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
9 ratings

Tuesday - January 20, 2009

From: Lincoln, NE
Region: Midwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Non-invasive plants for hummingbird and butterfly garden
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello :) I've been building a huge Hummingbird and Butterfly garden. Up until now I've only had the Milkweeds and Dill for host plants for the Monarch and Black Swallowtail Butterflies. I'd love to add more host plants, but a few I'm quite apprehensive about getting: False Nettle (invasive).for the Red Admiral and the Question Mark Rue (caution needed for handling and proximity to other plants).for the Giant Swallowtail Cassia (invasive).for the Cloudless Sulphur Toadflax (invasive).for the Buckeye Plantain (invasive).also for the Buckeye I'd like to be able to plant one or two of each of these without having a nightmare. I've dealt with some invasive plants. Currently on our property we have several Butterfly Bushes which are considered invasive. I make sure I de-head the spent blooms on a regular basis so there is no problem. On the other hand, we had a Trumpet Creeper vine that became a real issue and we are still dealing with the runners from that plant we had escavated. So my question is, can you tell me which of the above plants from that list of host plants I'd like to add to our yard/gardens.are any of them a major concern? Controlable?.or should I not even consider them unless we have 20 acres.LOL Bless you for your time, Susan

ANSWER:

First of all, let me emphasize what we are all about here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

"The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes."

That said, we won't recommend any species not native to North America.  Here is a rundown of the species you mention:

Anethum graveolens (dill) is not native to North America (native to Asia).

Boehmeria cylindrica (false nettle) is native to North America and not considered invasive.

Ruta graveolens (common rue) is native to southern Europe and Africa, not native to North America.

I'm not sure which species of Cassia you are refering to, but Cassia fistula (golden shower) occurs in Florida and, although it is not native (native to Asia), it is not considered invasive there.

Comandra umbellata (bastard toadflax) is native and not invasive as far as I can find.  It is hemi-parasitic; that is, even though it is green and photosynthesizes much of its food, its roots also attach to other plants growing nearby and acquire some of its food and water from them.

There are many species of plantains (Genus Plantago).  Among them, Plantago aristata (largebracted plantain), native to North America, and Plantago lanceolata (narrowleaf plantain), not native, are both on the Federal and State Noxious Weeds list.  I don't know which plantain you refer to, but there are many plantains that are native and not invasive or noxious.

You can find a list of native plants that are hosts for butterflies and moths of North America on our webpage.  On that page you can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to select plants native to Nebraska and will have the best chance of thriving there. For instance, you will see that there are seven different species of Asclepias native to Nebraska that serve as larval hosts to monarch (Danaus plexippus) and queen (D. gilippus) butterflies.

You can find a list of List of Butterflies of Nebraska and by clicking on the butterfly species, you will find both larval and adult hosts for each species.

There is also a Nebraska Butterfly Association page with a Butterfly Gardening article with lists  of plants, both larval and adult hosts.  You can check the nativity of the plants by searching our Native Plant Database.  Still another website, Butterflies of Nebraska, has a list of plants that are hosts to butterflies, but they don't link the plants to a particular butterfly.  Most of the plants appear to be native to North America, but, again, you can check them against the Native Plant Database to be sure.

You can find numerous books on butterflies and butterfly gardening in our Native Plant Bibliography.  For instance, although its focus is on the South, Butterfly Gardening for the South (Geyata Ajilvsgi, 1991) is an excellent book with photos of many butterflies and information on their host plants.  There is also much information and photos of the plants that are recommended.

We do urge you to avoid using non-native plants and to, instead, use plants native to Nebraska in your garden. The natives are adapted to your environment and are more likely to thrive there using less water and fertilizer than non-natives.

 

 

 

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Growing butterfly weed as a girl scout project
July 30, 2012 - We have a group of girl scouts who want to sell 'crafts' at a farmers market. I am wanting to steer the moms and girls in a different direction. I was wondering if you think that butterfly weed woul...
view the full question and answer

Making a perennial cutting garden friendly to butterflies.
February 05, 2016 - I would like to start a perennial cutting garden friendly to butterflies Where can I get a list of plants .
view the full question and answer

Butterfly and Pollinator Plants for Indianapolis Garden
June 23, 2015 - I live in Indianapolis, IN and would like to have a native garden. I'd be especially interested in plants that help butterflies and bumble bees. There's a fairly dry area on the west side of the hou...
view the full question and answer

Flowers for monarch butterflies in Bastrop, Gonzales and Travis Counties of Texas
March 05, 2013 - Hi Mr./s. Smarty Plants, What are some flowers that grow naturally on a Bastrop, Travis, or Gonzales county riverside that monarch butterflies commonly feed on? Thank you
view the full question and answer

Butterfly and medicinal plants for New Braunfels
July 10, 2009 - I am in zip code 78132 and we just put in a garden at our front steps- so my choices for plants need to fill a need for beauty and function. I want to include plants that will host and feed butterfli...
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