According to "The Concise Flora of Singapore, Volume 1: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons by Hsuan Keng published in 1990", Pipturus argenteus (Australian Mulberry) was a fairly recent introduced weed. This means that it came to Singapore around 1990. The "native" in the common name refers to Australia. A good introduction to this plant can be found in the SOWN website.
The first time that I chance upon this plant was back in January 2009. It was an unknown plant to me then. A few months later, this plant caught my attention due to its affiliation with a butterfly. This particular butterfly is called the Malayan Eggfly (Hypolimnas anomala anomala). I was quite excited about this finding since it was the first time that I had caught sight of butterflies laying eggs. There were several of them on the plant busy laying their eggs. Each of them at least had laid more than a hundred eggs at the back of the leaves. To witness the evolution of this creature, I had gone back to the site for the next 3 weekends. Unfortunately, I did not manage to see any new butterfly at the end of the 3 weeks.
Below is the photo record of what I had seen.
It all started with the numerous, small and cute little eggs.
A week later, the eggs hatched and the caterpillars started their feasting.
Another week went by and the caterpillars grown in size. The feasting continued.
At my final visit a week later, the leafless tree and the carcases of the caterpillars were all that remain. No butterfly seen.
About 3 months later, when I visited the same plant again, it has re-gained its original posture with the leaves back on.
Interestingly, two months later when I visited the same plant, another feasting cycle had completed but I did not get to witness it this time round. The ritual seems to be repeated quite often.
At the same visit, I chance upon another plant (about 100 metres away from the previous plant) where another new cycle had just begun. This time round was a lone butterfly laying its eggs. I returned a week later to see the familiar caterpillars.
Another week went by, I returned to a familiar sight.
I will not dwell on since the cycle repeats itself. It is great to witness this evolution though I have yet to seen the final part of it. The moment of egg-laying appears to be a vulnerable stage in the life cycle of this creature. It did not move or bother to do so when I came close to take its photo. The egg-laying event should be a crucial event that has to be undertaken even if it has to risk its life. Continuation of the species is program in the gene of all living creatures. It will take great effort to defy this destiny.
Last updated: 2 January 2010