Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Simply Butterfly Attracting Plants

Tennessee Milkweed
A yard full of butterflies is one of the best things about living in the countryside. You get to see all the different variates flutter through the air like paper in the wind.  From Monarchs to Swallowtails, these  delicate creatures contain so much beauty, and I try to keep our yard as inviting to them as possible.  Everyone can do the same, even if you live in the suburbs or city.  It's all about host plants.  Just like  humans, they will go just about anywhere as long as there is a good meal to be had.  So, we'll go through a few of the best meals for the butterfly and some of which are used by us humans as well.

The Monarch butterfly is one of the recent ones to grace our property this year.  We got to see a mother flying around and laying her eggs on the milkweed We actually discovered the wild milkweed in an area of the property we have been clearing of brush and made sure not to disturb the plants.  The Monarchs actually prefer the milkweed plant, because the caterpillars will only eat plants that are within the milkweed family.  Once the butterfly finds a milkweed source, they will keep coming back year after year. The plant is actually poisonous too, so make sure to keep it away from your friendly four legged friends. Of course, the plant is not poisonous to the butterfly and it's actually used to keep them from being eaten by the birds.  If you find milkweed, you can easily transport it to your garden space if you like.  All you have to do is dig up the main root that the plants spring up from and replant it.  You can also buy the seeds if you don't have any in your area.  The ones we have in Middle Tennessee have beautiful balls of purple and white flowers which actually have a very nice fragrance to them.  Also, they are a perennial plant, so they will come back year after year.

Monarch Caterpillars on Milkweed

I understand that milkweed is not a preferred plant for most gardeners, so we'll now discuss the ones that everyone can pick up at the local garden store and plant.  Parsley, Dill, and Fennel are all host plants for the Black Swallowtail butterfly.  We have several of each plant around the yard, so there is plenty of food for their little babies.  Of course, if you plan on harvesting any of the dill or fennel, please make sure to not plant the two different plants close to each other or they can cross pollinate and create a hybrid next year if they reseed themselves.  A hybrid will still attract the butterflies, but will not be a good quality herb to use in recipes.  Just a little tid bit on our journey today.  Last year, we were also able to see the Black Swallowtail lay her eggs on the fennel, and I believe we counted about 14 little crawlers when they hatched.  I am really excited to see how many we get this year.  Other plants you may consider are butterfly weed (which has beautiful flowers that adult Monarch butterflies like) and butterfly bushes.  I hope you are able to plant some of these host plants this year and enjoy watching for the Monarchs or Black Swallowtails. You can't beat having an iced tea in your hand while sitting on the porch and watching the butterflies dance in the wind.  Visit us again on Friday for our Recipe of the Week!

Dill plant for Black Swallowtail Caterpillars

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