The Great Butterfly Bush Debate



    Guest Rant by Claire Jones

    Butterfly Bush, Buddleia davidii, has been widely bashed from garden writers, ecologists, and conservationists. Attacked from all sides by master gardeners and other garden professionals, I am sticking to my guns on the benefits and pleasures of planting it. “An invasive thug that only provides sugar-water”: That is the complaint that conservationists use to discourage you from planting this shrub.

    As a preferred late summer nectar source and butterfly magnet, I enthusiastically promote it in my butterfly presentations for its many virtues. An important tool to draw butterflies, I also plant many natives next to it that can act as host plants.

    One of the few flowering shrubs that deer will not touch, I use it all the time in my landscape designs as an easy to grow, beautiful, fragrant, disease free, flowering shrub. The only care required is a general whacking back of the whole shrub in the early spring to encourage bushiness and flower production. Over 100 varieties provide a wide palette of forms, sizes, and colors, to choose from. The dwarf varieties are especially valuable for small gardens and containers, like ‘Blue Chip’ and ‘Pink Chip’, growing only 4 feet tall.


    Why do butterflies love this plant? Providing loads of sugar water , the nectar filled nectaries, are shallow which is important to accommodate the short-tongued butterfly. Butterflies can reach the copious nectar easily which has a high percentage of sucrose, an energy fuel. Attractive to moths, bees, and other insects, this plant is valuable to all kinds of wildlife, not just butterflies.

    Native to Japan and China, butterflies don’t care where their source of nectar hails from. In my post Butterfly Watching, I noted that butterflies have taste receptors on their feet to locate food and if their foot’s receptor and the molecule match, the butterfly eats. So, the plant’s origin is irrelevant and is an attractive food source. As humans, we eat many non-native plants, why can’t a butterfly do the same?

    Invasive thug or non-native adaptive? There are several ways of looking at this plant. I know that it invades into mostly disturbed areas where lots of aliens/invasives have already taken over and is known as an invasive in over 25 states. But still, it is providing an important late summer source, when it is sorely needed. The other short-coming that ecologists claim is that butterfly bush only provides nectar, not acting as a host plant for the caterpillar to reproduce, but that is also true of other native plants.


    Butterfly Bush seeds do not ripen until dry weather during the following spring. Worried by the potential for invasiveness? Then you can dead head it before the seeds ripen in the spring or cut the whole bush back which will eliminate the spread of seeds into adjacent habitat. Colonizing disturbed ground sites such as railway lines, quarries, roadsides and waste ground, butterfly bush can form dense stands of shrubs that butterflies flock to. What’s not to like!? Here is the position of the UK’s Butterfly Conservation on their website.

    Buddleia provides an important nectar source for adult butterflies, moths and other insects in townscapes and the countryside. This has become increasingly relevant because wildflowers have become so depleted following habitat loss and the general lack of nectar sources in the countryside. It also brings enjoyment to many people, both because of its heavy-scented and beautiful blooms but also because of the butterflies and other insects it attracts. It therefore plays a role, alongside other non-native garden plants, in helping to maintain or restore the link between people and native UK wildlife such as butterflies. In gardens, Buddleia is often pruned annually thus removing seed-heads and reducing the potential for seeding.

    Buddleia is not important as a caterpillar food-plant and cannot replace naturally occurring wildflowers, which are crucial to provide a variety of nectar through the year as well as being food-plants for caterpillars. Buddleia can cause serious problems on some important conservation sites, especially brownfield sites. It needs to be controlled in these and other semi-natural sites to allow natural vegetation to develop. The cost of control can sometimes be considerable.

    In reaching a position on Buddleia it is important to weigh up the undoubted benefits it brings in garden situations against the possible risks to wildlife habitats. It is also important to recognise that Buddleia is already naturalised and well established across much of the UK.

    In view of its value as a nectar source, BC will continue to recommend its planting in gardens alongside other butterfly-friendly non-native plants, but will avoid giving it undue prominence and will give advice on its management and control. 


