Monday, October 6, 2014

Butterfly bush versus native hyssop in Manassas

Several years back on a trip to Merrifield Nursery in Gainesville VA with my mother she saw and fell for a purple butterfly bush Buddleia davidii that was particularly showy as most of that nursery's stock is and we brought one home and made it the center piece of her flower bed at the front of the house. My Dutch friend and pen pal, Cor Windhouwer recommended we cut Buddleia down to about knee high in winter. Taking his advice it has performed very well growing about 8 feet tall each summer and giving us a lot of big blooms that do attract lots of nectar seeking creatures, including butterflies and humming birds.

I am amazed how an alien plant can seem to be so beneficial but I know that, not having a long evolution with this plant, our native insects can't lay eggs on it or use the butterfly bush for anything but nectar. That said, it sure is fun to watch them sipping and fitting about on the purple flowers. This article in Rodale news bad butterfly bush details why this flowering Asian plant is a problem in our gardens and we should shun it. So we don't have any butterfly bush in our DC garden but in Manassas I get to take lots of photos of the butterflies that are eating nectar but have to find native plants on which to lay eggs and reproduce in other parts of that garden environment. The huge oak tree is home to over 500 natives species and that is less than 25 feet from the Buddleia. We have a native collection we are beginning to mix in with the non-natives. The New York Aster is one that I mixed in right next to the butterfly bush and is now blooming using the stronger branches of the butterfly bush as a support to hold it upright.
Clear winged moth visits the butterfly bush in daylight hours.  

Male monarch butterfly identified by the two black spots and narrow black lines in the wings. (Thanks Jason Alexander for help with the sex ID) 
 Butterflies rely on a lot of plants and some natives are nick named 'super pollenators' because they offer so much nectar and pollen for the native insects for long periods of time when they need it most. I think this volunteer Anise hyssop is a super native pollenator.  We cultivated it from the first plant that showed up in between the bricks by our old fish and waterlily pond in the back yard of Manassas. It is a great one to have around the yard because numerous bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, moths, hummingbirds, and other small song birds like gold finches visit this flowering mint with a licorish scent summer through autumn.
Seed filled flowers of the native Anise hyssop a member of the mint family that bees and butterflies pollenated earlier this year is now feeding birds like the gold finches that eat the seeds.

Having a mix of native plants planted in with non-native plants helps us supporting the insects that feed our birds and entertain us all year long as well as support life for all. 
male gold finch eating seed of the Anise hyssop
Anise hyssop in the first flower of summer

1 comment:

✾Jamie Lee Cooley✾ said...

I love this post, Frederick, and found the link article especially helpful. We have quite a large butterfly garden but until recently didn't realize that the bee balm, milkweed, and yarrow aren't necessarily the indigenous varieties we should be growing. And unfortunately getting help from nursery workers. The database for native wildflower from that article has my mind spinning with seeds I need to get so we can grow them next spring!!!