Unrecorded Wildlife Magnets

As we use more native plants, we learn about their hidden qualities. Pineland privet is a good example. It is known for its bird attracting berries and ability to be clipped and shaped, yet when in flower, this shrub rivals butterfly bush.

All kinds of insects come to pollinate this native shrub, including many rare butterflies like the ruddy daggerwing and atala hairstreaks. The male plant has the most flowers, yet female plants have the berries. You will need both in order to have fruit.

While hiking in the Dade County Rocklands, I noticed that every butterfly landed on a trailside shrub. This turned out to be the Florida Keys Thoroughwort which is a woody aster with sweet smelling white flowers. It loves dry soil and full sun and survives for many years.

The borage family of plants produces some of the best butterfly attractors. These include: bloodberry, sea lavender, Bahama strongbark, seaside heliotrope, scorpiontail ,pineland heliotope and hirsute tournefortia. This last vine has hairy, five inch elliptical leaves and clusters of white flowers followed by white berries. It grows up into our oak tree and is mobbed by dozens of Julia and zebra longwing butterflies. These same butterflies lay their eggs on the multiflora passionvine which also climbs this tree.

Decaying leaves of borage relatives release chemicals that attract male queen and soldier butterflies which lap them off the surface. These are processed inside the butterfly into female attractants that he releases into the air.

There is both a tree and a shrub named bahama strongbark and both have sweet smelling white flowers for the butterflies and hummingbirds as well as orange berries for birds to eat. The weeping habit of the tree makes it a great specimen for the front yard. The shrub form called smooth strongbark or pineland strongbark grows to three feet while the tree may reach 15 feet or more.

When out on walks in natural areas or observing native plants in your own yard, you may discover a plant’s unknown quality that will help us all to attract more wildlife to our yards. Please pass on the information.