The Life of a Pavetta


Pavetta australiensis (Pavetta) is a small tree, more commonly a shrub occurring from the McPherson Range in New South Wales up to the Torres Strait in Queensland. It likes dry rainforest, and is remarkably hardy. It is renowned for its beautiful white flowers, which are quite showy and perfumed. It is in the same family as the gardenia, (Rubiaceae) so the perfume is not surprising! This plant is a very good butterfly and moth attractor…

Caterpillars that are known to feed on Pavetta include:

  • Moth (Macroglossum hirundo)
  • Coffee hawk moth (Cephonodes hylas)
  • Gardenia hawk moth (Cephonodes kingie)
  • Aussie White-brow Hawk Moth (Gnathothlibus erotus)

I have three at home. Recently I noticed that one of them looked ‘dead’! With all the rain, I did not think this likely, so had a closer look. The plant was fine, albeit with no leaves left at all! A further search revealed the cause … not culprit. It was a caterpillar.

Many of our native plants are host plants for insects, particularly butterfly and moth larvae. Larvae are often species specific, whereas adult butterflies in particular feed on a variety of flowers to get nectar. The ‘damage’ may look serious, however it is in fact a gentle pruning, and the plant will come back after the caterpillar has hatched and flown away … until egg time.

See series of photos to illustrate the point. *

Now, I am not sure which larvae this is … I reckon it is a Hawk moth, but as to which one, maybe a reader can let me know?