It only takes a moment to learn something new about our world.
The iridescent Atala butterfly is a gentle hairstreak of South Florida's pine rocklands. These pollinators lay eggs on North America's only native cycad, Coontie (Zamia integrifolia). When the caterpillars hatch, they devour the leaves and fertilize the soil with their droppings. Like the Monarch, the Atala has bright and colorful markings that shout, "Stay away, predators! I'm poisonous!" Atalas are poisonous due to a toxin in Coontie that stays with the insects their whole life.
Coontie gardeners should always wear gloves and be careful, because the plant's sap contains "cancer-causing and neurotoxic compounds," according to the Jacksonville Arboretum.
In the 1900s, these butterflies were almost eradicated along with their native larval plant. Massive amounts of Coontie were harvested by humans to make prized baking flour, and the Atala almost went extinct. The USDA banned the use of Coontie in 1925, and the State of Florida listed Eumaeus atala, the Atala's Latin name, as endangered.
Making a Comeback
The rare Atala is making a comeback, and you can be a part of it!
Waterway Advocates is excited to announce the launch of our 1st ever Pollination Station at Greynolds Park. On August 13, we invite volunteers to help plant Coontie and other native species with us to create thriving butterfly habitats. After this event, we will be conducting pollinator data collection with community members throughout Greynolds Park.
Learn more in the Florida Wildflower Foundation's "Know Your Native Pollinator" Series.
We hope to see you at Greynolds on August 13th! 🥳 #launchparty