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Top 5 larval host plants for butterflies

Asystasia gangetica

(Creeping Foxglove)

This reliable, evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It has white flowers in summer which attract birds and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Clouded Mother-of-Pearl butterflies as well the Blue Pansy, Brown Pansy, Yellow Pansy and the Common Diadem. The Mother of Pearl is a beautiful green to mauve colour and is spectacular in flight but when settled on a plant it disappears as it looks like a leaf. It is suitable for containers, hanging baskets and small gardens. It spreads rapidly and is good for mass planting. The leaves are used for spinach and I’ve used the flowers in a vase as they are long lasting .

Vepris lanceolata

(White Ironwood)

This medium sized, evergreen tree grows to 6m high in open woodland but in deep forests it becomes a tall graceful tree with a gently rounded crown of shiny light green foliage. The whitish grey bark is smooth and the tiny yellowish flowers appear in sprays from December to March. The leaves and fruit are dotted with oil glands that release a citrus smell when crushed. The small, black fruits are favoured by birds. It tolerates only light frost and is fairly drought resistant once established. It makes a good screen. It grows very well in sandy soil. It is ideal for small gardens as it has non aggressive roots. can also be planted in containers for indoors and patios. Also great for bird gardens as the fruit attract the fruit eaters, like louries, pigeons, doves, starlings, barbets and black-eye bulbuls and the flowers attract insects and therefore the insect eating birds. It is the larval host plant to the Citrus, Constantine's Green-banded, Mocker and White-banded butterflies. The roots are powdered and used as a remedy for influenza. The white wood is hard and elastic and is used for implement handles and roof rafters which can last up to 200 years. Plant it 3 meters from a building or pool. The name is derived from the Latin vepres = a bramble or thorny shrub. This does not apply to our South African Vepris. Lanceolata refers to the lance shaped leaves.

Plectranthus aliciae (was P.madagascariensis)

(Variegated Plectranthus)

Evergreen groundcover with plain green or green-and-white variegated foliage and spikes of small whitish flowers in summer. It is a very fast growing groundcover that grows about 15cm x 45cm and it spreads by means of runners which root as they touch the ground. It thrives when planted in semi-shade and it requires moderate water and is considered drought resistant. Plant this lovely groundcover under large trees to make an effective and attractive groundcover. It is also an ideal plant for indoors and it makes a lovely hanging basket for a patio. Root decoctions are used as a traditional medicine for cold and flu and the leaves are crushed and used as a deodorant and to treat scabies. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, Garden Inspectorthe March Commodor and the African Leaf Commodor butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek plektron = a spur; anthos= a flower. These plants have conspicuously spurred flowers.

Bauhinia galpinii

(Pride of De Kaap)

A small, evergreen tree which is water wise, has non-invasive roots and grows in the sun. The brick red/orange flowers are eye catching and occur in summer lasting for six months. They attract insect and nectar eating birds as well as butterflies as it is the larval host plant for Emperor and Playboy butterflies. It is also host to several moth species. It is a fodder plant for mammals like black rhino, kudu, bushbuck and grey duiker. The louries eat the flower buds and some butterfly species breed in the pods and others feed on the leaves. It is useful for formal pruned hedging or informal hedging or screening. The flexible stems are woven into baskets and used for roofing. It is both frost and drought resistant.A decoction of the seed is taken to stimulate menstruation. Named after Casper Bauhin 1560-1624 and Johan Bauhin 1541-1613 who were Swiss-French botanists and herbalists.

Plectranthus saccatus

(Stoep Jacaranda)

This evergreen groundcover is drought resistant and fast growing in the semi-shade. It occurs in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal. The blue or white flowers open in mid-summer. It attracts insect eating birds. Mass plant for a stunning effect. It can be planted indoors if it will receive afternoon sunlight, or in containers on a patio. It is deal for small gardens. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, the March Commodor and the African Leaf Commodor butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek plektron = a spur; anthos= a flower. These plants have conspicuously spurred flowers.

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