    A sea change is going on with some conservationists, that we are dealing with a changed world and there is no way to go back to an idealized world of  stable co-habitating species. From the beginning of time, species have moved around, finding new territories, and creating new ecological niches. Invasive species, like it or not, are part of nature. Serving an ecological purpose, whether it aligns with our idea of what it should look like, isn’t relevant to nature.

    And according to the Royal Horticultural Society:

    • Research reveals a mixture of native and non-native ornamental plants may provide the best resources for pollinating insects in gardens
    • Native plants are not always the first choice for pollinators visiting gardens
    • Non-native plants can prolong the flowering season providing an additional food source.

    So, armed with this knowledge, you make the decision.

    Claire designs award-winning landscapes in her business, Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. A beekeeper for over 20 years, and a lifetime gardener, she is plugged into the natural world and has been able to combine her passion for gardening/photography/nature observation into her blog The Garden Diaries.


    1. There is no debate about butterfly bush.

      That sound you are mistaking for debate is the last gasps of desperation emanating from gardeners who treasure nostalgia over ecology being countered by the growing voice of gardeners who know that caring for butterflies and for the planet as a whole means using plants that are more than just pretty.

    2. Finally, a sane article about an important nectar source, both for butterflies and hummingbirds, and for nectar of the soul for humans. It’s scent and nectar is beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds in my yard, and I can only hope more of it is planted soon, to meet the needs of wildlife… and humans, who also need beauty.
      It’s as if people have this strange need to bash something innocent, and the amount of internet ravings against this plant is really ridiculous. I have seen it growing wild in England, and I have traveled all around that lovely island several times and it is there, growing determinedly out of railroad tracks and abandoned buildings, and definitely NOT taking over; other plants abound! I think people are the ones invasive! Plants are opportunistic, which is their natural purpose, as nature abhors an empty patch of earth. Thanks so much for your article.

    3. This was a very good post, indeed. You expressed my own thoughts beautifully.

      These ideas clearly reflect the latest research from the RHS just published in the Journal of Applied Ecology:

      Natives alone may not be best option for UK pollinators

      Plants for Bugs first results:

      Also, if truly concerned, there are non-invasive varieties:

      Thanks, again, for a great Monday article.

    4. One thing we all must remember about introduced plants (and this applies to all introduced ones, not just invasive ones) is that they have the potential of introducing pathogens, which in turn, may become serious problems. This can happen many years after the original introduction, even a century later and it is exacerbated by repeated introductions to other environments. Just take the example of the oleander aphid. The host plant, oleander, never got beyond the warmer areas of the south. The pest insect ravages milkweed plants throughout the continent. This alone is a powerful reason for abstaining from using non-native plants.

      You shouldn’t use quotations marks for “An invasive thug that only provides sugar-water.” No conservationist has used this phrase. The only reference to it is from your own blog. It sounds like you are trying to paint conservationists with some ugly colors.

      You quoted from the UK’s Butterfly Conservation extensively, however, you didn’t quote a relevant sentence: “Defra has estimated that Buddleia control costs the British economy £961,000” a year.

      Saying that butterflies “need” this plant is preposterous. They managed without it for eons and can do it now too. Butterfly bush is a short term solution to a long term problem and it won’t work in the long run. What is really needed is more native plants and healthier ecosystems. This cannot be accomplished by the continued use of plants such as this one. Please, let us not be nearsighted.

      • Those cost assessments are ridiculously overinflated with the inclusion of the costs of typically unnecessary eradication efforts.

      • If we as people are truly concerned about our planets ecosystem, then we must realize that we as humans have had a negative impact on it. The very same people that bash invasive species should be shouting the loudest and recommending control of the human species along with the butterfly bush.

