Buddleja (Butterfly Bush) vs. Asclepias (Milkweed)
If Milkweed were as aptly named as Butterfly Bush it might change the course of the world… or at least the migration of a few butterflies! Milkweed is a key source of protection, habitat and nourishment for the iconic, dwindling Monarch butterfly population that migrates through California each year. It is – hands down – a better butterfly bush than Butterfly Bush. Here is why.
Butterfly Bush attracts people with its conical flowers in colors ranging from pastel pinks and blues to bold yellows and reds. Whether evergreen or deciduous, blooms referred to as “summer lilac” emerge from lovely shrubbery. Buddleja:
- Invades wildspace, with Wikipedia describing B. davidii, in particular, as a “great colonizer of dry open ground,”
- Needs more water than Milkweed, particularly the varieties native to Asia and other moist climates, and
- Provides nectar for some butterfly species, and often is destroyed by non-native caterpillars, however, it does not contribute to the lifecycle or protection of the Monarch.
In contrast California native Milkweed gives soul food, that hometown feeling, and vaccinations for migrating Monarchs. Planting native Milkweed is important, as its:
- Unique toxins within the plant protect Monarch caterpillars from predators,
- Broad leaves provide Monarchs with a place to rest while feeding, and
- Absence from Big Sycamore Canyon in Point Mugu State Park took LA off the migration ma
Help us invite Monarchs to make Los Angeles a filling station along their migration route! Milkweed varieties to consider include: Asclepias eriocarpa (Monarch Milkweed), Asclepias speciosa, and Asclepias sp.
While your choice of Milkweed will please the Monarchs, you may find yourself happy with some of its additional charms. Milkweed’s large, multi-bloom flowers will delight you, and flavor of its foliage may be a pleasant surprise for those looking for a culinary adventure!
Sources and More Information:
- Las Pilitas Nursery on the Monarch Butterfly
- Theodore Payne Foundation on Butterflies
- “Limits sought on weed killer glyphosate to help monarch butterflies,” Los Angeles Times. February 25, 2014.
- “Milkweed: A Truly Remarkable Wild Vegetable.” Forager’s Harvest.