What's with Monarchs and Liatris ligulistylis ?

dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))August 27, 2010

I have a large garden, full of plants that attract Monarchs all summer long, but over in a local prairie there are Liatris ligulistylis and the Monarchs are swarming all over them. It's almost like these plants are like cat-nip for butterflies.

I will be collecting seed this fall for my own plants in the future.

I posted this pic on another site because I thought it was so good. I just discovered your forum tonight and thought you might like this.

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That's a beautiful picture! Liatris ligulistylis gets rave reviews on Plant files for being a butterfly magnet. I might have to add it to my new butterfly garden for next year!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 7:07AM
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ctlady_gw(z6 CT)

Beautiful! I checked it out on Kemper and the USDA plant list -- seems to be a Central Plains native but on the USDA map, the ONLY East Coast state that is reported to have it is Connecticut (where I am). Does anyone know if this will thrive in Connecticut? We're planning a butterfly garden (Monarch Waystation) for a local land trust and would love to have something like this to add to the usual suspects. Anyone growing this in the New England states?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 12:07PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I read there was some chemical in this plant that attracts Monarchs?? I winter-sowed L. ligulystylis and L. pychnostachya in 2008, and they are easy to start from seed, but take a couple years to get going. This year is the first year that most are blooming, one blooming stalk per plant. They were set back in growth last year, because they were eaten down to the stalks by a rabbit, but fortunately the rabbit isn't around this year, so they have rebounded.

The L. ligulistylis is in full bloom now, coinciding nicely with when the Monarchs showed up in my gardens about 3 weeks ago.

The Monarchs do seem to like it a lot. This tattered old male has been patrolling the garden for the past week and I watched him chase another male off the Liatris!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 2:34AM
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rsingley(z6a NJ)

I planted it twice in my Northern NJ garden. The first time it didn't return after the first winter, I assumed it did not get enough sun. After removing a couple of trees I tried again, with a little more success. In my partial shade/partial sun garden I get some flowers but it's not as impressive as I hoped. Mine have also flowered a little earlier in the summer before most butterflies have arrived.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 8:34AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Ringley, where did you get your plants? Mine are growing in partial shade (3-4 hours sun throughout day) and doing pretty well. I am actually surprised at the vigor of these plants, since they were eaten down to bare stalks by the rabbit last year. Wouldn't you know the Liatris was the ONLY thing the rabbit ate in the whole back garden too! It must be one of their favorites.

Anyway, maybe it has something to do with starting them from seed and establishing a good root system or something. They are somewhat slow-growing though - the first year the plants were tiny and looked like a few blades of grass.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 12:01PM
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I read that Ligulistylus releases some kind of chemical to attract Monarchs too. I grow 5 kinds of liatris and this one is by far the most popular with monarchs, in part I think because it bloom timing is similar to when the monarchs come around.

I have L. spicata that our swallowtails like a lot, but it blooms earlier when I think we get a fresh flight of E T swallowtails in our garden.

I ordered 20 L. ligustylus plants from dogwoodritter on e-bay. The plants were small but well rooted and grew well. (I buy a lot of butterfly plants from him.) I also ordered a number of plants from 'Prairie Moon' online which grew too. Ligulistylis isn't 'native' to my region, but it's pretty darn close!

I wintersowed some seed too, but that takes too long to get to a good size(for impatient me, at least).

One key I've found to growing this plant is that it doesn't like to have wet feet and likes lots of sun. My plants that I planted in a raised bed did much better than those that had a lot of moisture.

The other issue is the rabbits. The springtime shoots are like candy to them, so some defensive measures need to be taken for that.

I'm surprised that L. ligulystylus isn't available in more local nurseries, but it took a while for L. spicata to catch on with the wholesalers, too.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 12:48PM
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rsingley(z6a NJ)

Terrene, the first planting was a Home Depot special. If I remember correctly they were bulbs or tubers of some sort, sprouted and flowered(slightly) and never returned. The second planting was something I bought accidently from a reputable nursery and they are doing better, albeit not great.

Fairfieldcircle's post reminds me the first, and possibly second plantings were L. spicata and not L. ligustylus. Perhaps that contributes to my difficulty.

I'm not sure if I'll try again now that I have a little more information. Rabbits aren't a problem for me but deer are.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 4:36PM
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