    5. That RHS research is great if you live in the UK where much less of native ecosystems are left than in the US, but still, the original abstract also says this: “There was, however, a greater abundance of total pollinators recorded on native and near-native treatments compared with the exotic plots.”

      We are also forgetting pollen, which is more important than nectar if we’re talking bees, European honey bee or our 4,000 native bee species. Plenty examples abound of native bees requiring specific native plant species to complete their lifecycle (feeding eggs in cells over the winter).

      As to arguing for a prolonged flowering season, I have native plants in bloom from April through October here in eastern Nebraska, with the highest bloom periods in July and September — timed with the natural periods of largest insect populations, migrations, reproduction, etc (there’s a reason August is butterfly count month).

      Since it can be costly to control when it escapes in certain geographical areas, why plant butterfly bush? Deadheading sounds like more work — I don’t need more work in the garden, and neither do my clients.

      Further, and more philosophically, why must we always privilege our sense of beauty over how wildlife perceive beauty (we can have landscapes that are pretty for us and other species, why the disconnect)? What ecosystem services is butterfly bush providing beyond being a nectar source for long-tongued insect species? How is it supporting the food web above and below the soil line? What, exactly, is the quality of its nectar, and what species is it benefiting — do those species need it over other native species? And this all needs to be looked at regionally, if not in every ecoregion.

      Plant any goldenrod or tall boneset near a butterfly bush, and you will see a greater diversity and number of insect species — in fact, when I had butterfly bush years ago, the native species were blooming a good 4-6 weeks longer than butterfly bush, the latter which can’t handle even one 32 degree night and keep on flowering. Aromatic aster blooms through many freezes, for example, and supports short-tongued pollinators as well, increasing its pollen / nectar usefulness. And since the majority of declining bird species feed insects to their young, it seems necessary to provide plants that attract massive diversity of insects for nestlings to eat (hundreds per day per bird).

      I do get flabbergasted at the argument that plants and animals have been moving about the planet forever, so it’s ok that we plant whatever we want wherever we want. In no other time have plants and animals moved around so fast, in such diversity, in such a short amount of time as in what, the last 100-200 years — bringing blights and pathogens and invasive species up the wazoo. You can’t give a pass to humanity for wrecking ecosystems and acting before thinking (or knowing) just because it suits aesthetic ideas of garden design. We know so little on how the world works, and what impact our choices have made, are making, will make.

      There’s a lot of knowledge we don’t yet know — so maybe it’s unfair for any of us to take a side on this plant just yet; a plant that seems to be a nexus for discussion on managing landscapes for wildlife in a time of human-caused climate change and mass extinctions as a result of habitat loss.

      • I’d like to know – WHEN is “Native”? There was a time, before plant lust and acquisition thrilled the heart of Victorian gardeners, that was “Native”. I would like to know when that time was and how we get back there. How, in this world, do we turn back the clock so that we can have “Native” back.
        I love native plants. I use them in every garden, along with well-adapted plants that are proven in my exceptionally tough native climate. But let’s all be frank – “Native” is a marketing term. It is very popular. It is verging on faddish and trendy. I see more people backing away from sweeping generalizations about how native plants will save the world, and that is a good thing. It is easy being an ideologue, but it is the pragmatist that has to balance an equation and make things work.
        I used to be passionate about lawn removal. Now, after seeing the debacle that has been created with rebates for turf removal in Southern California, I question my former zeal. Experience has tempered my hard line, and I see that things in the real world are more subtle than they are in books and magazine articles, where a rallying cry is all you really need to have. In my opinion, gardeners should always be good stewards of the environment, but we have to know that anything that can be wrapped up into a neat little marketing package like “only plant things native to your region” are usually too easy. Nature isn’t that easy – it is messy and complicated and sometimes brutal.
        A butterfly bush isn’t the enemy – I think horticultural xenophobia COULD be an enemy, however. Plant good things. What those good things are can vary from place to place, climate to climate. Natives aren’t always the best choice. I pulled out almost an acre of native Rosa californica recently – invasive and a wonderful home for wildlife (rats and rattlesnakes).
        I just don’t believe that good work in our industry comes down to simple choices – so I am willing to let some buddlea be ok. Your hard line works for you, and that’s ok, but your hard line is also a romantic idea. For others, we work in gray areas, not the black and white. I need to extend my season with well-adapted non-natives, since native flowers have been gone for months by this time of year. Yet my garden is full of bees and butterflies, largely because of sources of nectar and pollen that come from non-native plants. Our largest native plant nursery isn’t even open at this time of year, because the plants they sell are all dormant. So what then? Because the habitat USED to be able to support a native only landscape, just go back to that and cross our fingers that the wildfires that also dominated the chaparral don’t rerun? Or maybe we should empty out Southern California and return it to its “Native” state?
        Interesting questions. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle of the hard line natives-only and the “plant whatever you want” approach.

