Butterflies flutter by.

At the risk of boring you,  the butterflies only flutter by after they have had a pit stop at the nectar bar in the front garden. The nectar bar I’m referring to is Eupatorium purpureum atropurpureum given to me by a friend as it grew too big for her garden,  thank you Jill ! Right from it’s first year here it has been a magnet for bees and butterflies. Each year now it puts up more stems topped off with the huge pink flowers, at least 10 inches across, far larger than the ordinary Joe Pye Weed,  opening from deep pink buds. When I got out of the car the other day, I stood mesmerised by all the butterflies and bees feeding on the flowers, it really was a feeding frenzy with more insects arriving all the time.

Front border

This is the area I’m talking about, looks pretty ordinary, nothing to get excited about, until you move in closer. The patch of Michaelmas daisy is a wild flower, blown in from I know not where, but the bees love it, it is always heaving with bees and flies.

one Tortoiseshell butterfly

One Tortoiseshell and bee.

Two Tortoiseshell butterflies

Two Tortoiseshells

Tortoiseshell butterflies

Three Tortoiseshells.

Red Admiral

One Red Admiral.


Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral.

T. and Peacock

Three Tortoiseshells and one Peacock.

Ts and Peacock

And again, three Tortoiseshells and one Peacock.

3 Ts 2 Gatekeepsers and 1 Peacock

Three Tortoiseshells, two Gatekeepers and one Peacock. One of the Gatekeepers is difficult to see as it has its wings closed facing towards us, but it is there!

These were all photographed in the space of 5 minutes. Standing there completely still, I was surrounded by bees and butterflies, coming and going, sometimes they were so close they were almost brushing against me.  At one time I counted at least 15 tortoiseshells, but all on different flowerheads. There is a buddleia to the left, but this only had 3 or 4 butterflies on the whole bush at any one time, they definitely preferred the Eupatorium.

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26 Responses to Butterflies flutter by.

  1. rusty duck says:

    Thanks Pauline, I must get a Eupatorium!

  2. I had never heard of this plant and so I had to look it up – anything to encourage even a few butterflies into my garden!
    Other readers may find this link useful.
    Is this a slightly different variety to yours or the same one?

    • Pauline says:

      I think Annette, that it is slightly different. I have the one which is called Joe Pye Weed that they are talking about in the link, but this is the wild one in America. It is about the same height as mine but the flowerheads are much smaller and it seeds everywhere, I’m always pulling them out! I think mine must be a hybrid but I’m afraid that I don’t know where my friend bought it. Be warned, it you do find it and buy it, it is a very large plant!

  3. Frank says:

    It really is a nectar-bar!
    I would add this one to my garden but it’s all over the roadsides and spotted throughout wet areas. I feel like I should reserve my space for more precious things since I can see it better grown elsewhere!
    Maybe this is where all my butterflies are 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      Yes Frank, I know it is a wild flower where you are and I’m seeing more of it in our lanes over here, but that is the wild one. The one in my garden here is a hybrid. I don’t know what it has been crossed with, but the flowers are so much bigger, more room for more butterflies!

  4. Annette says:

    You’d never bore me with butterflies, Pauline! We have Eupatorium cannabinum growing wild here and I leave it when it settles as they attract so many insects. Lovely photos, well done 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      The wild one is spreading in this country too Annette. I have a couple of clumps that I leave, but they are nowhere near as good as the one in the front border whose flowers are so huge.

  5. Cathy says:

    I am now completely convinced I need to find a spot for Joe Pye Weed! I don’t know if it will like my garden conditions, but I think it’s worth a try. Good to see so many butterflies in one place!

  6. Angie says:

    Wow, I was just saying in my latest post how very few butterflies I’ve seen this year, I think they are all having a vacation down there Pauline!
    Great plant, I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    • Pauline says:

      You might be right Angie, at least where Tortoiseshells are concerned! If you are looking for the plant, do remember it does grow very big!

  7. pbmgarden says:

    Encouraging to see so many butterflies in such a short span of time–like a happy gift from you today Pauline. I used to grow Joe Pye but it was too large for the location. Need to find another spot and try it again.

  8. Chloris says:

    I love this plant I grow it by my big pond and it looks really dramatic. The high winds this summer have broken many of the stems, did you have this problem or do you stake yours? I never had to bother before. You are right, butterflies just love it.

    • Pauline says:

      Mine is backed by a laurel hedge Chloris and is in quite a sheltered spot, so it hasn’t been necessary to stake it, even with catching the tail end of Bertha! I’m so glad you agree with me butterfly wise, it’s a super plant for them and the bees.

  9. Christina says:

    Sadly my garden is too dry for this beauty! The wild form does grow in the irrigation ditch by the lane but even with its feet virtually in water it never grows very tall and as you say the flowers are small. Great photographs Pauline it is so exciting to see so many butterflies at once.

    • Pauline says:

      Each day the count of Tortoiseshells goes up Christina, it certainly is a magnet for them. We have quite a lot of the wild one in the lanes here, this is probably how they have jumped over the hedge into my garden. All the books say that species of plants are better for wildlife but I think this is maybe one time when the hybrid out performs the species, it probably has more nectar.

  10. Helle (Helen) says:

    Hi Pauline,

    I seem to have the same problem as some of your other readers, I can only find Eupatorium purpureum subsp maculatum ‘Atropurpureum – not the hybrid you mention. It would be a great plant to have in my garden as the buddleias really don’t attract that many butterflies. Hmm, guess I’ll have to spend some more time with google 😉

    • Pauline says:

      Helle, I’ve looked this up, thanks to Google, and it seems that they are one and the same. It has about 8 different names for the same plant, Eupatorium purpureum subsp maculatum Atropurpureum – what a name! My friend gave it to me labelled as another one of its names. I hope you are successful finding a plant.

  11. Oh, how wonderful Pauline. Not sure they’d be room for this in my garden, but it looks like it’s doing a great job of feeding the butterflies. I love seeing them grouped like that.

    • Pauline says:

      It is rather large Paula, but it certainly attracts the butterflies and bees which feed happily together without any problem. They just move out of each others way if they bump into each other. It is the first plant I visit each day to see what has turned up and to see if we have any unusual visitors.

  12. Jane Scorer says:

    I have been meaning to find/buy/plant one for ages, and I will redouble my efforts after reading your post ! It has been a really good year for butterflies in my neck of deepest Lincolnshire, and as usual they have been queuing up for the Buddleias. It will be good to give them an alternative!

    • Pauline says:

      It’s been a good year here too Jane, but we are amazed at the number of tortoiseshells that have been in the garden for so long now. It is good to have an alternative to buddleia as I can’t always get out to deadhead them to make more flower spikes, now they never need to go short of nectar.

  13. debsgarden says:

    I am buying a Eupatorium this week!

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