The Butterfly Garden

It is exciting to see butterflies flitting around our summer gardens. It may be possible that our mountains not only have the most varied types of hummingbirds in the nation, but that we also have more different kinds of butterflies and moths than anywhere else. In order to take advantage of this abundance, a wildlife butterfly habitat can be created in our yards or on our patios or balconies.

A wildlife habitat contains some basic elements: food, water, shelter, and nesting places. Adult butterflies cannot bite or chew. They land on something to which they have been attracted by color. There they taste with their feet the sweetness of the perch. If they have landed on a sweet flower, they suck up the nectar. Nectar and other liquids are all that sustain a butterfly. The pollen which they pick up from the flowers is helpful only to the plants and gardeners, not to the butterfly or moth itself. Water is necessary for butterflies, but bird baths and ponds aren't where they drink. They use water droplets on plants, puddles, and mud. So, if you have saturated the soil in your yard with insecticide, it won't be a very safe place for butterflies to visit.

Butterflies are food for flies, wasps, dragonflies, mantids, spiders, birds, toads, and lizards. Most butterflies can only protect themselves by hiding. Some don't need to hide because they taste bad or can make their predators feel ill if they are eaten. Others try to avoid danger by flying swiftly and erratically.

The hardest part of attracting butterflies, for me, is letting them live before they become butterflies. When I see a big caterpillar eating a prized plant, I try to remember to remove it carefully and put it somewhere else in the yard instead of squishing the offending eating machine. I also need to remember to leave the greenish, orange, or red egg masses on the plants where they have been deposited. Maybe this year I can begin to distinguish between harmful caterpillars and useful butterfly larva.

So, the ideal butterfly garden will have colorful, nectar bearing flowers, damp areas or little puddles, or plants that are watered by a sprinkler, and bushy, shaded places for the butterfly to rest or hide. It kind of sounds like a garden that many other animals and insects would like to visit. Yes, it is that kind of garden! So, build a butterfly garden and enjoy the birds, wasps, bees, and moths at the same time. See the back page of this newsletter for a list of butterfly-attracting plants. (See Below)


Annuals: Deciduous Shrubs: Wild Cabbage Goldenhead

Cosmos Blueheard Arizona Jewel Flower Chuparosa

Egyptian Star Cluster Butterfly Mountain Jewel Flower Rabbit Brush

Heliotrope Lilac Stonecrops Composites

Impatiens Privet Globemallow Acanthus

Lantana Mallows Fog Fruit

Marigold Evergreen Shrubs: Hollyhock Sunflower

Indian Paintbrush Waxleaf Ligustrum Wild Buckwheat Ragweed

Annual Phlox Punctured Bract Cowpen Daisy

Zinnia Deciduous Trees: Triloha Grasses

White Ash Kidney-leaved Buckwheat Rosacae

Perennials: Wild Black Cherry Legumes Malvacae

Basket of Gold Flowering Dogwood Locoweed Blue Grama Grass

Wild Bergamot Hickories Mesquite Desert Bunchgrass

Blazing Star Partridge Pea Texas Ebony

Butterfly-weed Evergreen Trees: Beans Turpentine Broom

Candytuft Easter Red Cedar Pickleweed Queen Anne's Lace

Wild Columbine Goosefoot Carrot Family

Dame's Rocket Desert Area Plants: Saltbush Fennel

(Hesperis martonalis) Bladderpod Pigweed Seaside Angelica

Lavender Golden Prince's Plume Thistle Cow Parsnip

Bergamot Black Mustard Bitter Brush Parsley

Stonecrop Long-beaked Twist Flower Senna Citrus Trees

Mexican Sunflower Tansy Clovers Chickweed

Sweet William Mustards Milkweeds Purselane

Rock Cresses Dogbane Apple

Desert Candle Mohave Aster Grape

Elizabeth Riordon
March, 1993