En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - February 20, 2014

From: Buffalo, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Butterfly garden from Buffalo, NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'd like to replace the grass in my front yard with a native butterfly garden that will suit the larval and adult stages of butterflies in Western New York. The patch in question faces north and gets bright sun in the morning and early evening, but shade for most of the afternoon. My soil is clay. I haven't had the ph tested professionally but the store test indicated it is alkaline. What plants would be the greatest benefit to the greatest number of butterfly species? Would it be better to concentrate on a single plant (like milkweed, which is becoming scarce) or to plant a variety? The area is around 5' x 12'. Is there a list of top plants you would recommend?

ANSWER:

We agree with you on the possibility of at least including milkweed in your butterfly garden plans. Please read this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, which includes a link to a recent article in the New York Times, which you may have already read, but if you haven't please look at it, too.

Next, we have an article for you from our own website on Butterfly Gardening. We realize that many of the flowers mentioned in both sources are not native to New York, and we always try to find natives to the area involved to have a better assurance of having the right plants for your soils, climate and rainfall.

Butterflies and Moths of North America is a searchable database of verified butterfly and moth records in the United States. This site includes dynamic distribution maps, photographs, species accounts, and species checklists for each county in the U.S. We designated New York as the state on the selection list on the right side of the page, which gave us this list of 199 butterfly-friendly plants native to New York. We will select 12 of these that look like good prospects and only place on our final list those that we know (from the USDA Plant Profiles on each plant) are native to Erie County, in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie. You can access the same list, which also includes trees and shrubs that are good for butterfly gardens, and make your own selections. Note we chose 12, but there are others you may prefer, and we only got to the R's on the list. Since you specifically mentioned  milkweed, we included the 4 members of the genus Asclepias (milkweed) native to your area.

Butterfly Garden Plants for Buffalo, NY:

Anaphalis margaritacea (Western pearly everlasting)

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed)

Asclepias syriaca (Common milkweed)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Asclepias verticillata (Whorled milkweed)

Cornus alternifolia (Alternateleaf dogwood)

Cornus sericea (Redosier dogwood)

Epigaea repens (Trailing arbutus)

Erigeron philadelphicus (Philadelphia fleabane)

Kalmia latifolia (Mountain laurel)

Lupinus perennis (Sundial lupine)

Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherrima (Blackeyed susan)

 

From the Image Gallery


Western pearly everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea

Swamp milkweed
Asclepias incarnata

Common milkweed
Asclepias syriaca

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Longleaf milkweed
Asclepias longifolia

Alternateleaf dogwood
Cornus alternifolia

Red osier dogwood
Cornus sericea

Trailing arbutus
Epigaea repens

Philadelphia fleabane
Erigeron philadelphicus

Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia

Sundial lupine
Lupinus perennis

Blackeyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherrima

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Flowering native plants for Evanston IL
July 12, 2009 - What flowering, native plants would be suitable for a backyard garden in Evanston Illinois?
view the full question and answer

Source for two violas for Houston
July 10, 2013 - I live in Houston, TX. Can you tell me where I can buy viola rotundifolia and viola cucullata? I understand these are round-leaved yellow violet and marsh blue violet respectively. I stumbled on these...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a moist, shady spot in central Texas
July 08, 2016 - I am looking for a plant that will grow in almost full shade with plenty of moisture along a fence. We are looking at putting down some flagstone with possibly some moss growing in between, but we don...
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of barren strawberries
April 30, 2012 - Are barren strawberries toxic? .
view the full question and answer

Native perennial winter plants for Waco, TX
November 03, 2004 - I live in the Waco area, and would like to know winter plants that I could use that would come back each year, flowering or otherwise.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center