Where Have all the Butterflies Gone? Part II

Where Have all the Butterflies Gone?  Part II

On July 29, I asked where have all the butterflies gone?  I received 12 replies and everyone said the same thing–no one had seen many butterflies and monarchs least of all.

Then I received this photo via Facebook from Minnesota, so there’s our answer–all the monarchs are  in Minnesota!

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Strom via Holly Veverka.

They are especially attracted to Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris ligulistylis) as seen in this photo–it reportedly has a scent that attracts Monarchs.

Meadow Blazing Star is not native to the Chicago region; it is found further north in the Midwest in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and southern Manitoba, in the central and northern plains into Canada, northern New Mexico, and the Rocky Mountains–indeed, another nickname for it is Rocky Mountain Blazing Star.

Rosy-purple feathery flowers spill out of button-like cups arranged closely along the stem, blooming, as all Liatris does,  from the top down.   From what I can tell by photographs, it  closely resembles Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera), common in our area, shown below:

Now here’s the tricky part.  I don’t like to write about plants I have not seen myself.   I have read that Meadow Blazing Star grows from 1-3’ tall or it grows 5‘ tall.  I have read that it grows in wet/misc to mesic soil.  But, I have more often read that it grows in dry to mesic soil, and is drought resistant.  Or it grows on shallow, rocky soil.

I sent this post to Jennifer Strom, the grower of the Meadow Blazing Star, shown above, for her input and approval and she graciously sent this back me:

Comments: Hello! Holly Veverka wrote to let me know you would be using my monarch butterfly/Liatris ligulistylis photo. I was quite happy to get the photo with five butterflies together, but the next day I got some with as many as ten. It’s what I was hoping for when I planted this particular liatris.

My established plants (six years old) are 5-6 feet tall, growing in clay, and seem to be drought-tolerant. I watered them consistently the first two years but have left them mostly on their own since. As in the Chicago area, the Minnesota weather has been tough. Last summer was extremely hot and we had very little rain after July 1st. The winter was snowy and we had our last snow in early May. Spring was quite wet, and now we’re back to a rainfall deficit. The liatris seem not to care.

I’m happy to find your blog, and I’m pretty sure my mom has your book.

So there you have it  Thank you so much, Jennifer, for your detailed advice.

If anyone else out there in Minnesota or Wisconsin or any other place where  Liatris ligulistylis grows, please add to conversation.

 

The other part of the story was about identifying this tiny butterfly.  I sent the  photo to butterfly expert  Janie Grillo of Midwest Groundcovers.  Here is her report:

I do know this little butterfly!  It is a fairly bold little guy called a Pearl Crescent.  They lay their eggs on asters.  I have them in my yard as well and have seen them very often at Corron Farm.  Fortunately, with them being small, I have never seen any damage from the caterpillars feeding.  Well, some people would call it damage, holes in the leaves, but to me it’s the joy of nature.  I hope you enjoy this little guy.  As I said, they can be quite bold.  One time when I was tagging monarchs at Corron Farm, I had one that kept landing on my papers and my jacket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Responses to Where Have all the Butterflies Gone? Part II

  1. Suzanne Massion September 3, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Pat, What a perfectly delightful blog with all the news from Minnesota and the local Corron farm. Butterflies and the liatris comparisons snagged my attention.

    • Pat Hill September 3, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

      Thank you Suzanne–I really like it when my blog becomes interactive with information, advice, and comments coming from other people.

  2. Rich Whitney September 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    The fact that I am pleasantly surprised whenever I see a butterfly this summer indicates to me that it is an unusal event. Previously, there was an expectation that butterflies were an every-day occurence. Certainly, there are many days that go by without seeing one. And yes, the Cabbage Whites are the most common I’ve seen.

  3. medina gross September 5, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    We saw pearl crescents in the western part of Raceway Woods earlier this week among the asters. Nice to know what they are. Luckily I had my camera with me this time, so I could check my picture against yours. (Yours is better.) I have seen a couple of monarchs in my back yard this summer. My neighbor has common milkweed and I have butterfly weed.

  4. Kevin Hebert September 6, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    Great post Pat. I enjoyed the inserts from both Jennifer and Janie. I’ll be adding a butterfly garden to my yard next year. I’m looking forward to learning all the different ones that visit.

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