Attracting butterflies to your garden

2015-05-21 06:00
It is important to understand the basic butterfly life cycle to understand how to garden for these creatures.

It is important to understand the basic butterfly life cycle to understand how to garden for these creatures.

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BUTTERFLIES have a magical quality­ and everyone loves seeing these brightly coloured, delicate creatures dancing and flirting from flower to flower.

South Africa boasts over 650 species of butterfly and by hosting them in your garden you ensure that these living jewels continue to thrive in our threatened environment.

Itand#039;s easy attracting them to your garden and by choosing the appropriate indigenous plants, you can also encourage them to multiply.

Glenice Ebedes from Grounded Landscaping says if youand#039;re planning to have butterflies breeding in your garden, be warned, it can in fact, become an obsession.

When starting out, youand#039;ll have to get past the idea of having a “picture perfect” garden as you will need to bear with some plants having their leaves eaten by the caterpillars.

But this is worth the sacrifice as the damage to plants is minor and encourages more abundant growth and flowering.

In nature, butterflies and their larvae form part of a food chain and fall prey to many creatures.

So, youand#039;ll get the additional benefit of attracting other wildlife such as birds, lizards, frogs, spiders, praying mantis and ants, says Ebedes.

Itand#039;s important to understand the basic butterfly life cycle to understand how to garden for these creatures. It starts with an egg which is usually laid on or near a specific larval (caterpillar) host plant.

Different species have unique dietary requirements so host plants vary accordingly.

When the egg hatches, a caterpillar emerges. It will feed on the foliage and once it reaches its full size will go into the next stage - the pupal stage.

During this phase, it appears inactive but is in fact undergoing a transformation from a caterpillar to an adult butterfly.

Adult butterflies get most of their energy from the sugar-rich nectar of flowers. Again, different species have specific food preferences, favouring indigenous plants.

Here are some of the common plants which you can grow to attract butterflies:

Groundcovers: Arctotis stoechadifolia (trailing marigold), asparagus species (asparagus ferns), asystasia gangetica (creeping foxglove), gazania species (gazanias), plectranthus species (spur-flowers).

Small shrubs and herbaceous plants: Barleria obtusa (bush violet), pentas lanceolata (pentas), hypoestes aristata (ribbon bush), freylinia tropica (blue honeybell bush).

Trees and shrubs: Acacia species, buddleja species, harpephyllum caffrum (wild plum), kiggelaria africana (wild peach, mackaya bella (forest bell-bush), mundulea sericea (cork bush), rhamnus prinoides (dogwood), vepris lanceolata (ironwood).

- Sourced

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