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Three Plants to Help Save Seven Butterflies

Pollinators are one of the most impacted populations by climate change. Bees, hummingbirds, bats, and butterflies are all facing unprecedented threats as they struggle to adapt and survive the changing rhythms of weather and the seasons. You can help save seven species of Florida butterflies just by providing these three host plants in your yard!

The native habitats and migration of butterfly populations have been disrupted by extreme and unpredictable weather patterns. Summer in some areas is becoming drier and hotter, and in other areas winter is lasting longer with more storms and blizzards.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Butterfly conservation data shows that increasing temperatures and changing bloom times of flowers are forcing many species of butterflies to alter their migration schedules and spread northwards and uphill in search of cooler more favorable temperatures while in search of their favored nectar sources and larval host plants.

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Nectar plants attract adult butterflies by supplying nectar. These plants vary in size, fragrance, and shape of the flower. All nectar plants have nectar that is sipped by the butterfly, but the plant is not eaten by them.  

Julia Butterfly (Dryas iulia)

Butterfly species choose to lay their eggs on or near plants, (called host or larval plants), that their caterpillar phase will eat. Each species has a very narrow range of host plants that supply the necessary chemicals required for the proper nourishment and growth of the caterpillars.

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia)

Butterfly conservation organizations agree that we can help our native butterfly populations become more resilient and more responsive to climate change by providing the proper host or larval plants in our landscape.

Gulf Fritillary (Dione vanillae)

Here are three easy-to-grow host plants you can grow in your backyard that will help sustain the seven different Florida native butterflies featured in this article!

1. Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis) is a host plant for both the Monarch and Queen butterfly.

Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

2. Corky stemmed passionflower (Passiflora suberosa) is a host plant for Julia, zebra longwing, and Gulf fritillary butterflies.

Corky stemmed passionflower (Passiflora suberosa)

3. Bahama Cassia (Senna Mexicana chapmanii) is a host plant for Orange-barred sulphur and Cloudless sulphur butterflies.

Bahama Cassia (Sennna Mexicana chapmanii)

When you plant these host plants be sure to place them in a sunny, low-traffic area. Provide some nectar plants nearby that are appropriate to your area. (In South Florida, firebush, pentas, lantana, verbena, plumbago, and blue porterweed are good choices and easily found.) Try to provide some larger plants nearby for shelter and a windbreak, preferable on the north-side of the garden, and provide a water source for drinking. Flat rocks in a sunny place allow a source for butterflies to warm themselves in the sun.

Orange-barred Sulphur (Phoebis philea)

Avoid pesticides in your garden as they will kill your butterflies. Instead, use a strong spray jet of water to rid plants of pests or hand-pick them from the plants, and use mulch to decrease the weeds. Choose natural organic or slow-release fertilizers with a low phosphorous level to help minimize phosphorous runoff to our waterways.

Cloudless Sulphur butterflies (Phoebis sennae)

With just a little effort and these three plants, you can attract these seven Broward County native butterflies to your yard and help them survive! If you wish to learn more about Florida butterflies and establishing a Butterfly Garden, the University of Florida has excellent information on Butterfly Gardening in Florida, here.

Note: The three plants listed in this article can be difficult to find. We recommend looking at nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants and/or butterfly plants. Flamingo Gardens is now propagating these plants in our nursery, and we hope to have these and other essential butterfly host plants for sale in the Gift Shop by the weekend. 

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