The Coontie, a living fossil from the dinosaur era, is the larval host plant of the Atala butterfly.
The popularity of the Coontie in Florida landscapes is good news for the Atala butterfly whose fortunes ebb and flow with the distribution of Coontie.
The Atala’s red abdomen is a warning that the butterfly is poisonous, or at least will cause quite a stomach ache, to the wildlife daring enough to eat it. The Coontie contains toxins taken up by the Atala caterpillars as they eat the leaves.
The stunning Atala butterfly at rest in the Audubon House landscaping at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area.