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

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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

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