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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 - November 07, 2013

From: Horseshoe Bay, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Why is butterfly weeds blooming in October?
Answered by: Nan Hampton & Valerie Bugh

QUESTION:

I live in Horseshoe Bay Texas and have native landscape environment. Last year, in early September, I had a plethora of butterfly weed in bloom and a large variety and quantity of butterflies. This year, (Oct 28, 2013) my butterfly weeds are just beginning to bloom and very few butterflies. Is this a normal variation in the bloom cycle and have the butterflies found other areas to feed on the migration? Just curious. As always, with thanks.

ANSWER:

The reason the butterly weeds are blooming now is that it finally rained enough and remained warm long enough to trigger their blooming.  Their are many plants blooming out of their usual time slot (e.g., I saw a Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) in full bloom in late October—usually they bloom in late spring and early summer).  The adult butterflies that are moving through the area to warmer climates for the winter will feed on nectar on many different plants. It doesn't need to be the plant that they lay their eggs on that is specific for the larvae's feeding needs.  The female butterflies are not laying eggs at this time of year—the adults just need fuel (nectar) to make it to their overwintering sites.

 

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