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  • Writer's pictureJen Haynes

Butterfly bush not actually great for butterflies

Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) sounds like it would be a great thing to plant. It is not. This plant is native to Asia and is very difficult to control. It has small seeds that can be carried by the wind and spread out of your yard and along roadways and trails. One flower spike can have up to 40,000 seeds. The seeds are viable for up to 5 years. It is a shrub that can grow up to 4.5 meters tall. It has opposite, jagged edged leaves that grow up to 25 cm long. The flowers can vary in colour. They can be white, yellow, pink, or purple. Because it is not native it doesn’t have any predators. None of our native caterpillars can feed on it. It can take over habitat that would normally have native asters and milkweed growing there. Our native butterflies need native plants to survive. They need host plants that they can lay eggs on that will have leaves that the caterpillars can eat when they hatch. Butterfly bush is only useful at one life stage and that is when the butterflies are needing nectar. However, there will be no butterflies if the caterpillars die of starvation before they can pupate. Please don’t buy butterfly bush. There are lots of nurseries and online stores that still sell it. You could grow blue elderberry, Lewis’s mock orange or red-flowering currant if you are looking for shrubs. If you want to grow native plants and trees that will help butterflies reproduce and provide nectar, there are loads of options. Native grasses, poplars, willow, birch, alder, fir, pine, Saskatoon bushes, oceanspray, pearly everlasting, spiraea, stinging nettle, goldenrod, wild rose, wild strawberry, and nodding onion are just a few of the many native plants and trees that our butterflies need to survive and thrive. For more information contact the Boundary Invasive Species Society at,, 250-446-2232 and on Facebook.

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