Speak of the tenacity of life and how little is required for survival and growth. A plant less than ¾ th of a foot, provided food, and ultimately enabled the birth of more than 16 butterflies. I refer to the red peirrot, a delightful white, black and red butterfly found in Pune.
Ok, so here’s the story.
I had planted a bryophyllum leaf in a pot. This leaf has to be first kept wrapped in a paper for it to grow roots. Once you see the roots, it can be planted in a proper soil.
This particular plant was just over half a foot tall, with glossy green leaves. One hot sunny day at the beginning of June, a red pierrot appeared out of nowhere and sat in the blazing heat on the terrace floor. Towards the evening there were tiny black spots on the bryo leaves – a clear indication of eggs laid by the pierrot. A question here – how did the butterfly unerringly find this plant in the midst of a concrete jungle?
It is very interesting to watch a R.P. cat in action. This cat burrows into the fleshy leaf and eats it from within. You can see movement underneath the thin top layer as the cat eats its way forward. It then tears this layer at a point - probably to let out the droppings. After a few days, the cats had had their fill of the food. Then they broke open their leafy homes and began search of suitable places to pupate. Their movements soon became sluggish. Many of them found the underside of the earthen pot a nice place to hang out at.
Within 8 – 10 days the chrysalis popped open and out came the fully formed butterflies. Believe me, these moments are rather joyous. Somewhere in your heart you feel that their successful breeding is due to your efforts, however minimal they may have been. A point of observation – all the butterflies I saw, emerged around 8 - 11 am in the morning. Are they programmed to emerge at certain times / in daylight?
But I mentioned tenacity. One butterfly broke out from the shell and promptly fell into the thin layer of water that had collected on the floor due to rain. It dragged itself forward with slow and intermittent movement. Ultimately it reached a low branch of another plant and climbed on to it. This process took more than an hour. It survived and was able to fly away after a while.