Sennas, Tithonia & Zinnias: Setting the Table

Cloudless sulphur butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

So many are now sharing that they’ve seen few butterflies here in Georgia this year. It’s the end of June 2019, and we’re now fully into 2 years for our almost all natives garden in central Georgia.

Our 2 big patches of mountain mint are surely nourishing all bees for a 5 miles radius, or so it seems. Our Clethra is about to open, our Obedient Plant opened yesterday and our Big bed of Monarda was a hit with lots of bees and several swallowtails.

Our Giant Zinnias are throwing big flowers these last few days, and our Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) grows swiftly, now 3 feet tall, some headed to 7′ – 8′ tall. The Tithonia are not native, but they excel at supporting and nourishing many butterfly species, are easy to grow, thrive in drought, are gorgeous, and well summon the large butterflies from afar, very afar.

We’ve had good numbers of Buckeye, Gray Hairstreaks, Snouts, Silver-Spotted Skippers, Checkered Skippers, Monarchs in April and a variety of Skippers. As for the rest, I share Virginia’s positive expectations, that they will show up soon, and in good numbers. Most or all of them.

We’ve looked around central Georgia for Senna, with no success these last 2 years. Senna is the hostplant for these Cloudless Sulphurs, as the one you see here, seen in our Eatonton, GA garden.

My Vegas prediction, butterflies galore, as July fades to August and September produce butterfly jackpots!

Jeff

Imbibing Sweet Nectar In The Briar Patch

Male Black Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, GA

The Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) achieved enormous growth there in the Briar Patch. Virginia’s tiny seeds produced 8 foot tall Tithonia. She’d tell you that yes, they were not native to Georgia, but, they were strong, robust sunflowers, easily tolerate the Piedmont’s long bone-dry summers, self-seeded and nourished legions of butterflies, year after year.

I’ve planted Mexican Sunflower here in my own Eatonton garden, and their vigorous growth and absence of pests enables them to provide nurture for butterflies from June to November. For the price of a packet of seeds, you get Tithonia that neatly fills whole corners of your sunny garden spots and summons squadrons of swallowtails, brush foot butterflies, hairstreaks and many skipper species.

I suppose that they must also make fine cut flowers for your home vases, and if grown in your front garden beds, they’ll have your neighbors asking, “What is that gorgeous big flowering plant you’re growing there?”

This Eastern Black Swallowtail is fully involved, methodically working this Tithonia flowerhead. His golden yellow flashes, blue patches and shot of red/red, against black wings and black body handsomely fitted with white spots, works nicely here with the developing Tithonia bud and sweet Tithonia flower, all set in a clump of Tithonia, that blocking the sunlight that brightens the rest of the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat.

The richness of plants and butterfly here is real and as with all we share, the color of it all, real-time.

Jeff