I was walking around the backyard taking pictures like I do every day. The batteries had just gone dead so I wasn't looking too closely at things because I hate missing a "once in a lifetime" photo. I passed by a small sapling that a bird planted a year or so ago. I always assumed it was some sort of holly since it retained its leaves through winter and there is a dahoon right close by in my neighbors scrub area. I really never gave it much thought until today, when I was surprised to see a large caterpillar resting square in the middle of a leaf. Now, I've learned to identify some caterpillars and this one obviously was in the swallowtail family but I thought...what the heck is it doing on a holly? I ran inside to get the spare set of rechargeables when suddenly........... DUHHHHHHH! A lightbulb went off in my non-working brain. I returned to the tree and immediately snapped off a lower leaf. I was intoxicated by the spicey smell brought forth when I crushed the leaf between my fingers. The tree is a RED BAY! Florida native persea borbonia with it's lovely smell and leathery, glossy leaves. Mind you, the tree is not even my height (about 5 foot) and is one of the "bloom where God planted you" additions to my yard bought on when I I had little luck in buying and planting things around my yard.
Since that time I learned about the Florida Native Plant Society and joined the Pine Lily Chapter (Osceola County). I studied up on ecosystems, "right plant, right place", the importance of choosing native over exotic and about two years ago I started letting various sections of my yard just grow to see what had been chopped prior to my buying the property. Once again I have been rewarded by my new "garden addition" attitude. I also learned today that I should snap a leaf off of the things I'm not sure of the identification and take a whiff.....or maybe I'll just wait to see what creature of nature can clue me in. In this case, I initially thought spicebush butterfly, but a check on the internet clued me in to its relative, the Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes) this guy will grow up to be.