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Beware of Disappearing Leaves!

The frangipani tree at Annaberg last week

Ok, I admit it. The title of this post is overly dramatic. But it caught your attention, right? 🙂 Well as dramatic as it is, it’s actually true! Leaves on a beautiful tree are about to disappear over at the Annaberg Plantation, and there’s a pretty cool backstory to it.

For those of you who have visited the Annaberg Plantation here on St. John, you may have noticed the frangipani tree that’s located over near the windmill area. This frangipani, also known as plumeria, has beautiful, fragrant pink flowers when in bloom, and that started to happen about a week or so back. The tree looks dead the rest of the time, and that’s due to a cute little caterpillar.

The frangipani caterpillar, also known as Pseudosphinx tetrio, is a black caterpillar with a bright red head, orange collar, and vivid yellow stripes. It starts off relatively small, but grows quite quickly due to its voracious appetite. This particularly type of caterpillar only eats the leaves and flowers from frangipanis, hence its name. One caterpillar can eat up to three leaves a day, and can grow up to six inches in length. Once the frangipani caterpillar arrives, the leaves and the beautiful pink frangipani blooms disappear rather quickly, leaving nothing but bare tree branches in its wake. This can happen in a matter of days.

A frangipani caterpillar crawls along the wall at the Trunk Bay overlook.
A bloom up close at Annaberg last week
The flowers were starting to bloom at Annaberg last week.

You would think that the frangipani caterpillar would grow into a beautiful butterfly, but that’s not the case. Instead it grows into a rather basic-looking moth.

Image credit: University of Florida

So for those of you who are lucky enough to be on St. John this week or perhaps even next week too, head over to the Annaberg Plantation, and see this interesting little critter in action. And while you’re there, be sure to check out my friend Charles in the garden and Ms. Olivia Christian in the cookhouse. They are St. John treasures.

That’s all I have for you today, folks. Have a fantastic Thursday!

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