Bring on the Butterflies!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, photo by CGIOS

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, photo by CGIOS

Please excuse my enthusiasm.

I had my first experience with a butterfly bush several weeks ago while visiting my cousin and his wife. As I walked up the driveway, I witnessed this magically tranquil moment of Melissa sitting on the porch reading while dozens of tiger swallowtails floated around her. They weren’t actually attracted to her, but to the brilliant purple and pink blooms of the butterfly bushes she had planted at the edge of the porch.

My run-ins with the shrub have not been unlike the experience of hearing a new word and then suddenly hearing it ALL the time and wondering what rock you’ve been hiding under. After leaving my cousin’s house, I stopped in Ellicott City. At the edge of the parking lot, I saw butterflies everywhere. And yep, huge purple butterfly bushes. When I arrived back in DC and pulled into the alley, I noticed that my neighbor also had butterfly bushes planted. On my hike up Maryland Heights in Harpers Ferry, I noticed butterfly bushes at the very top. Zebra swallowtails were desperately trying to get the last of the nectar on these almost dead blooms. A note about zebra swallowtails: They hang out where paw paw trees (my favorite tree) grow. Their caterpillars eat the leaves. There are oodles of paw paws on the Billy Goat Trail.

Zebra Swallowtail on the Maryland Heights Trail, photo by CGIOS

Zebra Swallowtail on the Maryland Heights Trail, photo by CGIOS

The butterflies… In an effort to provide food for these well-dressed pollinators, I bought my own butterfly bush and planted it in the backyard in full sun. Find more information on how to grow and care for this hearty plant here. As for my luck/skill, so far so bad. The blooms are completely gone. I had hope when a few blooms opened last week. I tried to coax a swallowtail bouncing around the alley over to my humble food source. It floated over it but was clearly not interested. Maybe the plant is just suffering from the transition from pot to ground and will recover shortly.

I’m remaining optimistic and daydreaming about reading on the patio with dozens of swallowtails floating around me.