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Mr. Smarty Plants - Butterfly/hummingbird garden in Texas

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Friday - September 09, 2005

From: Marion, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Butterfly/hummingbird garden in Texas
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I am coordinating a butterfly/hummingbird garden on 100 acres that our religious organization has. We want to use native Texas plants as much as possible. Are these two types of gardens compatible and what plants are a good start? The garden would be located in Fayette county.

ANSWER:

Butterfly and hummingbird gardens are absolutely compatible. Both types of creature are nectar sippers, so you want to include flowering plants that provide plenty of sweet nectar for both the birds' and the insects' needs.

Some nectar-producing native Texas plants of which hummingbirds are particularly fond are Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii; Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens; Wild Bergamot, Monarda citriodora; Tropical Sage, Salvia coccinea; Texas Betony, Stachys coccinea; Standing Cypress, Ipomopsis rubra; and Texas Lantana, Lantana urticoides.

Butterflies have slightly different needs. Adult butterflies will often feed on any nectar-producing flowers they can find. For the most part, they're pretty indiscriminate about the flowers they feed on. However, some are much more fond of certain flowers than others.

As careless as most adult butterflies are about feeding, they're very careful about where they lay their eggs! Most butterflies will lay eggs only on plants of specific families or even specific genera. For example, Monarch butterflies are famous for feeding on milkweed plants as caterpillars. The species of milkweed isn't so important (and there are many species), but they feed exclusively on that family. Likewise, Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Longwing butterflies lay their eggs only on plants of the Passionvine genus, Passiflora. And on it goes. Nearly all butterflies are very picky about where their young are going to dine.

You will find the USGS website Butterflies of Fayette County, Texas a very useful resource. Not only does it list all of the species of butterflies known to frequent your county, but it also provides pictures and a wealth of information about each species' life history. On our own Native Plant Information Network (NPIN) website you can find articles on Butterfly Gardening Resources, Creating a Wildlife Garden and a Wildlife Gardening Bibliography.

You can also find flowers to attract butterflies by searching in the Native Plants Database on our web page. For instance, if you select Combination Search from the options, and then select "Yellow" from Bloom Color under Bloom Characteristics, "Herb" under Growth Form and "Texas" under Select State you will get a list of yellow wildflowers (most with pictures) that are native to Texas. Using the criteria for flower shape that attracts butterflies, you can choose flowers from the list and learn more about them. At the top of page for each plant there is a menu. By choosing "Benefits" from the menu, you will be able to see if the flower attracts butterflies.
 

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