In spite of my love for daylilies, if I were only to have one type of flower in the garden, I might have to go with the echinaceas, or coneflowers. While the daylilies are beautiful, they can’t beat echinacea when it comes to attracting a host of pollinators, most notably butterflies. Few garden visitors are more welcome.
While to our human eyes the flight of butterflies seems carefree and footloose, butterflies live a perilous life as they seek out food and appropriate host plants on which to lay the eggs that will produce a future generation of butterflies. Echinacea provides a much favored nectar source. Ideally, a garden for butterflies should also contain the host plants that are required by the caterpillars of the species. Host plants used by the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), illustrated in the first two photos, include dill, fennel and parsley. I intersperse a bit of each in my perennial garden each year.
By contrast, the host plants used by White Admirals (Limenitis arthemis), below, include a variety of trees including birch, black cherry and chokecherry.
The Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) uses shade trees such as American elm and plants in the nettle family to feed its caterpillars. In addition to sipping nectar at flowers, the Eastern Comma is also attracted to overripe fruit and sap. Unlike many butterflies, it is the outer view of the wings that most readily allows the identification of this butterfly, which is named for the small white mark on the underside of its hind wing.