We have fennel growing in our untamed and unweeded wildflower bed. It's grown tall, with lacy leaves and delicate yellow flowers.
Fennel is edible, although I've never tasted it and have no clue how to prepare it. We don't grow fennel for its food value or beauty or black licorice scent. We grow fennel for one thing only: caterpillar fodder.
Fennel is a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies, which means those beautiful insects have laid their eggs on our plants and caterpillars have hatched. Lots of caterpillars! (I can spot 4 in this picture.)
The caterpillars are mostly white when they first hatch...
... and turn yellow and even a little green as they grow.
And they are eating machines! They will munch the fennel until there is nothing left but stalks.
Rachel, my nature loving girl, is fascinated.
She likes adores caterpillars and is something of a butterfly whisperer.
As for me, I think the whole caterpillar life cycle is pretty amazing.
I found 16 caterpillars and I think I took a picture of every one.
I must have annoyed this guy, because he's sticking out his tiny horns to tell me to leave him alone.
It's fun to find our own Very Hungry Caterpillar (and his siblings, cousins, and a few close friends) right in the backyard.
It's a wonderful reminder that life is all about the little things.