Sunday last we saw our favorite butterfly for the first time, the Black Swallowtail, feeding in all leisure off the blooms of a rather curious tree of ours. It is a Dwarf Lilac known to the botanists as Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’. I call it a curious tree because it is actually a combined form of a tree below and a bush above accomplished by grafting. The Korean Dwarf Lilac ordinarily has a very short stem of no more than 5 inches, so that the lilac hugs the ground. But look at these pictures:
The trunk of this “tree” measures 3.5 feet from the ground to the point where the branches articulate—thus way taller than the Korean Dwarf Lilac’s natural height. Our tree, therefore, is what they call a topgraft. The top part is a Dwarf Lilac and is called the scion; the trunk must be from a genetically related plant that grows quite high; it is called the interstem. With dwarf lilacs the two interstems normally used are Syringa villosa or the Japanese Lilac (Syringa reticulata). Our interstem is definitely a Villosa, commonly known as Lilac, Late; note, on the picture above, the green branches growing at the stem’s bottom; those leaves are the original leaves of the stem and helped me identify it. The Dwarf Lilac’s leaves are much smaller, darker in color, and of a different shape. But let me emphasize, again, that both the trunk and the top belong to the same genus; genetic similarity is a must for successful topgrafting.
The bloom of our little lily is shown on the left. It has a very faint odor now, but that odor will grow more and more pronounced as we enter the month of June.
Our Black Swallowtails arrived in pairs, one significantly larger than the other. They are very dark butterflies with a distinct yellow marking on the wings. They stood out splendidly against the lilac blossoms so that we could clearly make them out even from a distance; they were our own. Among other butterflies we’ve seen thus far are a Monarch (still alive, looks like), a Yellow Tiger Swallowtail, and a handful of Cabbage Whites. We feel quite comfortable with the butterflies. As for the Syringa meyeri, it will take some time before we get used to its curious duality.