Passiflora poslae

Image © 2009 Yero R. Kuethe

Passiflora poslae

Madre de Dios/Tambopata Peru 1990

Passiflora poslae is an extraordinary plant with what appears to be butterfly egg mimicry at the leaf ends. Collected by P. Núñez in 1990 and named by Vanderplank & Boender in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Volume 25, Number 3, August 2008 , pp. 237-244(8).

Neil Gale of the Magic of Life Butterfly House comments:-

”Yes it is an egg mimic this species and in terms of evolution one of the most interesting plants to come out of South America recently, although there are other examples. Most Heliconiine eggs are yellow, hence the colour of the mimic plant eggs. The fact that they are on leaf tip (modified hydathodes??) could mean that it is targeting a particular butterfly. Different species of Longwings lay on different parts of the vine e.g. shoot tips, tendrils, older leaves. It would be interesting to see what is the commonest species of Longwing out in its local habitat. At a guess, it would be the Small Postman (Heliconius erato) that lays relatively large eggs right on the shoot tips. The Zebra – H. charithonia – also lays on tips but has smaller eggs in tighter clusters. I should say that in the display it gets plastered with eggs of many longwing species. The mimicry defence breaks down here due to butterflies being confined to a small space.”

Passiflora caerulea & poslae

Image © 2009 Neil Gale Magic of Life Butterfly House

This great picture by Neil Gale shows Passiflora caerulea with real Heliconiine eggs (Zebra Longwing) on the left and Passiflora poslae mimicking eggs on the right.