- Size: up to 36” tall, 2” wide flower heads
- Color: bright orange flowers and green leaves
- Habitat: sunny meadows, disturbed open areas, sites with sandy soils
- Where to observe: Floyd Bennett Field, Jamaica Bay, Queens Botanical Garden and other areas with appropriate conditions.
Summer isn’t summer without a dose of Butterflyweed in a sun-drenched field. Despite the unfortunate word “weed”, this native plant is dazzling and very important – it’s the only food for Monarch caterpillars.
Butterflyweed grows to approximately 36” tall, and displays 2” wide flat flower heads in bright orange in mid-summer. These flowers are magnet for all sorts of butterflies, bees, and insect pollinators. Monarch Butterflies lay eggs only on butterflyweed, so keep an eye out for caterpillars chewing the leaves as they work towards maturity. Aphids can sometimes feed on the leaves as well, attracting ladybeetle (ladybug) adults which also lay eggs on the plant.
Though not as showy but just as important to our ecosystem, in fall the flower heads become brown, horn-shaped seed pods and offers food for several seed-eating birds.
(Note: as a member of the milkweed family, if you cut the stem or pull of a leaf the plant will “bleed” a milky sap which can cause skin irritation.)
- Coastal Plants from Cape Cod to Cape Canaveral by Irene H. Stuckey and Lisa Lofland Gould, published 2000 by the University of North Carolina Press.
- Herbaceous Perennial Plants: A Treatise on their Identification, Culture, and Garden Attributes by Allan M. Armitage, second edition published 1997 by Stipes Publishing.
- The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Native Plant Database:
- Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation by Donald J. Leopold, published 2005 by Timer Press.
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