Friday, September 11, 2009

Make New Friends (But Keep the Old)

As we finish out the last few weeks of summer, I've been thinking about my butterfly garden and its successes and failures this year. Last year, when I was establishing the garden, my only real goal was to draw butterflies (of any kind) to the yard. This year, I expanded my goals to include drawing a wider variety of butterflies, and providing host plants to begin encouraging caterpillars to live and grow in our habitat.

To draw a wider variety of butterflies, I planted a wider variety and/or greater number of nectar plants. (Makes sense, huh?) This summer, nectar plants in My Florida Backyard included (bold items were new):
  • Blue Porterweed* - This drew some smaller species, like the Horace Duskywing and Long-Tailed Skipper.
  • Butterflyweed - This yellow milkweed type plant seemed to be a favorite of Giant Swallowtails.
  • Tropical Lantana and Pineland Lantana* - A perennial favorite; this year I noticed Fiery Skippers and White Peacocks visiting these frequently.
  • Tampa Vervain* - Similar to lantana, in a pretty purple color.
  • Milkweed - Many butterflies, including Eastern Black Swallowtails, love to visit the flowers for nectar.
  • Tropical Sage*, Red Salvia*, and Coral Honeysuckle* - Red trumpet-shaped flowers (as on the salvia to the right) draw butterflies and the occasional hummingbird.
  • Mexican Petunia (sterile cultivar) - I've seen the occasional sulphur butterfly visiting these, a rare find in my garden.
  • Plumbago - Another favorite of several kinds of butterflies.
  • Firebush* - Gulf fritillaries love these.
I planted some new host plants this year, and learned that some things I already had serve as host plants as well.
  • Passionvine* - I planted this in both native purple and non-native blue. The gulf fritillary caterpillars dined like kings all summer long, and we've seen plenty of empty chrysalises indicating their healthy metamorphosis into butterflies.
  • Parsley - I added this for the Eastern Black Swallowtails and am raising several generations right now.
  • Sicklepod Cassia* - This is a plant I learned about while volunteering at the MOSI BioWorks Butterfly Garden. It is the host plant for several sulphur butterflies, but I've yet to see any eggs or caterpillars.
  • Tropical Milkweed - We planted some last year and added plenty more this year. However, wasps and ants took a toll on the monarch caterpillars, so I've taken to raising some in captivity for release when they become butterflies.
  • Plumbago - Turns out this is the host plant for Cassius Blues, although I've yet to spot any.
I feel pretty good about my accomplishments this year, but next year I hope to have better luck with sulphurs. I'd also like to add wild lime for Giant Swallotail caterpillars, pipevine for Polydamus Swallowtail caterpillars, and get my hands on some pawpaw to draw Zebra Swallowtails.

The great thing about gardening for wildlife is that there are always new species to try to attract. A friend of mine says that since we have such small yards here in the 'burbs, she tries hard to plant only things that will benefit wildlife in some way. I've adopted this philosophy - no room for sterile ornamental plants here. My Florida Backyard is a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat and proud of it!

*Native to Florida

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