Every winter certain animal species will travel south to take advantage of warmer climates. The long and exhausting migration is necessary to escape the cold temperatures from which they came. Several species of birds, fish and mammals migrate yearly. However, there is only one species of butterfly known to migrate to a warmer wintering location. The eastern population of North American monarch butterflies make an incredible journey of up to 3,000 miles to reach the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. They travel from all across the Northeastern part of the United States and merge into a single flyway in Central Texas. This week’s plant of the week, Gregg’s Mistflower, is a favorite nectar source of the monarch butterfly and gives the masses of migrating monarchs the energy they need to complete their long journey.
Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii or formerly known as Eupatorium greggii, blooms from late July through the first frost- matching up perfectly with the monarch’s migration. The small flowers are lavender to light-blue in color and cluster together to form puffy, pin-cushion like flower heads. These attractive blooms are also enjoyed by the Queen butterfly. The males of this species seek out alkaloids present in these flowers to help them attract the females. The leaves are palmate shaped and are deeply divided into three lobes. If you are looking for a “butterfly magnet” to add to your garden- this plant is it!
Conoclinium greggii is a perennial that goes dormant in the cold winter months, but will re-emerge in early spring. Gregg’s mistflower is a great ground cover plant because it usually grows to a height of 1-2 ft tall and can spread quickly through rhizomes, or underground stems. This perennial is drought-tolerant once established and is low maintenance. It tends to grow best in areas that are partially shaded.
Question for the Kids: What is another species that migrates every winter? Come in to the Welcome Center this week with an answer and get a treat.
Republished with permission of the Goldthwaite Eagle. By Savannah Lane.