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Gardening column: Bad news about butterfly bush

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Plant is actually a non-native species and has become a national nuisance.

Friday, May 03, 2013 12:01 am
I've found out some upsetting news since my last column and, unhappily, I need to eat crow and do a total about face regarding one of our favorite plants, the butterfly bush.In the last two columns, I referred to butterfly bush as a native — and have since found that it is not. Buddleia davidii, the most common type we plant in Indiana, was originally a native of China whose seed was brought to England by a French Jesuit missionary, Pere Armand David. The plant, as you might guess, was named for him.

Having shared that bit of information, here are two correct descriptions for native plants.

Allen County Purdue Cooperative Extension Horticulture Educator Ricky Kemery tell us native plants are those that were found “… in the U.S. before colonists arrived to settle the new world.”

Also, here is a definition from the U.S. National Arboretum: “A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. We consider the flora present at the time Europeans arrived in North America as the species native to the eastern United States. Native plants include all kinds of plants from mosses and ferns to wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.”

Finally, it is with great sorrow I have to report that this favorite of many of our gardens has been found to be a nuisance (an invasive), and it has become so much so that it has been added to the invasive list in almost every state in the U.S.

B. davidii in particular is a great colonizer of dry open ground and flourishes in urban areas, along roadsides, in empty lots and along railways. It is becoming a danger to our wetlands and is so prolific that it is crowding out true natives.

During the discussion about this plant, Ricky Kemery said, “Actually, with the changes in climate in recent years, butterfly bush has become quite invasive in many areas of the country, including our region. I love the plant, but, unfortunately, I cannot recommend it to home gardeners anymore.”

It is true that butterflies and other pollinators are drawn to the blossoms, but they do not actually provide sufficient nectar for larvae formation. So, if you have a cherished plant, it is recommended that you surround it with native plants that actually provide a habitat for butterfly larvae and — this next is vital — do not allow the plant to make seed. When the blooms fade, prune them off right away.

This will prevent the seed from setting and being carried by the wind and birds. Finally, if you were thinking of adding a butterfly bush to your landscape this year, you would be wise to select another type of flowering shrub.

Having given you heartbreaking news about a plant most of us love — I will now give you a bit of good news to help cheer you up.

Allen County Master Gardeners will host their first of two very popular seasonal plant sales 1-4 p.m. May 18 at the Purdue Cooperative Extension office, 4001 Crescent Ave. on the IPFW campus.

Master Gardeners have established a nursery on the grounds and are able to offer the public many unusual and special plants at reasonable prices. This always takes place in the Display Gardens that surround the Allen County Extension office. Arrive early and park in the parking garage across from the extension office grounds.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What's Bloomin' blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.


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