, and
the butterfly ... large, and life-size. We need coloring books. We need
a web page where sightings can be logged, host plant areas mapped, new
colonies reported.
Maybe we need cute signs with pictures of the butterfly which can be
posted in "unsightly" areas where the dried vines overwinter with their
precious cargo.
Someone who can play the grant game should be able to make this fly.
Maybe it's already happening.
Anne Kilmer
South Florida


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