Elusive Butterflies

In 1966, singer/songwriter Bob Lind had a hit song: “Elusive Butterfly.”  Yup, he was talking about the elusive butterfly of love.  But real butterflies can be right under your nose and you might not even realize it.

Fall will be here in a blink of an eye.  Our flower gardens are winding down.  Look close at some of your flower heads and herbs — you may discover elusive butterflies that you’ve never noticed before.

This year was the first year I planted Milkweed — a butterfly favorite, especially with the Monarchs.  My plant was loaded with them!  You can bet I’ll be adding more Milkweed plants come next spring.

Did you know that butterflies love many herb flowers?

Fall (and spring) can be a good time to add parsley to your garden.  Parsley can serve as a host plant for butterflies.  Here in Northern Virginia, my parsley has made it through almost every winter – and is always still around in time to garnish my holiday turkey!  Try growing parsley in a somewhat protected area (with sun) and you may be able to enjoy it all year round.

Do you have flowers on your fennel and dill plants?  Check them out to see if Swallowtail butterflies are checking in!  Fennel and dill grow well side by side, double bang for your butterfly buck.

Balms are another butterfly favorite.  Monarchs particularly are fond of bee balm, and the glorious red or pink flowers that emerge in fall will add a pop of color to your garden when most flowers are winding down.  Want to attract an assortment of butterflies?  Different balms will attract different types of butterflies, so planting a variety of balms will provide you with a parade of butterflies.

I’ve never seen this mentioned in any of my butterfly research, but when I went outside to pluck some fresh basil for my dinner, I spotted 3 monarchs making themselves quite comfortable among the basil flowers.   One flew off to a Milkweed plant, but the other 2 monarchs stayed on my basil plant for two days.  LOOK CAREFULLY AT THE PHOTO ABOVE:  ONE MONARCH TO THE LEFT AND ONE MONARCH TO THE RIGHT.

Bottom line:  Pay close attention to your herbs and other plants, particularly if they are flowering.  DON’T pinch/deadhead the plants and you may discover a whole new world of beautiful butterflies within your grasp.

Make a log or journal of which plants are hosting these delicate wonders so when spring comes next year you’ll know which herbs and flowers to load up on.

The best things in life are truly free and butterflies are one of them!

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