Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Competitive Butterfly Gardening

I swear there has to be one master company that takes all the seed catalogs and distributes them so I get two a day or something. I've been steadily getting them in it makes me wish some were at least printed on biodegradable paper so I can compost them. It might be nice digging through the garden years later only to come across an article of some plant I might buy.

I might not be annoyed by this if these catalogs weren't all selling the same plants. It leads me to believe there's a company somewhere selling affiliate programs to various old ladies who always wanted to open their own nursery. Actually the issue here is a complete lack of diversity. There used to be 500+ varieties of corn growing in this country but then industrial farming came along and we're down to a few dozen.

I see a lot of catalogs putting pictures of butterflies (usually fake or edited in) but this is more to highlight what the adults feed on. Flowering plants need insect pollination... do go on. It would be funny if they started editing in pictures of humans next to the edible plants to show what people eat.

I don't see to many people marketing the butterfly host plant angle and that's a shame. Butterfly Gardening has almost become competitive ever since Tallamy's Book "Bringing Nature Home," which I try to frequently promote here.

Milkweed for the Monarch is so last year. Though Asclepias purpurascens is still on my list. Wild Senna for the Cloudless Sulphur, and Dutchman's Pipe Vine for the Pipevine Swallowtail are in. Wild Senna is a plant that has pores on it that produce nectar intended to feed ants. The ants come and crawl all over the plant. Most ant species will limit the caterpillars ability to move about the plant and some ant species may even eat the caterpillars.

It took me forever to find someone selling Dutchman's Pipe! Brushwood Nursery came through in the end and sells a number of other native vines too. Pipevine Swallowtail aren't very colorful but the caterpillars over winter as a crystals and hatch out in the spring. So they're an early treat.

Spice Bush is another one to plant, to get Spicebush Swallowtail. The plants are male and female plants. You'll need a male to get berries on the female plant. The berries feed birds in the winter time and otherwise look nice. If you don't get berries then Oh well, the plant will grow fine. The Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly also isn't very colorful but the caterpillar actually mimic snakes, that are 3 inches long and completely harmless.

Basically caterpillars are probably the top food item being fed to baby birds. If your yard supports 20 or so species of caterpillars you probably fed a family of birds over the summer time.

So when you're looking through those gardening catalogs, always try to go native.