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sulfur butterfly

Q:  What is the caterpillar eating the leaves on my cassia?

A:  The orange and yellow sulfur butterflies love Cassia species such as Butterfly Bush or Christmas Senna, Cassia bicapsularis.  Cassia plants are generally grown in south and central Florida only although they are planted here because of their beautiful, yellow flowers which show up during October and November.  Cassia will freeze back here but should return unless we have a severe winter.  Butterflies such as the Cloudless sulfur use it as a food source prior to pupation.  They will probably not kill the tree or shrub although it will look unsightly.  This is one of those instances when it might be best to take a “grin and bear it” attitude since the caterpillar will result in a beautiful butterfly.  Aside from their beauty, butterflies are important to us because they are pollinators. Check out the University of Florida publication on butterfly gardening in Florida :  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/UW057