Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pollinator Plants: Curacao Bush/Varronia bullata

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly/Marpesia petreus
photo by Barbara McAdam
 Butterfly bush or Curacao Bush /Varronia bullata is one of my top picks for attracting pollinators. Worldwide, pollinators have declined by as much as 40% per a United Nations Report released earlier this year. Locally, the decline of 39 species of butterflies in South Florida is the focus of the Imperiled Butterflies of South Florida Workshop Group featured in a previous article of Greenbytes ( Spring, 2014) , “Gardening for Pollinators”.  So it is with pleasure that I share on of my favorites.

Mallow-scrub Hairstreak/Strymon istapa
photo by Barbara McAdam
The diminutive leaves of butterfly bush belie their turdy structure and raspy texture. And the entire bush is covered throughout the year with minute, delicate cup- shaped white flowers. My first introduction to this plant was at a Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society meeting where it was called “bloodberry”, not a very appealing name for this plants graceful beauty. I definitively decided to call it by its scientific name which was Cordia globosa at that time. Calling this plant Cordia globosa had a better ring to it, and using a plant’s scientific name further increases the chances of finding and purchasing the right plant at one of our local nurseries.

Julia Longwing Butterfly/Dryas iulia 
photo by Barbara McAdam

By whatever name you choose to call it, this plant is an excellent nectar source for a host of pollinators and is available at several nurseries in Miami Dade County that specialize in native plants. You can also find this pollinator plant at Fairchild events and Tropical Audubon Native Plant Sales. We have a Rain Barrel/Water Conservation Workshop scheduled at Tropical Audubon’s next Native Plant Sale on June 18, 2016 and this plant is sure to be there. And you can usually find butterfly bush on the raffle table at Dade Chapter/Florida Native Plant Society meetings. Unfortunately, you will not find this plant at your local big box store’s garden department.
Tropical Checkered Skipper/Pyrgus oileus
photo by Barbara McAdam
                                                                                                                                                              In my yard, Butterfly bush is a very hardy, drought tolerant native that thrives in rocky alkaline soil. It was slow to grow for the first two years and occasionally needed watering during the dry season. After the slow growth period of two years, it shot up and out like a teenager’s last growth spurt. As always, make sure you know where this plant likes to live in the landscape, i.e. full sun, part shade etc. and very important in this case, size at maturity. In my landscape, this beauty is topping out at 10’ tall and has spread to cover approximately 12’ in diameter. It could easily be cut back, however, the fine leafed branches provide good cover for birds and rabbits.

The Institute for Regional Conservation has documented the location of this plant in natural areas and parks as it is actually endangered in the state of Florida. All the more reason to include it in your garden! They also note butterfly bush recruits easily from seeds in inland areas which should not be a problem, pot these up to share with friends, schools, parks and habitat restoration projects. 
We have created a presentation on the 39 Imperiled Butterflies of South Florida. Please check our web calendar for scheduled presentations. Tentatively scheduled at this time, we will be presenting at Gifford Arboretum on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.

Atala Butterfly/Eumaeus atala 
photo by Barbara McAdam

Look for Butterfly Plant posts in the future and as always......

Happy Gardening!

Barbara McAdam, P.A.
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program
UF/IFAS/Extension Service


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