What’s in a name?

The incessant rain has been keeping me indoors and I really felt I wanted to accomplish something useful.  So I decided to  polish my halo and go through my camera memory card, removing blurred shots and trying to get some order into the ones that I want to keep as records.  I also mean to find names for bees and plants that I have not recognised.

This was a photo I had taken on 11 September 2019.  Our Asters attracted so many pollinators this year.  I am not very good with butterflies and I supposed it would be one of the tailed blues we get around here.


When I checked my “Butterflies of Europe” book by Tristan Lafranchis I found it was a Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshalli) butterfly.  The reason for its name is pretty obvious but that brought me to the “Do you mean Geranium or Pelargonium?” question.  I was rather hoping that its food of preference was Pelargoniums, as I do not have any of these very popular plants and as most people buy them every year from the Supermarket or nursery, I did not feel too selfish about this cynical thought.

However, it seems that the caterpillars can be content with geraniums or pelargoniums as food.  I have plenty perennial geraniums in the garden, as the bees adore them.

In addition, I had not realised that they can be serious pests for the growers who supply the supermarkets and nurseries with pelargoniums.

I have yet to see any damage to my perennial geraniums but I will keep an eye out this summer.  It may just have been our exceptionally warm summer that allowed it to mature on imported Pelargoniums.

Apart from finding out the name of this butterfly, I also discovered that many Pelargonium species originate from South Africa whereas geraniums are mainly a European species.  Pelargoniums have been with us for a long time, they were introduced into Europe from the beginning of the seventeenth century.  The roots of Pelargonium triste had a local reputation of treating dysentery which interested the apothecaries of the time.

Not bad for a rainy day :).

11 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Malcolm Gillham

    A good day’s work, and a new story for me. I read that the Geranium Bronze is also a native of South Africa, feeding there on Pelargoniums. It was accidentally brought to Europe as larvae on imported plants, and a first colony was found in Mallorca in 1990. It has now spread to most of southern Europe, where it must live on native Geraniums. It is here to stay – and maybe it will evolve to be different from the south African population?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we all have our preferences and the botanical names are often confusing and do not “roll off the tongue”. I have just planted another Tetradrium daniellii today. Say that three times quickly 🙂 ! I prefer to call it the old name of Evodia just because it is easier to pronounce. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I must work with those who are not horticulturally oriented, I just point . . . . . . and sometimes use the biggest and most impressive name I can think of. Lyonothamnus floribundus ‘Asplenifolius’ works well, even though there are none here.

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