Florida Canyon and Butterflies

by Dan Weisz

Florida Canyon is in the Santa Rita Mountains (south of Tucson) and just east of Madera Canyon.  There is lots to see there but in springtime there are flowering plants and butterflies.  I traveled there with Jeff Babson of SkyIslandTours to check out what was around.

A common flower in these hillsides is the New Mexico Thistle.  Those thorns get your attention but the bloom has a rich color.  This bud is ready to bloom.

I understand that Florida Canyon got its name from the hillside covered with Ocotillo.  When the Spaniards first arrived the ocotillo were in bloom.  The bright coral colors on the hillside inspired the name “Florida” (meaning “flowered, or flowery”) Canyon.  Florida is pronounced Flo-ree-da, the Spanish pronunciation.

I’m not sure of the type of bee this is, but it is pretty cool looking.

An Elada Checkerspot butterfly sipping nectar from Fleabane plant. Fleabane are in the Aster family.  These butterflies are small, about an inch from wingtip to wingtip, and they were everywhere.

Here is another Elada Checkerspot butterfly with its wings closed.  The underwings look nothing like the upper side seen above.

A Marine Blue feeding on an ocotillo plant.  The hidden upperside of its wings are a light blue.

A beautiful Common Buckeye kept returning to this rock after repeatedly chasing any butterfly that came into his territory.  His ultimate goal was to remain on his rock while on the lookout for any females coming into his area.  The eyespots on his wing may be used to scare away predators.  His wingspan is two inches or more.

This small butterfly is an Orange Skipperling.  Its wing structure makes him look like a jet airplane, and he does fly really fast.  He spends much of his time perched and waiting around for a receptive female.  In this photo and the one above, you can get a nice look at a butterfly’s “q-tip” shaped antenna.

This butterfly is aptly named a White-Striped Longtail Butterfly.  I think I can see that white stripe and that long tail, can’t you?  This is a very different looking butterfly.  It is springtime and so this fellow continued to perch on this barbed wire, leaving it frequently to chase away any other butterfly that came into his territory before returning to his wire.

Butterflies are a colorful subject, so I hope to find more of them through this spring and summer.

And I’ll leave you with another thistle: