Butterfly Bushes are not Monarch Flowers

When people see my common monarch flower (Asclepias syriaca) plants and seeds, many say “I already have this.  I have a butterfly bush.”  Monarch flowers (Asclepias species) are different than the butterfly bush (Buddleia species).  While butterfly bushes will provide attractive nectar for adult butterflies (including monarchs), no species of butterfly in North America can use buddleias as food for their caterpillars (the butterfly’s larval stage).  As Doug Tallamy so aptly puts it, “To have butterflies, we need to make butterflies.”  Soooo, it is always best to plant perennials, shrubs and trees that can serve as both nectaring and larval (caterpillar) food sources.  Plant monarch flower so monarch butterflies have a place to lay their eggs and a food source for their caterpillars (resulting in more monarch butterflies in the world!).  If you want a shrub for your landscape, try planting sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), groundsel (Baccharis halimifolia), common serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), or high bush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) – these all serve as needed caterpillar food for a host of different butterflies.  I love the smell of sweet pepperbush flowers in the summer and love picking blueberries to eat from the high bush blueberry bushes (Agway in Riverhead sells both types of bushes).  If you already have a butterfly bush, try planting monarch flower or one of these other bushes near it so after the butterfly nectars, it can lay eggs on your new larval host shrub.  With all the development that has gone on in the northeast, giving butterflies a helping hand means more than just giving them some flowers to feed on – a home for their caterpillars is also needed.