Posted: 18 May 2011 10:11 AM PDT
During late July to September Wildflower Farm hosts thousands of Monarch Butterflies. They come in the hundreds and swarm our Meadow Blazingstar plants (Liatris ligulistylis) to the point that the flowers droop with the weight of dozens of Monarchs.
Up until now we had not known why the Monarchs vied for the Meadow Blazingstar more than its sibling, Prairie Blazingstar or any of our other delectable wildflowers. Sure the Monarchs did all the rounds, visiting the coneflowers, bergamot, rudebeckias, ironweeds and so on. But by far they preferred the Meadow Blazingstars.
I had always thought the nectar of the Meadow Blazingstar was richer, but as it turns out it isn’t just the richness of the nectar (if that plays a role at all), its the way the nectar is offered. Liatris ligulistylis belongs to the asteraceae family, which includes over 22,000 species such as sunflowers, coneflowers and no surprise asters. One of the defining characteristics of the asteraceae family is that the flowers are made up of tiny little florets, providing the butterfly with an all you can eat smorgasbord. Instead of flying from flower to flower, the butterfly can ‘just dip its proboscis into one floret after another’. Meadow Blazingstars ‘are packed with these thin, soft, tubular florets’ that are tailor-made for the monarch’s proboscis making them the garden favourite. So for now a part of the Monarch Mystery is solved. If anyone knows more on why butterflies choose certain flowers over another please let us know."
- For More wonderful Blog posts like these, please visit The Wildflower Farm. We visit the Wildflower Farm every year and always come home with something special... The kids love just sitting in the grass and gazing at all the beautiful butterflies:D