How about a plant that is a magnet for butterflies? Try butterfly weed, a clump-forming herbaceous perennial with outstanding bright orange to yellow orange flowers that appear from late spring into summer. It attracts not only butterflies but hummingbirds, lady beetles, bumblebees and other beneficial insets, and is especially appealing to monarchs who use the leaves as a larval food and the flowers for nectar. Each flower has five nectar cups with incurved horns and when a pollinator lands on the flower, its foots slips between the cups and catches bags of pollen on its legs. When the pollinator visits the next flower the foot slips again and the pollen bag is caught by another set of incurved horns. Pretty nifty!
As a result of eating the leaves as caterpillars, monarchs take on a chemical that gives them a bad taste in each stage of their life cycle and their enemies learn to avoid them. Other butterflies that feed on butterfly weed include regal fritillary, great spangled fritillary, viceroy, grey hairstreak, and common sulfur.
Even if the plant did not attract a range of animal life, it would be an asset to any garden. In addition to its beautiful flowers, it has attractive medium green leaves and spindle shaped seed pods filled with seeds bearing long silky hairs. The flowers are good in fresh arrangements and the pods look spectacular in dried ones. Use the plants in a xeriscape, border or wildflower, native plant, butterfly, or cutting garden.
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Bloom Color: Bright orange to yellow
Bloom Time: Late spring into summer
Light: Full sun
Soil: Average, dry to moderately moist, well-drained
USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-9
Photo Credit: Wikipedia