The classic example of this is the Monarch and the milkweed plant. This specific relationship exemplifies mutualism. The milkweed is a mildly toxic plant which the Monarch larva, caterpillar and butterfly can tolerate. This gives the multiple staged Monarch an environmental advantage. The toxic product of the plant is not metabolized by the insect; however, it is retained in their body during the caterpillar and butterfly stages. The toxic material residing in the very helpless stage makes the caterpillar less inviting to birds and other prey. The toxic chemical tastes bad and in sufficient quantities poisons the prey. The milkweed benefits from the butterfly pollination and thus facilitates propagation of its species.
Other relationships exist between the butterflies of different species and their feeding plant habits. Most insects feed on plant nectar and when coincidentally accumulating pollen on their bodies transfer that pollen to another plant of the same species. This results in cross polination and promotes fertility and diversity of genetic material in the various species. This sweet substance is often the source of nutrition that is sought after by the adult butterflies. The plant leaves are nutritious to the caterpillar stage of the butterflies.
The “butterfly plants” themselves are interesting to people because they attract butterflies and other insects such as bees and because they are very beautiful. Unfortunately, the blossoms are usually small and don’t get the deserved attention. I believe that their beauty is underappreciated. In this blog we can enjoy them for just their flowers. Shown here are plants from one private garden at one residential site. If you look at the epicollect5 data base you can find it close to observation #122
I’m sure that you will appreciate the coming blog site which will show the wide varies of butterflies that I have seen in the changing seasons of Florida. Click through the following series of photos to enjoy close up views of the blooms.
Whether you plant them in pots or in the yard you will get a double bonus, beautiful blossoms and butterflies.
Making your garden:
Large or small, make it fun and easy to maintain. Plan for about six hours of direct sunlight mostly in the morning. Pick a location that has plenty of hedges, shrubs, and trees around it to provide places for butterflies to take shelter from the elements and local predators. Alternatively, make a safe spot. Install some fencing or trellis around the edges, and plant some vining flowers next to them to make your butterfly garden a beautiful and thriving focal point. Diversify your flowers to provide both food and nesting environment for a variety of butterfly species. Provide some open spaces for sunning and some water or close proximity to water. Importantly avoid pesticides and use native plants. It is OK to set out a small plate of sweet ripe fruit on occasion for the butterflies.
Click on Butterfly attracting plants to see a work-in-progress list of plants and associated butterflies that I have assembled from observation in existing gardens in SWFL.
Check out this observation from our Epicollect5 site 122 through 129.
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