        • Ivette, you are disoriented about the meaning of native. What it refers to is to all the members of the biota before other species were introduced from beyond natural geographic barriers. It is a scientific term, not a commercial ploy. It is all about biological communities, natural ecosystems, biotas, not about artificial concepts. True, in many cases, you cannot say exactly what is native or not. But this is no reason for throwing away the concept. It is as if biologists discarded the concept of species because there is no definition that fits all cases.
          What is native? What is not? When does it matter?

          • What Ivette means is how far back in time are you allowed to go in determining nativeness? Can I go back before the last ice age and if I can find pollen from a species that is currently out of bounds, is that species native and acceptable for reintroduction? How about 200,000 years or more?

        • The rebates were good for business though. 😉

          Even if the Turf Terminators sort of gave everyone a sour taste in their mouths.

        • Hey Ivette, I design 100% native plant gardens — seems to be working quite well. I now many a designer who does the same all around the country.

          No one is talking about turning the clock back, that’s impossible, as we’ve screwed up too much through industrialization and just the fact that we’re over 400ppm in atmospheric CO2 and committed to 2 degrees of temp rise. I’m not naive. I know the issues.

          I may have an ideology, but so do you. We all do.

          Let’s also clear up what invasive means, since you mention a native rose. Invasive means a plant not endemic to the area that has taken over at the expense of other plants and life processes, basically, turning the ecosystem on its head. By definition, a native plant (funny how you use the term yet ask what’s native and when) can’t be invasive — it can be aggressive, though, and there is a time and place for aggressive natives, like when we’re trying to beat back invasive exotics or you have a problem area where nothing else will grow. Now, a native from Texas planted in a Wisconsin, where it’s not native, may become invasive, because it’s not native to Wisconsin.

          My hard line, as you call it, is about that fact that species are vanishing and that I don’t believe humans are the be all and all — I believe in selfless gardening, deep ecology, a land ethic. Kids today see 30% fewer butterflies and moths than their parents did growing up 40 years ago. The numbers are similar for birds, fish, and amphibians. The only romantic ideal I know of that’s destroying are planet is our ideal that we can do no wrong, that “freedom” means planting whatever we want with a sort of tunnel vision because it’s what we want and I’m an American so don’t tread on me.

          “Without deep reflection, we have taken on the story of endings, assumed the story of extinction, and have believed that it is the certain outcome of our presence here. From this position, fear, bereavement, and denial keep us in the state of estrangement from our natural connection with land.” Linda Hogan

    6. From the RHS website Marcia linked to, this is how I garden:
      “Regardless of plant origin (native or non-native), the more flowers a garden can offer throughout the year, the greater the number of bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects it will attract and support.”

      I know Marcia uses Zinnias to provide for pollinators later in the season.

      I say: Plant more plants! Almost anything is better than just more lawn. Susan

      • If we’re saying an acre of butterfly bush is better than an acre of lawn — if that’s what this ultimately comes down to — maybe. But I really don’t think so. Planting ANYTHING is what has us in so much trouble, Susan, and as lawn is a witness to, social / cultural ideology is hard to rewire; there was a good piece recently in the Atlantic about that.

