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  • Writer's pictureJessica Morgan McAtee

Florida Butterfly Weeds in Your Yard

With COVID-19 still lurking about, many of us are staying close to home these days.

Time in the garden is soothing, refreshing and distracting.

So, I thought it may be fun to go on a scavenger hunt! Did you know that many host plants for Florida butterflies are not typically sold in stores? That's because they are often considered "weeds".

This post features seven plants that can be found hidden in Florida yards. They are native and they have a way of surviving even while growing unnoticed.

They will attract and feed local butterflies.

You likely have at least one in your yard already and if you go for a walk to a nearby abandoned lot, you will probably find a few more. Many of these are happy to grow intertwined in lawns, on the side of the road or in drainage ditches. Good Luck!

1.Corkystem Passionflower (Passiflora suberosa) is a vine that is often entangled with other shrubs or trees and sometimes even in the lawn. It hosts Zebra Longwings, Gulf Fritillaries and Julias. The flowers aren't showy like other Passionflowers, but it is abundant and freely available.

2. Waterhyssop (Bacopa monieri) hosts the White Peacock butterfly and prefers wet soil. It is often in ditches and near canals. I dug mine up from a ditch at my sister's house and re-potted it in a container that holds water.

3. Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) are super common and recognizable by their flowers. Many butterflies enjoy their nectar and the Dainty Sulphur hosts on it.

4. Virginia Peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum) is a larval host for Great Southern White, Cabbage White, and Checkered White butterflies. Since we have such a high population of Great Southern Whites this year, it is especially of note.

5. Turkey Tangle Fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is caterpillar food for Common Buckeye, Phaon Crescent and White Peacock butterflies.

6. Common Wireweed (Sida acuta) happily hosts Common Checkered Skippers and Tropical Checkered Skippers. It will grow low in a mowed lawn or you can allow it to make a little shrub.

7.Florida Pellitory (Parietaria floridana) will host Red Admiral butterflies.

Common names vary for plants, and most of these are known by several other popular monikers which is why I included the scientific (Nerd word) names. That is also why I included pictures. These are so common that if you think you recognize it, you probably do.

Another thing to note is that many of these butterflies can use more than one host plant. The White Peacock uses two from this list.

Additionally, many butterflies will use non-native plants just as readily (sometimes more) than they will natives. So while these are native weeds that host, the butterflies listed will use other plants too. Some of the other non-native hosts can be found more easily in plant stores and nurseries and are often more showy.

The point is that many of us already have these "weeds" in our landscapes and this is a great reason to let them be instead of fully eradicating them.

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