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The butterfly bush: a feast for the eyes and for the butterfly tongue

The butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) gets its name from the countless butterflies that are attracted to its luscious flowers filled with nectar. For that reason alone, this popular shrub is a must-have for any garden. Besides the fact that butterflies are nice insects to spot in your garden, they also need these bushes to survive!

Shelter from the rain

Butterflies are having a hard time with the extreme weather conditions that are increasingly found close to home. With the heavy rain showers that we have experienced throughout the Netherlands, butterflies desperately needed shelter. Nectar-rich plants with dense foliage provide this much-needed shelter for them. Butterflies also need shelter on cold, cloudy days. This is because they can only fly if their body temperature is at least 20°C (although 30°C is even better). The shelter the Buddleja has to offer is a good place to warm up as well: it can get nice and warm under the leaves.

When the sun comes out again, the butterflies do too. They then sit widely spread out, sheltered from the wind, to capture as much solar heat as possible [1]. The next step is to get food, which is richly available for them in the nectar-containing flower clusters around this time of year. The flowers are not only nectar-bearing, but also very graceful and have beautiful bright colours.

A feast for the butterfly tongue and a beautiful view for us.

Buddleja davidii, also called autumn lilac, is the most widely known butterfly bush. You can recognize it by the beautiful purple and strongly fragrant flower clusters that can grow up to 25 cm long. Because the flower tube is long and narrow, only long-tongued insects can reach the valuable nectar. That is why you mainly see butterflies on the shrub [2], but other pollinators are certainly not averse to this plant and stretch their tongues to the maximum.

An ambitious grower

The butterfly bush originally comes from China, but it is widespread in Europe. It is a plant that multiplies quickly and prefers to grow on fallow ground, along railway tracks and even on walls. The butterfly bush was formerly known as the "bombsite bush", because it flourished in a short time on the debris of bombing sites after the Second World War. Unfortunately, it is difficult to remove this plant from unwanted locations, because a new plant can also grow from leftover root remnants.

Due to the rapid spread and the difficult to remove nature of the plant, it symbolizes strength, recovery, a new beginning and steadfastness. On the other hand, it can also be seen as an invasive species. We prefer to see her as an ambitious grower. Fortunately, today there are many variations of this beautiful plant, which are less invasive. You can also easily prevent propagation yourself by pruning the flower clusters as soon as they have finished flowering [3]. A big advantage of this is that the plant rewards you with an extra long flowering period after pruning!

This plant is also a nice addition in winter, as the grey-green leaves only fall off when it freezes. Note that the plant is not a host plant for the eggs and caterpillars of the butterflies that are attracted to the Buddleja so abundantly in the summer. So it's important to surround her with plants that are. In this overview of the Dutch Butterfly Foundation you can see which plants feed the caterpillars of the most common garden butterflies in the Netherlands. Who do you wish to send a strong new start full of butterflies?

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