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RE: question about butterflies

  • Subject: [cg] RE: question about butterflies
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2006 15:16:40 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, all,

First, Emily, depending on where you are, you may want
to get started on your garden now. Here in the South
(Zone 7), many of the woodies and perennials that
attract butterflies do best when planted in the fall.
In the spring, your butterfly area will be ready to
rock and roll. Check to see what your local Extension
Agent or Master Gardeners have to say about when to

My favorite butterfly plant is Monarda, (beebalm) a
native wildflower and medicinal herb. Never met a
Monarda I didn't like. They attract hummingbirds, too.
They are good to plant in the fall, here.

A fun project is to combine native plants with
butterflies (and bird gardens/habitat gardens). I like
U of Florida's site,
for a plant list, though they wisely counsel to check
butterfly by butterfly to find preferred foods. The
Florida list has lots of easy, reliable widely adapted
North American favs, like asters, purple coneflower
(Echinacea purpurea), Coreopsis spp., Rudbeckia spp.
(black-eyed Susans) and sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)

I also like the annual butterfly weed (Asclepias
a brightly colored cousin of common milkweed.

Also, check your local wildlife federation,
http://www.nwf.org. The North Carolina branch is
awesome, and I think the Georgia branch used to sell
inexpensive 'butterfly garden kits' for beginners.

About Buddleia, at the risk of foolheartishly tempting
fate, I've got a different take on good ol' 'butterfly
bush' than Adam and Mike (and 'Passalong Plants'
writer and great Southern gardener Felder Rushing).
Buddleia does indeed attract butterflies and grows
like a weed - exactly the problem, it turns out. I
have a couple, and have been roundly criticized for it
by some of the best gardeners I know, enough that I at
least am having some second thoughts. Here's a
balanced summary of the issues from Claire Hagen Dole,
editor of the Butterfly Gardener's Quarterly

>> Politically Incorrect?

Buddleia is at home in disturbed areas, such as road
cuts or new development sites. Its flowers have
softened wartime London's bombed lots and the slag
heaps of Welsh mining towns.  This tendency to be a
weedy colonizer, along with its exotic (non-native)
status in North America, is now making Buddleia
politically incorrect. It's included in the recently
published Invasive Plants [Brooklyn Botanic Garden,
Handbook #149, 1996, $7.95]. Buddleia davidii has
spread from gardens along the Eastern seaboard and the
West coast, to roadsides and riparian (streamside)
zones. It's not yet considered a serious problem, but
it's spreading rapidly.

So what's a responsible gardener to do? Sarah
Reichard, who has been monitoring invasive plants at
the University of Washington, says she's less
concerned about Buddleia's use in urban areas. But if
you're growing it near a natural area, watch for
volunteer seedlings. Remove them and get rid of the
plant if necessary (dig out the roots, which will

You can also plant a less invasive form of Buddleia
like B. globosa or seek native alternatives<<

I also find here in Zone 7B, I need to whack Buddleia
back aggressively every fall - it isn't an all season
star in the the landscape. In fact, it generally looks
pretty weedy (except for the butterflies, which really
do like it). Yankees down this way tend to dismiss it
as wannabe lilacs, which tank here in the heat.

But I confess I do engage in some non-native butterfly
attracting - I grow old fashioned parsley just for
tiger swallowtail larva. They are amazing.

Don Boekelheide
Urban Ministry Center
Charlotte, NC

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