Still thinking about butterflies

Yesterday I went off to a nearby garden center, armed with a few of the July discount coupons they handed out to their spring customers. I got a pot of mixed zinnias to fill in some gaps and attract bees, butterflies, and eventually goldfinches for the seeds. There was a small display of perennials for butterfly gardens, including 3 kinds of Asclepias: A. incarnata (Swamp Milkweed), A. tuberosa, and A. tuberosa “Hello Yellow”. Lacking a swamp, I opted for the orange-flowered Asclepias tuberosa, whose tag implied a relationship with the National Wildlife Federation, rather than the named variety. As Samuel Johnson said of second marriages, this purchase represents the triumph of hope over experience, in that I have planted and lost at least 3 of these plants over the years. For now it looks happy and ready to bloom. I’ll be interested to see if it attracts any Monarchs.

As I was leaving for the garden center, I spotted a lovely fresh example of the cosmopolitan Painted Lady, nectaring on a clump of pinks. These plants are not native to the United States, but given the wide distribution of the Painted Lady, there may well be some place where both plant and insect are considered natives.

A recent post on Botany Photo of the Day talks about attracting butterflies with both larval and adult food plants. It points out the benefit of having a variety of nectar sources, when “eight or more species are flowering simultaneously”. Let’s see, right now I have lavender, zinnias, petunias, sunflowers, lilies, pinks, daylilies, crape myrtle, buddleia, coreopsis, black eyed susans, daisies, alyssum, gerbera, gooseneck loosestrife… So more than 8, but not all equally attractive to butterflies. And that’s in multiple beds, so perhaps a bit dispersed.

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