Monday, April 20, 2009

Echium gentianoides and a Surprise Visitor

I purchased my Echium gentianoides "Tajinaste" from Annies Annuals. This plant is native to the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. According to Annies it is extremely rare and endangered. It wants average to poor soil that is well drained which makes it a prime candidate for my garden. Even better though, it is relatively unpalatable to deer. They did do a bit of munching when I first put the plant out, but a few treatments with Liquid Fence and some age to toughen up the leaves seemed to take the plant off the menu.

While I was photographing the plant the visitor shown in the fuzzy photos above and below buzzed in. I have heard about these critters before but never seen one. It is the size of a baby hummingbird and flies very much like one, but it has antennae. It is also just as difficult to photograph as a hummer. I realized it was some sort of hummingbird moth.

A bit of research on the Butterflies and Moths of North America website leads me to believe that this is Hyles lineata White-lined sphinx moth. Sphinx moths are also called Butterfly moths or Hawk moths. Adult moths of this particular variety will fly nearly any time of day or night, I happened to catch this one fairly early in the morning. This moth is not at all rare, inhabiting a wide range of habitats and foraging on an equally wide range of plants as both adults and larvae. Considering how common they are, I'm surprised that I've never seen one until now.

Last year I saved seeds from this plant (before the birds ate them all). I don't know if they are easy to germinate or not since I've not tried to grow any yet. I've not noticed any volunteers in the garden. I've grown 2 related plants, Echium fastuosum (Pride of Madeira) and Echium wildpretii "Tower of Jewels", both of which did volunteer a bit. Maybe the birds were extremely efficient at gobbling up the seeds that fell. Now that I know that the deer aren't going to munch it down to the nubs just when it's about to bloom I think I'll try starting a few more plants. That blue is really knock-your-socks-off beautiful.


  1. This is such a gorgeous plant! Love that blue and all the blooms. I have NEVER seen anything like your little moth visitor - what a special sighting!

  2. Lovely pictures of the moth! We see these hummingbird moths quite often in our garden, but I've never managed to photograph one as they seem to move quickly away whenever I approach with a camera!

  3. Echium gentianoides is well named! The flowers are a beautiful gentian blue. Lovely. We have Hummingbird Moths here too. They're so fairy-like, with the way they oscillate in flight and their big doey eyes.

  4. Nikki, I've heard that people mistake those moths for hummers. I can see why, it really looks like a hummer, it even hovers while sipping nectar from flowers. It never once stopped flying about while feeding which was why I couldn't get a decent photo.

    Chaiselongue, I was lucky to be standing there with the camera when the moth came by.

    Sweet Bay, it is one of those rare plants with a true blue flower. I had a real dilemma when it came along though, the first quail of the season were also trotting by.


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