What is fall butterfly fuel? Where do butterflies find fuel to support them in their migrations or to over-winter in place? Late season flowering plants rich in nectar, a sweet nutrient-rich liquid, is what fuels adult butterflies. The challenge of our area is that there are not connected habitats offering ample nectar rich fall blooming plants. The good news is that there are locally available native and regionally-adapted flowering plants to fill this void, several of which are still blooming at the Highlands Center.
Butterflies are still flitting around several nectar rich, long-blooming perennial forbs in the Discovery Gardens. A forb is a non-woody flowering plant that is not a grass or grass-like, and may be a perennial, biennial or annual. Butterflies are sun-lovers as are the three late-blooming plants described below which are perfect for your home habitat garden.
One favorite nectar-producing flowering plant currently in bloom is Scabiosa, commonly known as pincushion flower. It is a hardy, compact, sun-loving perennial forb with gray- green leaves and lavender-blue flowers resembling pincushions held high above the
basal foliage. The flower color is attractive to butterflies and the clusters provide substantial platforms for the butterflies to perch on while feeding.
Gaillardia grandiflora, commonly known as blanket flower, is a native, long-blooming perennial forb attractive to butterflies with red-orange and yellow bi-colored, daisy like flowers. Gaillardia has the added benefit of being deer and rabbit resistant and drought
Tetraneuris acaulis, commonly known as Angelita daisy, is another native perennial forb which will blossom until frost. It forms a compact, dense mound of green leaves with small yellow daisy-like flowers on tall slender leafless stems. The yellow blossoms are profuse and attract smaller butterflies as they are only 1” across.
Each of these hardy, long and late blooming perennial forbs will add color to your garden and fuel butterflies through the fall season with periodic removal of spent blossoms. Make it a point to plant fall butterfly fuel!
Contributed by Lesley Alward, Highlands Center Naturalist