A Butterfly Journey

Story and Photos by Ryan Inskeep

Collage of Native Florida Butterfly Wings

I will always remember the day my journey started, just five years ago.I was strolling through the nursery on a typical hot summer day when a beautiful native milkweed plant caught my eye. At the time I was drawn to the blooms alone (not realizing the many benefits this one plant would soon provide). It was not long before the female Monarch butterfly flew in to lay her eggs on the Milkweed. Suddenly, my entire outlook on gardening changed. 

If this one plant could bring in so much life, imagine what would happen if more native plants were added. I began by incorporating butterfly larval host plants and adult butterfly nectar plants. Implementing both host and nectar sources allows the butterflies to complete their entire lifecycle in my small urban garden. 

(Top left to right: Black Swallowtail on Cirsium horridulum, White Peacock on Bidens alba, Horace's Duskywing on Callicarpa americana, Cassius Blue on Heliotropium angiospermum)
A good starting point was planting the larger shrubs first: Walter’s Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum), Simpson’s Stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans), Privet Senna (Senna ligustrina), and Firebush (Hamelia patens). These shrubs provide food for birds, nectar for ollinators and shelter for all kinds of wildlife. I also added Wild Lime (Zanthoxylum fagara), the host plant for our largest butterfly, the Giant Swallowtail, and for several species of Sulphur butterflies. 

Eastern black swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes asterius 
Underneath the shrubs I planted Corkystem Passionflower Vine (Passiflora suberosa), which attracts Zebra Longwings and Gulf Fritillaries. Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) is also a great host for both of these butterflies and has fragrant, showy flowers. 

(Top left to right:  Queen on Conoclinium coelestinum, Horace's Duskywing on Gaillardia pulchella, Cassius Blue on Salvia coccinea, Fiery skipper on Heliotropium angiospermum) 

For ground cover, I planted Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora). Frogfruit is the host plant for the White Peacock, Phaon Crescent as well as the Common Buckeye. Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) is another wonderful ground cover that attracts the Little Sulphur butterfly. 

Collage of Native Wildflowers
Wildflowers are interspersed throughout the garden to provide nectar. Some of these include Indian Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella), Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata), Seaside Goldenrod (Sempervirens solidago) and Scorpion Tail (Heliotropium angiospermum). 

Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus)
The next reasonable step was to certify my yard as a wildlife habitat and a safe haven for Monarchs and other butterflies. This can be done by providing food (seeds and berries from native plants), water (small pond or even a birdbath works) and shelter while using sustainable garden practices such as no fertilizers or pesticides. 

Ryan's Yard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat and a Waystation for Monarchs

Butterfly gardening was just the beginning of my journey. As I continue to remove existing exotic plants and replace them with natives, I envision my native garden, full of insects, birds and other animals. 

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars and Passion Vine leaf
Ryan Inskeep is a member of the Serenoa Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.  He believes that conserving our Florida starts in our own yards to attract butterflies, birds and other wildlife.  He also enjoys sharing his knowledge and educating others about the importance of using native plants in our landscapes.  Ryan currently writes about his native wildlife garden experiences at the Florida Native Plants Facebook group page.  

Submitted  by Ryan Inskeep /Posted by DBollenbach


Ca said…
Wonderful! TY Ryan :)

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