Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Nature at its best - beautiful native plant host to a beautiful native butterfly

This Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora Incornata) is very special to me. I planted these vines years ago in The Woodlands Texas, as a native flower, just for their  beauty. Early in my married life, my wife and I planted some at our home south of Houston. The vine grows about anywhere it can attach and reach out to the sun. It thrived there also. Neighbors have come by the house here and asked, "where did you buy that flower?". My response - "I bought four plants at a nursery that no longer exists." I do recommend them in the yard and have no idea where you can buy one today. The vines will grow high into the trees and must be managed to enable the trees to get their sunlight. They are naturally part of the forest and thrive here. They will live through the winter and freely propagate by seed. This flower was hanging about six feet off the ground, hanging from a tree.

There is a huge bonus in having this plant in your backyard. It is very specialized, attracting the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis Vanillae) butterfly. Seeing the underside of this creature in the sun is truly spectacular. This one poses for the camera about 10 feet off the ground.

You might see them in a different pose however.This one is two feet off the ground enjoying the nectar of a  Red Salvia. I have the salvia placed in two places in the back yard. I have noticed that these butterflies also enjoy the Hummingbird bush (Hamelia).

Then again, the Gulf Fritillary seems to enjoy about every blooming plant out there.

Basically, if you plant for Hummingbirds, you have the food for the butterflies. I have six species of butterflies in the backyard this year. This one is dominating in numbers right now because I have the secret weapon - its favorite host plant, the Passion Vine.

 Although happy with my own landscaping some 10 years ago, I have started transplanting more salvia to improve the feeding areas for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Knowing more about the best approach for an excellent butterfly garden, I want to expand a few beds and add such plants as Joe Pye Weed or a Pipevine. One needs both hosts and feeders available to have a mixed population in the backyard.

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