It's really worth encouraging these creatures with their rich wing colours and delicate beauty to visit and feast in your garden.
Most people love butterflies and feel that they definitely enhance the life of a garden. By planting those plants which attract butterflies to your garden, you will not only add to the charm and beauty of your garden when they visit the flowers, but will also contribute to some restoration of the natural ecology of life in urban gardens. Butterflies have long proboscises to reach down into flowers to obtain the nectar on which they survive.
This nectar consists of high-energy sugars dissolved in water. A large variety of indigenous plants are needed in your garden if you wish to attract many different butterflies. The reason for this is that many of our butterflies occur only in a specific area and need very specific indigenous plant choices for their larvae to feed on.
Did you know that 71% of British butterfly species have declined in numbers over the last 20-odd years and in South Africa we are very likely facing a similar scenario? Butterflies, together with many other insects and small rodents, are our pollinators and with no pollination we would have no seed and ultimately no flowers, so it is really worth planting nectar-rich flowers in your garden.
Plants for butterflies
Generally, adult butterflies are particularly attracted by Buddleja species, gazanias, statice, lavender, lucerne, arctotis, marigolds, vygies, scabiosa, freylinia, nerines, poppies, sage and sedums. These are a few of the more common butterflies found in the Western Cape and the plants you can grow for the adult butterflies and their larvae:
- African Monarch butterfly – milkweed family (Asclepias species)
- Garden Acraea butterfly – wild peach (Kiggelaria africana)
- Yellow Pansy butterfly – pistol bush (Duvernoia adhatodoides) and creeping foxglove (Aysystasia gangetica)
- Painted Lady butterfly – daisy family and pea family
- Common Blue butterfly – Plumbago auriculata and Indigofera species
- Geranium Bronze/Blue butterfly – Geranium and Pelargonium subspecies
- Topaz Blue butterfly – Acacia species
- African Migrant butterfly – Cassia species
- Brown-veined White butterfly – bush cherry (Maerua cafra)
- Citrus Swallowtail butterfly – sneezewood (Ptaeroxylon obliquum) and citrus family.
- Double flowered cultivars or multi-petalled flowers are unattractive to butterflies as the extra petals may take the place of the nectar producing parts of the flowers.
- One of the butterflies we ought not to be encouraging is the White Cabbage butterfly. This pest arrived in the Cape a few years back from Europe. It lays its eggs on brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts) and the larvae are causing havoc on vegetable farms.