• Jessica Morgan McAtee

Florida Native Nectar

If you have joined the butterfly garden craze, and I hope you have, you know that planning and executing a butterfly garden requires a bit of sophistication.


While you don't need to identify wine undertones or drink tea with your pinkie extended, you do need to know plants.


It's not as simple as planting flowers.


Supporting a butterfly's life-cycle in all four stages requires a bit of research. Your location is unique in climate, rain-fall, elevation, temperature, latitude and many other factors. Whether you are near the beach or the swamp or the mountains matters in the sense that different butterflies frequent each of these areas.


Many people are surprised to find that butterflies do not have a preference between native and non-native plants. This is the case both when we are talking hosts or nectar producing. They are opportunists, like any insect. Generally, they will use whatever works.


However, many humans are passionate about native gardens and that is a good thing.


Florida has many beautiful native plants that can produce nectar and some are listed in this post. This is not a comprehensive list, but the butterflies will thank you for planting these flowers for them to imbibe from.


Note: Most of these are not host plants so having these plants alone will not constitute a butterfly habitat.



Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea)

These little darlings will self sow. This is a star-performer during the hot summer months.


Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa)

This shrub is moderately drought tolerant and birds will happily eat the fruit. Squirrels brew coffee from it (just kidding).


Yellow Necklace Pod (Sophora tomentosa)

There is a non-native that looks very similar, so be sure to use the scientific name provided when at your local plant nursery.


Jamaica Caper (Capparis cynophallophora)

This tall shrub is fragrant and smells like heaven. The flowers begin as white and turn pink.


Fiddlewood (Citharexylum fruticosum)

This shrub can grow to 35 feet tall. It has fragrant flowers. It grows well near the beach because it is somewhat salt tolerant.


Beauty Berry (Callicarpa americana)

This shrub blooms in lavender and is virtually maintenance free. Birds delight in the berries.


Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum sanctum)

This is a beautiful slow growing tree. It has some of the hardest wood on the planet and birds feed off of the seeds.



Porterweed (Stahytarpheta jamaicensis)

There are several non-native kinds of porterweed, so use the the nerd word provided to ensure you've got the native.



As you plant your Florida garden, keep these plants in mind.


To understand all the ins-and-outs of butterflying, check out my free online course.

Jessica Morgan McAtee


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