      • In fairness, RHS has paraphrased the research in a way that benefits the horticultural industry (which is the job of the RHS, by the way).

        So, yes, a yard with non-native plants is probably better for pollinators than a yard with no plants.

        But a yard with native plants is better for wildlife of all kinds than a yard with non-native plants like butterfly bush.

        • I don’t think we should present this as a false dicotomy of either or.

          My yard is filled with native flowers, shrubs and trees. However, the surrounding area is not, so giving them something extra that blooms for a long period of time with the help of water and deadheading is alluring to the insects. Currently, here in Maryland, it is the driest August since 2006. Flowers are few and far between and young trees are stressed.
          Offering single bloom zinnias and buddleia along with the native aster, sedum, and goldenrod, offers much needed sustenance right now. The sterile Agastache Blue Fortune is teeming with bee activity while the native agastache are going to seed. My added fruit table is devoured by butterflies, flies, ants and bees and the hummingbirds hang out above it.

          Humans have drastically changed the landscape and habitat is shrinking. Heck, even
          humans and grazing animals were active participants in the process of prairie formation and the establishment what was a new environment of flowering plants and grasses that didn’t exist in the numbers it had in the past.

          I offer natives, but the zinnias and buddleia, and fruit are attracting big time this August. I think we can do both.

          • Yes, Native Americans burned grasslands to create enticing new growth for large herbivores, but they did not eradicate an entire ecosystem (99% of the tallgrass prairie is gone) with mechanized agriculture which thrives on monocultures. To say that we have always been altering the planet so we should keep on doing it — and in an age of wholesale slaughter — is irresponsible and short sighted. Huge moral and ethical implications we’re skirting when we dismiss our role as a compassionate, ethical, and reasoned species.

            • In a sense, the grasslands are relatively new. Ten thousand years ago it was a hardwood forest. And, the Indians fires had a huge effect on the ecosystem. Presettlement human direction was not normal or natural and there were far more Indians presettlement than hiostorians had thought.

              With future world population numbers recently being revised upwards, it is inevitable that the planet will be altered.

              I’m not sure that adding and deadheading buddleia in my yard or artificially watering my zinnias so they produce abundant pollen and nectar-producing flowers during this drought is as significant a concern as the alteration caused by another 4 billion people on the planet.

            • Planting an exotic species in your garden is in no way comparable to wholesale habitat destruction by putting the prairies under the plow in agriculture monocultures.

          • The dichotomy between native and non-native plants is not a false one: the former jhave very real wildlife and ecological benefits that are partly or completely lacking in the latter.

            As others have said, it is true that your gardening choices can be viewed as a matter of proportion: the more native plants you include – plants which provide more than just nectar – the healthier your garden will be for wildlife. A garden with 75% native plants is a better choice than one that is 10% native.

            Butterfly bush is special case in that this “garden” plant has escaped cultivation in 25 states in the U.S.

            Even if you believe that non-native plants have a role in gardens, this is not a species that is defensible.

    7. I don’t see the native debate so much as an “either/or” but rather a “how much” question. There will always be some recently arrived plants and non-native plants in landscapes. But if we truly want butterflies, bees, moths and many other natural members (including the birds that rely on their caterpillars for food) of our ecosystem to survive then they have to have the plants they evolved with. We’ve got to encourage an abundance of native flora to be available for them.

      And we’ve got to minimize our harm. In some places, butterfly bush behaves. In some places, it does not. That is true of other plants too. Recognize what plants behave and what don’t. And if you are a landscape professional, help your clients understand that too.

      For those people that truly love and want to attract butterflies, understand all the concerns, all the scientific facts that go with biology (this caterpillar eats this plant but not that one) and act accordingly. This doesn’t have to be about feelings or what the definition of native is – there is real science to consider. If you want all butterflies to live, they all need the food they will eat.

