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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native plants to attract butterflies

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Thursday - October 18, 2007

From: College Station, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Native plants to attract butterflies
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm a Texas A&M Wildlife and Ecology student working with a landowner in Bastrop County, Texas. As part of their Habitat Management Plan, they are hoping to enhance butterfly habitat on their property. We're hoping to open up a few clearings on the heavily forested property (hardwoods) and introduce some native plants to attract butterflies. As such, I'm looking for plants of all levels of sun that tolerate dry conditions on a sandy loam. Any recommendations?

ANSWER:

You will want to find plants that are good nectar sources for adults and ones that are caterpillar food. The Cockrell Butterfly Center Guide to Butterfly Gardening in Houston has a list of nectar plants, some of them native and some not. Many of these serve as larval food for caterpillars as well. Of the native ones, here are some that are found in Bastrop County, Texas and should do well in the habitat you describe:

Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida (Dakota mock vervain)

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium (aromatic aster)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage)

Solidago altissima (late goldenrod)

Liatris mucronata (cusp blazing star) and other Liatris species.

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)

For larval food plants there are several source lists:

Caterpillar Food Plants for Central Texas from Mike Quinn at Texas Parks & Wildlife, Gardening for Butterflies from the Butterfly Enthusiasts of Southeast Texas of the North American Butterfly Asscociation (BEST-NABA) and Native Host Plants for Southeast Texas Butterflies from the Houston Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

From these lists here are some suggested plants for Bastrop County:

Asclepias asperula (spider milkweed)

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel)

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet)

Phacelia congesta (bluecurls)

Passiflora lutea (yellow passionflower)

Ptelea trifoliata (common hoptree)

Helianthus annuus (common sunflower)

Cornus drummondii (roughleaf dogwood)

Most of these plants are readily available commercially. You can search for nurseries and seed companies in your area that specialize in native plants by visiting our National Suppliers Directory.

 

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