MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 9, 2009

Butterfly garden

By Molly Day

Marilyn Stewart of Wild Things Nursery in Seminole is enthusiastic about the value of native plants for home and public gardens.

“When I look at my garden and see a flower without an insect on it, I feel like I have failed,” Stewart said. “If you care about birds you have to plant the natives that support insects so birds can raise their young in your garden. Only finches can feed their babies with seeds.”

Stewart is bringing both native plants and terrariums of Oklahoma native butterfly caterpillars to her talk in Muskogee on Sept. 17.

“People have a prejudice against native plants,” Stewart said. “They think they are messy or look straggly. The truth is that you can do anything with natives that you can do with hybrids. The difference is that the natives will live through our weather and in our soils.”

Easy to grow perennial native plants:

SPRING BLOOM

Amsonia hubrichtii - part shade — (Arkansas Amsonia), Amsonia illustris (Ozark Blue Star) and Amsonia tabernaemontan (Blue Star). Blue flowers and disease-free foliage.

SUMMER AND FALL BLOOM

Aster azureus (Sky Blue Aster), Aster ericoides (Heath Aster), Aster drummondii (Drummond’s Aster), Aster laevis (Smooth Aster), Aster lateriflorus (Calico Aster or Lady in Black), Aster oblongifolius (Aromatic Aster) and Aster praealtus (Miss Bessie Aster or Willow Leaf Aster)

Carex bicknellii (Copper-shouldered Oval Sedge), Carex cephalophora (Oval-headed Sedge), Carex comosa (Bristly Sedge), Carex cruscorvi (Crowfood Fox Sedge), Carex gray (Gray’s Sedge), Carex intumescens (Shining Bur Sedge) and Carex plantaginea (Plantain Sedge).

Pycnanthemum pilosum (Hairy Mountain Mint), Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (Slender Mountain Mint), Pycnanthemum virginianum (Virginia Mountain Mint, Wild Basil, Prairie Hyssop) Adaptable to sun, part shade, wet and dry soils. Easy to grow and attractive to pollinators. In the mint family but not invasive.

Rudbeckia maxima (Great Coneflower), Rudbeckia Missouriensis (Missouri Black-eyed Susan), Rudbeckia subtomentosa (Sweet Black-eyed Susan)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem, Broombeard, Wiregrass) — Clump forming grass that turns bronze pink in the fall. Do not fertilize.

Sorghastrum nutans (native Indian Grass, Woodgrass) — One of the most beautiful of the native forage grasses for home landscapes.

“It is hard to go wrong with native asters and native grasses,” Stewart said. “Insects and pollinators have evolved along with these plants. We need pollinators to keep crops going and to feed birds, otherwise the birds will go away.”

It matters what you plant. Native plants need less water, require no pesticides, increase biodiversity, and replace lawn. When planted in their native habitat they will not become invasive.

“Four hundred insects in the lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) family can feed on oak trees,” Stewart said. “Nothing can feed on golden rain trees. Butterflies are specific feeders which mean that they can only eat and grow on plants their eggs were laid on. For example, the adult Monarch seeks out Milkweed to lay her eggs, when the caterpillar hatches it will eat the leaves. If transferred to a plant that is not in the Milkweed family, it will be unable to eat. Many moths and insects have a similar relationship with specific plants.”

Stewart is bringing a few plants to sell. To order in advance visit www.wildthingsnursery.com, e-mail an order to wtnursery@yahoo.com, or call (405) 382-8540.

Future garden club programs: Pearl Garrison, Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden, Oct. 15; Doug Walton, Sustainable Gardening, Nov. 19; Rodney King, Healthy Lawns, Jan. 21; Skip West, Plants You Didn’t Know Would Grow in Oklahoma, Feb. 18; Matthew Weatherbee, Low Maintainence/High Impact Color, March 18; Dr. Gerald Klingaman, Ozarks in the Spring, April 15.

RESOURCES

Butterfly identification — http://tiny.cc/jqerj, http://tiny.cc/8dtQy, http://tiny.cc/HBFfZ, http://tiny.cc/vCIEO

Native plants — www.pollinator.org, http://tiny.cc/D0uM7, www.biosurvey.ou.edu, http://tiny.cc/VNtSI