Notes by Bill Finch

You’ve got to feed the young’uns if you want the adults (and they often need very different plants)

The young eat the leaves, the adults sip from flowers. Often, these are different plants. But adults spend much of their time looking for a place to lay their eggs, so providing a place for caterpillars to forage is sure to attract adults butterflies in good numbers.

What good does it do to have a “butterfly flowers” if no butterflies are around to partake?

Time your flowers to take advantage of the butterfly outbreak: Flowers in spring are nice, but the big butterfly season begins in late summer and in autumn.

Many butterfly plants you read about in books don’t live very well in our climate — buddleia, for example — but even if they do, they often aren’t blooming during the peak butterfly season.

Spring butterflies (before April 15) tend to be a little specialized (Falcate orangetips) and may focus on one type of plant that isn’t necessarily all that showy, like mustards. So your vegetable garden may attract more butterflies than a conventional butterfly garden.

American Summer butterflies (April 15 through June 15) become more widespread and diverse, and the common “butterfly plants” are often in full bloom, but I see fewer butterflies in gardens, maybe because the butterflies that are around are dispersing and have plenty to chew on elsewhere

Gulf Summer butterflies (June 14 through August 15) – this is when the big butterflies becomes really noticeable, particularly swallowtails. This is a great time to have butterfly attractants in the garden, but sadly, few of us do (the butterfly plants from Boston have long since quit blooming!)

Hurricane Summer and Fall butterflies (Aug 15 through Nov. 1) – this is the really big season for butterflies, and the time when you want to have plenty of flowers and foliage for them to feed on.

Fiery Skipper caterpillars are hosted by various grasses, such as Bermuda Grass, Crab grass and St Augustine grass

Fiery Skipper caterpillars are hosted by various grasses, such as Bermuda Grass, Crab grass and St Augustine grass

Some of the best butterfly plants are NOT “flowers.”

They’re often trees and shrubs and vines, some of which don’t produce conspicuous flowers at all.
Oaks, hickories, hackberries, red bay trees, sassafras, spicebush, black cberries, sweetbay magnolia, tulip poplar, white cedars, red cedars, paw paws, passionflowers,: These are among the very best butterfly host plants, but all of them are shrubs, trees or big-climbing vines that butterflies choose to lay their eggs and caterpillars will eat.

Butterflies have a dirty secret: They love mud almost as much as they love cow patties and rotten fruit.

Many people worry about providing water to butterflies. But truthfully, butterflies seem to like to drink from mudholes. Wouldn’t hurt to have a little wallow in your yard. Butterflies are attracted to rotting vegetables and fruits almost as much as flies are.

Plants with clusters of small flowers are often the most attractive to mature butterflies

With only a few exceptions, butterflies have short tongues, and that means they don’t like “deep” flowers (the kind of flowers that moths love). Butterfly flowers: Tend to be small and in clusters. Doesn’t mean they aren’t showy: they often are. Composites like wild sunflowers, black-eyed susans, eupatoriums, and others make good butterfly flowers, because each “flower” is actually dozens or hundreds of flowers packed together

Other good nectar plants for adult butterflies include:
Composite flowers including tickseeds, sunflowers, aster, eupatorium, mistflower, goldenrods, and many others.
Many legumes

Feeding Butterflies post

Gulf Fritillary feasting on Lantana. Photo by Patricia Pierce

Some Host Plants for Butterfly Larva

Plants in the citrus/rue family (Rutaceae): Giant Swallowtail and Schaus Swallowtail

Carrot family (including parsley, dill, Queen Anne’ Lace etc) Eastern Black Swallowtail

Laurel family (including Spicebush – Lindera benzoin, Tulip Tree – Liriodendron tulipifera, Sweet Bay – Magnolia viriniana, etc): Spicebush and Palamedea Swallowtails

Pawpaws (Asimina species): Zebra Swallowtail

Pipevines ( Aristolochia species): Pipevine Swallowtail

Passionflowers (Passiflora species): Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Longwing

Blueberries: Hairstreak butterflies

Pea family : Many Sulfur butterflies (Cloudless sulfurs need partridge pea, Southern Dogfacemay prefer swamp lead plant –Amorpha)

Mistletoe: Giant Purple Hairstreak

Sorrels and docks: Copper butterflies

False nettle, American ramie (Boehmeria) :Red Admirals, Commas, Question Marks

Willows: Viceroy

Asclepias (milkweed species):Monarch Butterfly

Hackberries (Celtis species): Emperor Butterfly

Thistles: Painted Lady

Figwort (false foxglove) and acanthaceae (ruellia, justicia, thunbergia, acanthus): Buckeye and Checkerspot butterflies

Asters (New England aster): Pearl Crescent

Crotons: Goatwing butterflies

Bamboo cane: Southern Pearly Eye and Creole Pearly Eye

White cedars (Junipers): Hessel’s Hairstreak

Red cedars: Juniper Hairstreak

Spring mustards: Falcate Orangetip

Resource Pages for more details

The Butterfly Site LIst of Butterflies in Alabama

University of Florida Search on Butterfly

Butterfly food post

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly. Photo by Patricia Pierce

Butterfly food post

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Photo by Patricia Pierce

Butterfly food post

Fiery Skipper on Buddleia. Photo by Patricia Pierce

Butterfly food Post

Red Admiral Butterfly. Photo by Patricia Pierce

Butterfly food post

Long Tailed Skipper. Photo by Patricia Pierce

It is with great sadness that we say our last goodbye to Elizabeth Tolbert. who died on August 18th, 2015 at the age of 94.