    8. I have a large garden with many butterfly host plants & varied perennial flower plants, as many natives as possible. We routinely find various butterfly chrysales. Every year during August, my butterfly bushes are aflutter & abuzz with dozens of varieties of insects. They will occasionally visit my other plants, but the butterfly bushes are the universal favorite. Until another shrub/plant/vine feeds as many butterflies, bees, & other flyers, I will keep the butterfly bushes & defend them to anyone that asks. (And I have never had a butterfly bush reseed. My garden is 100% organic & chemical free.)

    9. Don’t plant this because don’t like its floppy gangly growth habit. Plant has to be more than pretty flowers. And I got turned off by the early advertising touting it as a summer blooming lilac. That ain’t no lilac.
      Native nonnative it’s all the same planet. Wonder if someone has written a SF novel about colonizing space and taking earth plants along. Amy’s next book!

    10. While the points concerning the virtues of native plants are generally well taken, speaking only for myself, if native plants were all I was allowed in my garden I would give up gardening. A garden of natives-only would bore me to tears, and I make no apology for this view. I’ve never been impressed with the prairie look, and I’ve found several natives to be quite invasive. As to buddleia flowers being nothing but sugar water – well, isn’t that what we put out for hummingbirds? Why is that OK, but providing something similar for butterflies isn’t? After all, all living things require glucose to function. All that said, why does it always have to be one or the other? Surely a balance can be achieved. After all, if the accepted standard was natives-only, we’d lose most of our botanical gardens.

      • Susan, I’m with you. I live in the high desert of eastern Washington State, and If I went native, my yard would be mostly sand with a few sage brush and creeping phlox – and not the ones with the garden-bred colors. Probably have to bring in a rattlesnake also, to maintain the ecosystem properly. I much prefer the diversity my garden provides, and so does much of the wildlife.

        Really, with the damage we eight billion humans have done and are doing to the planet, any garden should be welcome. This has become quite a religious war – native vs non-native. I have noticed in previous such wars that it’s not the most extreme enemies that catch the most fearsome flack (literally) from the True Believers, but the moderates.

    11. The vast majority of butterflies don’t care about whether a plant is native or not. If it provides them food (for adult or larvae) they will eat it. Of course, many need host plants in a certain family of plants – most well known is the Monarch lays its eggs on plants in the milkweed family. The first three host plants that may come to mind (and are usually mentioned in literature for creating butterfly habitat) for the Eastern Black Swallowtail are parsley, dill and fennel, none of which are native to North America. Obviously they are not native plant purists. I have a ton of tiger swallowtails in my yard thanks to the fact that the previous homeowner planted several weeping willows – a non-native that is an excellent host for them. All the sulphurs like the various pea family plants in my yard, including clover, which is not a native. I have noticed all of the adults feasting at many of my flowering plants, from Liatris to Buddleia.

      The reduction in butterfly population is more often to the loss of habitat in general and not the whether there are native or non-native plants around. Planting a garden with all sorts of plants that are conducive to wildlife should be the goal. If butterfly bush is invasive in an area, that is a different issue than whether the plant is good for butterflies or not.

      • Perry, you are not sufficiently informed when you think that host plants don’t make a difference. Biologists have been studying and collecting data on host plants. Some butterflies and moths are more specialized than others but none is able to adapt to any plant. There are biochemical and evolutionary reasons for this. Take a look at the Natural History Museum Hosts website to learn about host plants of Lepidoptera.
        Even the Eastern black swallowtail prefers native species in the carrot family if given a chance. True, they can survive on close relatives of the native species and accept them for lack of better options. Sometimes, this switching to introduced species can have tragic consequences for the progeny, like the case of the Virginia white butterfly. The mother is deceived by some cues provided by garlic mustard, a close relative of its natural host, and the larvae die on that plant. There are similar examples. BTW, name one Nearctic butterfly that uses butterfly bush as a host.

