The Butterfly-Friendly Garden - Buddleia

The Buddleia commonly known as The Butterfly Bush was named posthumously after the Rev. Adam Buddle (1662-1715), a botanist and rector in Essex, at the suggestion of Dr. Wm Houstoun.  Houstoun sent the first plants to become known as Buddleja to England from the Caribbean about 15 years after Buddles death. (this info is from Wikipedia but other articles say it is from China - take your pick).



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 Some species commonly escape from the garden. B. davidii in particular is a great coloniser of dry open ground; in towns in the United Kingdom, it often self-sows on waste ground or old masonry, where it grows into a dense thicket, and it is listed as an invasive species in many areas. It is frequently seen beside railway lines, on derelict factory sites and, in the aftermath of the Second World War, on urban bomb sites. This earned it the popular nickname of 'the bombsite plant' among people of the war-time generation.
Butterflies are interested solely in nectar, to maintain their strength, so they will only visit the same flowers as bees when their interests coincide.  An obvious instance of converging interest is on this bush.
They come in a variety of colours from white through to deep purple - I myself have pink, lilac and purple.
Butterflies love Buddleia because it produces nectar that has a higher content of sucrose, glucose, and fructose than many other garden flowers, in particular Buddleia generally has a higher sucrose level (two or three times higher than fructose or glucose) and that is what attracts butterflies, however Buddleia do not produce much nectar, which is why we see butterflies spending so much time on a particular plant. It is also worth mentioning that usually only the larger butterflies visit Buddleia, this is because the tiny individual flowers of Buddleia are relatively long and the smaller butterflies simply can't reach their proboscis far enough into the flower to extract the sucrose laden nectar.
Buddleia - Black Knight
In the UK Half of the butterflies are under threat of extinction, and more than 70% are in decline, we can help turn this process around by planting more Buddleia and more importantly different varieties of Buddleia.  Buddleia is called the "Butterfly Bush" for a very good reason, it acts like a magnet to butterflies, they just love Buddleia nectar.see here for more info

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The only problem I find with them is that they look awful once they have finished flowering, the flowerheads turn brown and if you don't remove them fairly promptly they seed all over the place.  Which is why they have a bad reputation for being invasive.  If you do want to increase your stock they root very easily from cuttings by just sticking a piece of stem into the ground.
This is what Elspeth Thompson has to say:-
"What struck me the other day, though, as the train slid in from Bristol, was how well the place suited its mad urban fringe of purple flowers.  Buddleia is renowned for its capacity to take root wherever it can find a crevice and a little water.  At Royal Oak, it has managed to find footholds in cracks in the paving, along the tops of walls, in angles of the openwork metal bridges that span the different platforms, and even down among the tracks."
Closeup view of Comma Butterfly with long proboscis - tongue - entering the individual trumpet-like flowers of the Buddleia davidii shrub in search of life giving necta.

The sun over the last couple of days has brought more butterflies out - but my bushes aren't smothered with them as they usually are - a sign of the times maybe.

Comments

  1. A beautiful story about the history of the Buddleias and indeed they can be invasive. I came to the same conclusion like you do, there are less butterflies than before. I just made some photos of them this morning.
    Have a nice weekend,
    Janneke

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    1. I love having plants in the garden that attract butterflies sadly the flowers on the Buddleia don't last very long.

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  2. Hi Elaine, You are so good at finding reference material, vintage artwork and images for your posts. I love the first shot with the blooms in the blue jars especially. I have one butterfly bush ( I hope). It is not doing so well and I think it needs a new spot in better sun.
    I wonder if the lack of butterflies you have noted has to do with the lack of sun or whether it is general environmental problems?

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    1. I had the same problem with one of my bushes - after I moved it to a sunnier spot it thrived. As to the lack of butterflies - I suspect it is a bit of both, don't you?

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  3. l'll definitely plant more butterfly friendly plants... and continue to leave some rough patches for their caterpillars to feed on. I enjoyed finding out why these flowers are so popular and the history of their cultivation x

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    1. I often think we take for granted the plants in our gardens without realising what went into getting them established here.

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  4. There was a buddleia in mum's garden that was always covered with butterflies when in flower. Butterflies have been in decline for years now and, once again, it's mainly due to us sadly.
    An interesting post that brought back some fond childhood memories! Flighty xx

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    1. Have you got one on your plot Flighty - I know you love seeing butterflies.

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  5. Hi Elaine, there is only one buddleia at the Priory - a white one. But I have taken cuttings of a gorgeous very dark one. Do I get points? I find if you cut them back hard in spring (so they don't grow too tall) it isn’t so very hard to remove the dead flowers before they self seed everywhere. Dave

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    1. Hi David - Not quite sure about white Buddleia but you do get points for the dark one. I prune mine twice once when the flowers have finished and again in spring.

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  6. Not a single butterfly on our buddleja bushes yesterday -,and only 3 butterflies spotted altogether yesterday. It's definitely a crisis year for British butterflies.

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    1. Oh dear - it's worrying isn't it. I saw quite a few whites fluttering over the lavender but that's about it.

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  7. I want that deepest purple one in your top pic. Gorgeous!

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  8. Ours has only just come into flower this past week, very poor this year. Fingers crossed for better times next year .

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  9. Perhaps the butterflies suffered with all the rain you had!

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    1. I think you are probably right jayne also it has been pretty cold for most of the year - not very butterfly-friendly weather I'm afraid.

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  10. Very Summery and fresh looking. I have a buddleia bush, probably the 1 in 100 that doesn't like where it's planted as I get very few flowers. They're really lovely plants, I must try moving mine to a different location.

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    1. I had to move one of mine for that very same reason - now it is a very sunny spot and flowers beautifully.

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  11. I've inherited several Buddleia, though only one is in what I call an acceptable place. I may horrify FIL by buying another though, if I decide I can trust myself to keep on top of pruning it. I have to be a little careful not to destroy other people's views of the sea!

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    1. They do seem to grow very tall even if you prune them hard back - and you definitely wouldn't want to spoil the view of the sea.

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  12. I grow a dwarf variety. Well it said dwarf on the label, but it's about 9ft tall. Last year I bought some patio buddleia which are definitely dwarf, but no flowers yet.

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    1. Perhaps 9ft is dwarf size in buddleia world - I would be interested to see what your patio plant looks like once it does flower.

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  13. Here in the mid-US, the Butterfly bush is indeed invasive. I'd like to find good alternative, because I know the pollinators need this type of plant.

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    1. I have been trying to think of a good alternative but nothing springs to mind.

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  14. Nie wyobrażam sobie ogrodu bez budlei. Mnie ostatnie zimy zmarzły niestety. Wsadziłam jednak nowe i kwitną, chociaż niezbyt obficie. Twoje informacje o tym kwiatku są bardzo ciekawe, a zdjęcia bardzo ładne. Pozdrawiam.
    I can not imagine a garden without a buddleia. I unfortunately died last winter. But I put a new and flourishing, though not very abundant. Your information on this flower are very interesting and very nice pictures. Yours.

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  15. I agree with you that I can't imagine a garden without one - I am sure your new one will soon grow and produce lots of flower heads for the butterflies to enjoy.

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  16. I agree about the unsightly brown flowers, I try to snip them off if I can reach! I remember as a child being fascinated by the hundreds of butterflies that settled on them, and now they are few and far between. Sad.

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    1. Another plant that looks awful when the flowers go over is the lilac - which wasn't a problem for me this year as mine decided not to flower - the weather this year has a lot to answer for.

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