Butterfly Weed July 26, 2007
The more I get involved with butterflies, native plants, birds and anything other creatures that may occur in the nature, the wilder my yard looks. My family used to tease me about having "Kingwood West": Immaculate lawns, raised bed gardens, and 125 varieties of hosta (all labeled). No more. I have been cured, or ruined, I suppose it is all in perspective. It all started when a Common Milkweed grew in my garden, and I couldn't bring myself to weed it out. I knew where there is milkweed, there are butterflies. There has been no turning back.
Now, my property is considered a side-show for the neighborhood. One neighbor is trying to figure why I let waist high grass grow in certain areas. Another brought her children by tonight to see the caterpillars and talk about host plants. All three kiddies enjoyed the resident Tussick Moth caterpillars and went home with a new butterfly booklet. Gotta encourage those science freaks :)
The latest project has been developing a prairie, and planting in a few native plants. One species on my must have list was Butterfly Weed, Asclepsia tuberosa. What a gorgeous plant! The bright orange is a real show-stopper. Butterflies love to nectar on it and Monarch caterpillars utilize it as well. This is one of the plants in the Aclepiadaceae (Milkweed family), along with Common, Swamp, Purple and Sullivant's Milkweed. Closely related to the Dogbanes, all are plants you will generally find in the full sun.
Butterflies, being exothermic, love to bask in the sun. Similar to cold-blooded animals such as reptiles, the warmer they are the faster they are able to move. Add a rock or a brick to your butterfly garden for their basking and a mud puddle for "puddling" and you may well increase the number of winged visitors to your garden. The neighborhood kids may come by too :)