Thursday, March 2, 2017

Butterflies and bidens

I've never been a fan of Spanish Needle plants (Bidens Alba) even though it's a Florida native plant that acts as a nectar source for many bees, wasps and butterflies.

A common buckeye butterfly seeking
nectar from a Bidens Alba bloom

My main reason for disliking this member of the Aster family with small daisy-like blooms has always been because of its prolific seeds.  Each thin, pointy, black seed has a barbed end that latches on to any bit of clothing that brushes against it.  Of course, that same quality assures the plant's survival by enabling furry animals and clothed people to spread weed seeds far and wide.

These seed may look harmless enough but wait
until you try picking them off clothing 

However, in recent years my feelings about Bidens Alba have experienced a shift. While I still do my best to avoid contact with the plants so I won't have to waste time handpicking the annoying seeds off my sneakers or pants, I have come to appreciate Bidens as a butterfly magnet.

That change in attitude was reinforced recently when Ralph and I visited the lot at New Smyrna Beach where we'll soon be building a new home.  On the north border of the property I noticed quite a crowd of Common Buckeye and the Great Southern White butterflies fluttering around a narrow band of Spanish Needle plants.

As I stood there taking pictures and a short video, I couldn't help but appreciate what a valuable asset certain pollinator plants can be to the landscape.  I still may not want to walk through a patch of Bidens for fear of winding up covered with hard to remove seeds but, as the butterflies prove, it definitely has a place in the yard of anyone who wants to foster nature.

Want to learn more about Bidens Alba? 
This ubiquitous wildflower has been the subject of several
Simply Living columns
Click here to read more about Spanish Needle and see many other photos of Biden Alba, butterflies, bees and other pollinator plants

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