Monday, July 12, 2010

The Wonders of a Wildflower Garden

Several years ago, my family planted a small garden along the side of our house. In the garden, we planted plants native to eastern and central United States. Every year, this small garden attracts an incredible variety of animals, but this past weekend, the butterflies were the highlight.

The native plant garden in it's first year. Even in one year, it attracted
numerous butterflies, but after a few years, it has become incredible!

By far, the most numerous of the butterflies were the Northern Broken-Dashes. These small, brown butterflies are skippers, which are all small, often plain butterflies. On one Monarda flower head, it was not uncommon to find three of these butterflies.

Northern Broken-Dash
Northern Broken-Dashes, like this one, have been all over
the garden. This one is necatring on
Monarda fistulosa.

Several other skippers were also present in the garden. Several Silver-spotted Skippers nectared on Purple Coneflower, while a Crossline Skipper or two drank the nectar from a blooming Black-eyed Susan. The smallest skipper I found was a Least Skipper. These tiny orange butterflies are often found near water, but can be found anywhere with grass and flowers.

Least Skipper
The tiny Least Skipper is a pleasure to see and watch in the garden.

Although the skippers are fun to watch, they are tough to identify which often causes a headache for even the most experienced butterfly-watchers. Fortunately, they are not the only group of butterflies around this time of year. In my family's garden, the delicate Eastern Tailed-Blue often flys along the edge, as if it cannot decide between the Mountain Mint in the garden or the weedy plantain on the garden edge.

Eastern Tailed-Blue
Although small, the Eastern Tailed-Blue is a beautiful butterfly.

Along with the small butterflies, there are also large, colorful species. My favorite of the weekend was an Aphrodite Fritillary which nectarted on several flowers before leaving the garden. This species is somewhat uncommon, so it was neat to see right next to the house.

Aphrodite Fritillary
This Aphrodite Fritillary was an awesome treat in the native plant garden.

Red-spotted Admiral
The Red-spotted Admiral is another colorful species that often visits the garden.

In a half of an hour, I found 15 species of butterflies in the small garden. This goes to show how great a native plant garden is for attracting butterflies. If you don't have a native plant garden already, I strongly encourage that you start one. You will not only attract butterflies, but also birds, moths, damselflies, and a plethora of other incredible creatures.

Northern Broken-Dash

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