Hello Herbies! At our March 9 meeting, we discussed "Planting Herbs for Butterflies and Hummingbirds". The program was presented by Linda Collins and Pat Baugh.
Pat presented the following information regarding butterflies which was in Michael Womack’s column in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, March 15, 2003, and I have added a couple more herbs myself.
Eastern Black Swallowtails feed on fennel, parsley, dill, carrot, parsnip, and rue.
Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Longwings are common on passion vine.
Monarch butterflies love plants in the butterfly weed family and fennel.
The Giant Swallowtail prefers citrus and rue.
Painted Lady larvae love borage and members of the thistle family and sunflower.
Pat reported that that the favorite colors of butterflies in order are:
• True blue
And the top ten nectar plants for butterflies are:
• Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)
• Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium spp.)
• Liatris (Liatris spp.)
• Corespsis (Corespsis spp.)
• Pentas (Pentas Lanceolata)
• Aster (Aster spp.)
• Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
• Lantana (Lantanca camara)
• Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
• Butterfly bush (Buddlea spp.)
Butterfly and Hummingbird Herbs
by Juli Kight
Create a healing space using herbs which attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This can be a space in your garden or a space created by a container herb garden. A few years ago while living in Minnesota I had been planting various and unusual herbs, roses and growing geraniums into standards. We had two warm seasons and had been seeing a lot of unusual life in the garden that I normally had not seen including hummingbirds. One early morning after putting the dog out, I stood on the porch among the plants and saw what I thought was a really unusual hummingbird. Then I noticed the antenna, and really had to look closer to make sure that is what I was seeing, and was captivated. Apparently we were being visited by some sort of hummingbird or Sphinx Moth and I have not seen one since. Now that I live in Central Texas and still very much a novice at this, I have noticed huge amounts of butterflies and moths as well as hummingbirds and have decided to add more plants to attract them.
Butterfly plants provide nectar for adult butterflies and food for the offspring. It is important to learn how to garden organically to make it a safe haven and supporting area for these little life forms. Many nectar plants are shared by both the butterfly and hummingbird. According to http://hummingbirds.net/, hummingbirds lack the sense of smell and go by "visibility and nectar production". I had noticed they seem attracted to reds especially.
Find out which butterflies and moths are native to your area. You can do this by going to the http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/ website. This site offers distribution maps, butterfly and moth identification by region and information on the species. For hummingbirds visit Hummingbirds.net Species list by state.
For selecting plants for butterflies, visit the Butterfly Website which offers a list by species, then gives both nectar and host plant suggestions. Some easy herb selections include:
• Hyacinth Bean Vine
• Bee balm
• Joe Pye Weed
• Hypericum frondosum (Golden St. John's Wort)
• Bee Balm
• Digitalis (Foxgloves)
• Hamelia patens (firebush, scarlet bush, hummingbird bush)
Butterflies and hummers also like:
• Hibiscus coccineus 'Texas Star'
• Cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit)
• Almond verbena (Aloysia virgata)
• Trumpet Vine
• Cape Honeysuckle
• Bottlebrush Plant
• Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
• Lion's Ear (Leonotis nepetifolia)
• Mints, especially Purple Horse Mint (Monarda punctata )
• *Salvias (Sages) especially Hummingbird Sage (Salvia guaranitica), Autumn Sage (Salvia Greggii) and Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) which is a good substitute for Scarlet Sage, a/k/a Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea) which can be rather invasive.
And I’ll add my "recipe of the month" for hummingbirds:
Feeders can be easily purchased and kept full with a sugar water solution. Glass feeders last longer and are more easily cleaned. You should never use a dye to the solution because it can make the birds sick. The red color of the feeder is enough to attract the birds. The solution for the feeders is 1 part sugar to 4 parts of water. Boil the water and then add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Let it cool before placing it in the feeders. While extra solution can be kept in the refrigerator for two weeks, it is best to make smaller amounts more often. The feeders should be cleaned with hot water (no soap) every three days in hot weather. The feeder should be placed in an open, shady spot where the hummers will have easy access. Every now and then when the feeders get really dirty, clean them with a bleach water mixture of one part bleach to ten parts water and let soak, rinse with lots of fresh water and let dry thoroughly before refilling.
And the most important thing is to keep your feeders clean. In Texas, where it is so hot, do not allow your solution to be in the feeder for more than three days. A fungus will start to grow in the solution which causes for the hummers to get a chronic respiratory infection. The hummers do not know that the fungus is in the solution and will continue to feed from it. So make sure you keep your feeders clean.
Until next month, great gardening!!
For butterflies check out The Cockrell Butterfly Center at website http://www.hmns.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=56&Itemid=8, the Texas Butterfly Ranch http://www.texasbutterflyranch.com/, and the Florida website for Butterfly Plants.
All photos except for the Painted Lady Butterfly and the above photo taken by Linda T. Collins!