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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.

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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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Sunday - June 14, 2015

From: New Egypt, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Shrubs
Title: Butterfly Bush Alternatives in New Egypt NJ
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I have a Non Native Butterfly Bush near my house. I heard that it could be invasive. What alternative plants could replace this bush as it is a butterfly magnet in late summer. Swallowtales and monarchs in particular.

ANSWER:

  Wow, you have a Buddleja marrubiifolia (Woolly butterflybush) ??  Those are only native to the Rio Grande Valley, so I would think it wouldn’t do well in New Jersey at all!

For suggestions of other plants - Mr Smarty Plants approach is to search the Special Collections for appropriate candidates.  “Butterfly Magnets” are listed under "Wildlife use" as a "Benefit" in the plant records, so we can read the records for New Jersey wildflowers for that.  Another option is to explore the collection for “Butterflies and Moths of North America” and then look for those that are good for New Jersey.   As all of the collections can be searched and further reduced for special attributes, I will do the later approach as the “Butterflies” collection can be easily reduced to those that are native to New Jersey.

  When I did that, it only reduced the list to 183 alternatives, so I further selected “shrubs” and “1-6 feet tall”.  This reduced the list to 10 good candidates.  They are:
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)
Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea
Ceanothus herbaceus (Redroot)
Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern)
Epigaea repens (Trailing arbutus)
Gaultheria hispidula (Creeping snowberry
Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep laurel)
Kalmia latifolia (Mountain laurel)
Ledum groenlandicum (Bog labrador tea)
Rhododendron canadense (Rhodora)
Symphoricarpos albus (Common snowberry)

   Give them a view!  In configuration and flowers, Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea) or Ceanothus herbaceus (Redroot) are probably closest to Buddleja marrubiifolia (Woolly butterflybush) (3-6 feet, deciduous shrub, ash-grey, silver to white foliage) but the choice really depends on what appeals to you!

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Woolly butterflybush
Buddleja marrubiifolia

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Prairie redroot
Ceanothus herbaceus

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Trailing arbutus
Epigaea repens

Creeping snowberry
Gaultheria hispidula

Sheep laurel
Kalmia angustifolia

Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia

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