butterfly attraction

Anne Kilmer viceroy at gate.net
Mon Nov 17 08:18:31 EST 1997

David R. Britton wrote:
> > Do the same properties which attract Australian butterflies to plants in
> > Australia also work to attract native butterflies elsewhere? 
> I'm not sure if I am mis-interpreting the question, given the answers that
> others have contributed to this thread, but if your are talking about
> attracting adult butterflies to flowers for the purpose of them taking
> nectar from flowers, yes, there is definitely a cross-over.  Some of the
> most attractive plants in Australia are introduced species such as
> Buddleia and Lantana.
> Unfortunately, these are not host plants for anything, and I imagine there
> would be little cross-over between different countries in regard to host
> plant species (with the exception of common weeds like milkweed etc. and
> the associated butterfly species).  You might be attracting adults with
> nectar sources, but they wouldn't be breeding on the introduced plants.
> hope this helps,
> Dave B.
> --
> David R. Britton, Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong
> Wollongong, NSW, Australia, 2522.
> Ph.(61-2) 4221 3436,Fax.(61-2) 4221 4135

Alas, the introduced plants are often hosts for local butterflies, and 
can cause problems by artificially elevating populations, which are then 
regarded as pests.
In South Florida, rare cycads, native and exotic support unwanted 
populations of the rare atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala), which thrives 
on the nectar from such exotic trees as your earleaf acacia and 
melaleuca, and Brazil's Schinus terebinthefolius. The butterfly is  a 
bit of a pest in nurseries and botanical gardens, although indeed we 
love it.
Leguminous trees and shrubs from anywhere will feed many local sulphur 
and blue butterflies. Any brassica is likely to feed any white 
butterfly, although cabbage whites profit at the expense of picky 
Garden ruellias feed buckeyes, malachites and white peacocks.
It raises interesting problems in butterfly-gardening circles, where we 
find ourselves planting butterfly-attracting plants in spite of warnings 
from local exotic-pest-plant-council people that these plants are 
damaging to the environment.
 Buddleia is eating Ireland, with the happy help of rhododendron. 
Lantana, a horribly poisonous weed, gallops across Florida's pastures, 
along with other weeds which were imported, with the blessing of the 
USDA, for erosion control, green manure and so forth. 
Butterflies profit from any sort of change, following the bulldozer and 
enjoying new plants offered to them. But the butterflies you wind up 
with may not be the rare ones we treasure. 
	I don't know what to do about the pantropical weeds we're 
planting here. Cassia bicapsularis, Scarlet milkweed, Salvia coccinea, 
blue porterweed ... butterfly host plants and great nectar plants. But 
should we be planting them? 
Here and in Australia, and in Hawaii ... all our islands are 
irretrievably contaminated. So do we struggle, or do we relax and enjoy 
Anne Kilmer
South Florida

More information about the Leps-l mailing list