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How does your garden grow?  
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden


Green, black opals

The beautiful winged jay has a rather unglamorous name for such a beautiful butterfly.

What makes true or solid black opals so fascinating is their colourful light diffraction crystals with a natural black back. Yesterday I saw a new butterfly at Dokmai Garden with the appearance of green black opal: ‘the winged jay’ or Graphium agamemnon (Papilionidae).
In fact, I saw two specimens; one female which tried to drink nectar from the flowers of Saraca indica (Fabaceae), constantly moving like the European podalirius butterfly, and then a male circling around her at a tremendous speed, like the ring of planet Neptune (from top to bottom).
The ‘true green opals’ are located on top of the wings, only seen in dead specimens or as a glimpse when the wings flicker. This butterfly species is too busy to sit and bask in the sun like so many other butterflies, so taking a picture of the top side of a living specimen is impossible. To take this picture I had to catch and cool down the butterflies in the fridge. Then I released them on flowers where the sun woke them up. The strong light (this picture was taken in the afternoon) makes the rosy red patterns on the underside fade away.
This,the ninth species of papilionid butterflies native to Dokmai Garden, has a boring vernacular English nickname unworthy its beauty: ‘the winged jay’. Luckily, Linnaeus realized its splendour and named it scientifically in 1758 after legendary king Agamemnon of Mycenae. I am grateful I lived to see it alive.
Saraca indica (Fabaceae) blooms in the cool season when few other nectar sources are available. It is flamingly orange, the colour of November according to Thai traditions. According to some Hindus, this flower is dedicated to Kama, God of erotic love. www.dokmaigarden [email protected]

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Green, black opals