    12. Many years ago (20?) a friend gave me a tiny 3-inch high butterfly bush cutting in a 4-inch pot, with the warning to be careful where I planted it, since it was likely to take over that area and be hard to get rid of, if I someday wanted to. That bush is beautiful and thriving, a host to butterflies, bees and hummingbirds; a shady retreat for all of my dogs; it smells heavenly when in bloom. It hasn’t spread anywhere nearby that I know of (and it’s in the middle of my 33 acres), maybe because of our winters? We whack it back to a foot high every few years–it has grown up to 15 feet high–and it keeps coming back. I never water it. I wish I were so resilient.

    13. I take a cultivated ecology approach to gardening. At the end of the day I want my gardens to be a net gain for biodiversity in the local area. One way of cultivating that is bringing in as wide a range of food plants as possible, particularly species that will provide abundant nectar. The more floriferous a garden the more predatory insects take care of the problematic ones. It’s a no brainer.

      In that approach there’s room for both natives and exotics. Some of the dwarf butterfly bushes are great here in Australia. Native butterflies absolutely love them as a food source, so they’ve proven themselves invaluable to me. I also always use a few locally indigenous plants in my gardens too. Gardening should always be a rich tapestry.

      • I agree with you.

        I am a huge fan of Benjamin. I love and admire his devotion to all things native and I adore prairies and meadows. He is a continuing inspiration and I use his knowledge to make changes to more than my own yard.

        I do disagree with him a bit on the use of non-natives in the home garden. Right now we have had the driest August in 9 years. My non-natives assist in feeding my insects. Keeping alive just one male and female black swallowtail means another 300 or so eggs will be laid, many on “swallowtail nursery” plants in my yard. I artifically water, fertilize and deadhead to assure the plants offer sustenance while controlling their spread. Because it is so dry, trees are producing less fruit. Each day I offer two large “artificial” trays of chopped cantalope, honeydew, oranges, and apples. Butterflies, moths, bees and fruit flies thrill at the sight and taste of this. (It needs replacement each day.) The hummingbirds feast on the fruit flies. I also have a small area of wet mud for butterflies.

        Their habitat is shrinking. These “refugee” insects need our help. Artificial means, I’m sure, are welcomed.

    14. Here in Eastern Wa, butterfly bushes are not invasive, and the Buzz variety will last at least as long as my goldenrod plants in terms of handling the cold of the fall and continuing to produce nectar rich flowers.
      The drought, cold, and tilling of all the surrrounding acres for miles around for harvesting wheat ,peas etc means there is no invasive potential. A butterfly bush in the wild would have to be dead lucky to survive for even a year. Generally, my garden is first for food for humans, then also to provide a supportive place for insects, birds and other wildlife. It seems that in reality a mix of native and non native high nectar plants is what is needed and what works.The native buckwheats for example, seem to be prefered by the small pollinators, ( who also need food) and an occasional sulphur yellow butterfly. As they get bigger, they may attract more butterflies.However, right now the butterfly bush is certainly very well liked by a mix of both butterflies and bees,and is about the only plant I have that swallowtail butterflies are interested in.Many of the herbs (comfrey for example is loved by bumblebees )that aren’t native are also covered with a variety of pollinators. At the same time, I am hoping that eventually more native plants will survive and grow, so they can host more native caterpillars, bees etc. Until then it seems sensible to keep providing food that the pollinators will use and eat, even if they come in the form of lilacs, dandelions, bachelors buttons and butterfly bushes, as supplements to the rabbitbush, buckwheats, oregon grape, elderberry and snowberry. Success is seeing a huge increase in multiple pollinators and birds,which, to my delight, is starting to happen after focused planting of both natives and non natives that pollinators are reputed to like. In the end, the choice of food has to include their preferences. Sometimes, the pollinators don’t read the same books we do, and make choices that are different from what we may think they should.


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