But that's not the core issue.
Does it support lots of insects by providing good nectar? If one person sees one monarch nectarting on it one day, it's always assumed to be a good plant to help butterflies. Whenever I say -- and I am not lying to prove a point -- that my native prairie perennials see 50x the insect action than butterfly bush, I hear "I have plenty of butterflies on mine." Maybe you do. Maybe you don't. Doesn't really matter. Butterflies are one kind of insect, and I have NEVER seen a soldier beetle, or any beetle, or fly or wasp, on butterfly bush (let alone a caterpillar munching on its leaves). A few bumblebees, yes, and some hummingbird moth species. The point is when my prairie clover, coneflowers, mountain mint, rudbeckia, culver's root, ironweed, jow pye weed, milkweed, goldenrod, aster, viburnum, ninebark, serviceberry, baptisia, pasque flower, boneset, and countless other natives are in bloom, they are COVERED in a DIVERSE set of insect species. I wave my hand over them and a literal buzzing cloud lifts up like steam then settles like snow. I can't do that on butterfly bush.
But that's not the core issue.
|White-lines sphinx moth on New England aster|
Still, not the core issue.
Here's where I get lambasted the most -- plant choices in our landscapes are moral choices. Just like shopping at a local business is a moral choice, going to a farmer's market, consolidating trips in a car, not using plastic bottles, not slamming a door on someone's face, not driving drunk, not using racial slurs, not beating your spouse, not shooting prairie dogs for entertainment.
|IDK on Agastache foeniculum|
Using plants native to your locale is a moral and ethical choice.
This statement insinuates that if you have a hosta I think you're an immoral, self-centered, planet-degrading a-hole. I wouldn't go that far, but we're on that sliding scale, I must admit. Here in eastern Nebraska 99% of the tallgrass prairie is gone, replaced my publically-subsidized monocultures that fatten cattle in terrible feedlots, poison our food supply, and create a bridge fuel (ethanol) which is like plugging a leak in the boat by adding food dye to the water. What does the loss of prairie say about who we are and what we value?
The preservation of our world is no matter to take lightly. When you plant with natives you are standing up against corporations that rape and poison this planet for profit, that own our government, and you're standing up against social, racial, and gender inequality. I know that seems like a leap, but it's all related, it all comes from the same root of choices we make every day in our hearts and minds. (I always wonder why the term is "mother nature," as if that gender gives us more inherent rights over it, that is then passive and submissive, simply a backup support to something or someone more important.)
If wanting to ensure a livable future for subsequent generations labels me as a native plant purist, then get that branding iron out of the fire -- here's my bare rump.
It's easy to dismiss issues that make us uncomfortable, that highlight our complicity in ecological harm. It hurts. It should hurt. But I'm not asking for you to feel guilty or ashamed -- I'm asking you to take stock of what you know and see and experience, and reflect on what's really going on beneath the shiny surface fed to us in our daily lives. What do you believe in? Should you? I ask this of my college students all the time. I'm asking you, too.
|E. altissimum, Rudbeckia, A. azureus|
For more on the butterfly bush vs. native plants debate:
-- The North American Butterfly Association did a feisty spread
-- This ecologist goes deeper than I did above, so you might not like him
-- And I did a post suggesting alternative plants here
-- Maybe if I make you cry about a swallowtail I helped, you'll see where I'm coming from better.