Butterfly Garden Plant Golden Alexander
Most home gardeners are familiar with insects eating their flower or vegetable plants. Probably none more than gardeners who grow parsley, dill, fennel, and carrots. Plants often are eaten to the ground in a matter of days. The culprit in this case is most likely the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail, a large black butterfly that is common from parts of Canada down through Northern Mexico. Across the United States, it is found in most eastern states as well as various western states.
A native alternative to feed Black Swallowtail caterpillars in your garden is Golden Alexander. Planting it will in no way guarantee that your parsley will be safe, but Golden Alexander can provide a decorative alternative with its bright lemon yellow flowers.
NABA member Mary Anne Borge wrote and shared her experience on growing Golden Alexander:
Umbrella shaped clusters of the tiny sunshine yellow flowers of Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) have been lighting up my shade garden for about six weeks [June 2010]. While the bloom period is just finishing (everything was a bit early this year with the unusually warm temperatures), the fruit from the pollinated flowers is beginning to develop, and will be attractive for many weeks to come. The rich green foliage of Golden Alexander is visible for much of the year.
The golden flower umbels reach a width of about 2.5-3 inches. They help identify Golden Alexander as a member of the parsley family, and a food plant for the caterpillars of Black Swallowtail butterflies. The bloom period usually begins in early May, and the long lasting flowers will generally be seen well into June. The dry fruit capsules will be present on the plant throughout most of the summer and into fall. Even after the fruit falls or is eaten, the flower pedicels (stems) offer an attractive star burst shape for visual interest when left standing through the winter.
Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), and the almost identical looking Heart-leaved Alexander (Zizia aptera) reach a height of 1-3 feet. They can tolerate sun to at least part shade, and like somewhat moist soil. I have them in a shaded bed along the edge of a driveway. They have adapted very well, and are very easy to grow. Golden Alexander will spread readily from seed.In my garden, this plant is not preferred by deer. Always a good quality! [End of Mary Ann Borge’s text]
Importance as a butterfly nectar source:
Golden Alexander is not a butterfly nectar source but does provide nectar for a wide variety of other pollinators. The flat flowers of Golden Alexander are visited by insects with shorter mouth parts.
Importance as a caterpillar food source:
Golden Alexander provides food for Black Swallowtail caterpillars.
|USDA Hardiness Zone|
|Bloom Period||April to August|
|Plant Height||1 to 3 feet|
|Light Exposure||Sun to light shade|
|Animal/Disease Problems||None, moderately deer resistant|
Plant rating scale ranges from 0 to 3. Plants rating 3 are the most useful for butterfly gardens. For more details on the ratings, see Native Plant Ratings