Ms Elizabeth volunteered at the Greenhouse for 19 plus years after her retirement – being the 4th volunteer to join the weekly Tuesday mornings. Her specialty was cuttings – she very precisely cut and placed cuttings in the right pots with the right pruners and the right stick for making holes! If her tools were missing, then she had the younger, more agile volunteers hunting them down! – and filling pots and watering. And we did it gladly!

She hated leaving space in a pot of cuttings – many a time we had to ask that she at least leave a few leaves on a “momma” plant so we could still see what it was! If you have ever bought a MBG propagated plant over the past years, then it was sure to have Elizabeth’s hand in its production!

In her own words from a newspaper article in 2003, “We do cuttings and then look at them later to see if they lived” – no doubt said with her playful smile and a twinkle in her eyes! Thousands lived – a fitting legacy of flowers!

For the past year or so when she has been unable to come to help we have missed her wonderful wry sense of humor! We will always remember her funny stories, her reflections on life, her festive Christmas sweaters, and her work and dedication to the MBG greenhouse.

Elizabeth always sat in the same place near the main door to the greenhouse – if she was away for some reason, others were allowed to sit there, with the words “You can be Elizabeth today”. Over the past year since she was unable to come to help, that chair has usually been empty. It will always be Elizabeth’s place, but if you come to help and hear those words, please be aware that although you may work in that spot, you will never be able to replace her!

Elizabeth’s family have asked that memorials be given to the Mobile Botanical Gardens in lieu of flowers. We are honored to have the privilege of honoring her life and longtime help at the Greenhouse.

– from Liz Duthie on behalf of the Greenhouse Crew.

Elizabeth Tolbert – Obituary

Elizabeth Tolbert post

Elizabeth taking cuttings of a Cuphea in 2003

Phase 1 of replanting the area damaged by fire caused by fireworks on July 3rd, started on August 8th! We have more to do, but we have PROGRESS!

Unfortunately a large Loquat tree was too damaged to save.

For previous information about the fire and damage in the Fragrance & Texture Garden see HERE!

Moonscape replanting

‘Moonscape’ Replanting Phase 1 August 7th 2015

Moonscape replanting post

Variegated Aspidistra gives good evergreen contrast in a shady area

Moonscape replanting post

Gingers, ferns, Saxifraga, azaleas… a lot more to plant, but a good start to our shady area.

Moonscape replanting post

Unfortunately this large Loquat tree had to be taken down by Roy. It was too damaged by the fire to save.

Saturday, September 19th, from 9am until noon

Come on out for a morning at ReBloom Mobile MarketPlace where we will have pollinator plants galore – as well as a good selection of late summer and fall blooming plants!

We will also have:

A special presentation by local butterfly experts, Fairn Whatley & Suzanne Damrich. Fairn & Suzanne will show you the many types of butterflies and the plants that attract & feed them

Local Honey – the good stuff from some classy bees that visit the flowers of Fowl River in South Mobile County

Local Artists – watch for painters and sketchers in the Gardens as members of the Plein Air Painters create art that celebrates our butterflies, bees, birds and flowers. Several pieces will be for sale at the MarketPlace
Easy Gardens for the South – If you missed Harvey Cotten’s talk and book signing on Tuesday, you still have a chance to buy a signed copy of Harvey’s inspiring book, Easy Gardens for the South. We will have several copies available Saturday morning. This book is a wonderful resource for any gardener!

Photo of Fiery Skipper butterfly feasting on Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta species) used with kind permission from Patricia Pierce

Tuesday, September 8th, 10:30 am
Mark your calendar and make your reservations and buy your ticket for Tuesday morning after Labor Day!

Come for a talk by Harvey Cotten as he shares some of his favorite pollinator plants AND then shop for great MBG propagated butterfly & pollinator plants for your Gulf Coast gardens!

Harvey retired from Huntsville Botanical Garden last year after over 20 years during which the Garden grew from just 32 acres to 112 acres. Starting as a volunteer he played an integral part in the expansion as Executive Director, and is still active with their education programs and continuing development. He writes a weekly Gardening Column for the Huntsville Times and is a weekly guest on Noonday News on the local ABC affiliate. For more on Harvey visit his website (will open in new tab).

He will be bringing copies of his book “Easy Gardens for the South” for sale – co -authored with Pamela Crawford and Barbara Pleasant. This features over 150 plants, from annuals to trees, that require little care, providing lots of color while breezing through our hot, humid summers attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and wildlife. All tested by Harvey at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens!

10.30am – 11 am Refreshments will be provided by the Petal Pushers. Browse through our selection of plants for sale.
11am – 12 noon Harvey’s talk on host and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators
12 noon – 12.30pm or beyond… Harvey will have his book for sale, and you will have a good choice of plants in the Botanical Center and the Market Place.

$10 Members, $20 Nonmembers. Reservations requested

Questions? Contact the office at 251.342.0555 or email us with Subject line: Harvey Cotten Talk.

Thanks to Patricia Pierce for the use of her photo.

We are still in the planning stages, but SAVE THE DATE – September 19th!

That’s the next Market Place Sale with a special focus on Pollinator Plants! Butterflies, bees, hummingbird plants galore – as well as a good selection of late summer and fall blooming plants!

We are please to announce that Harvey Cotten of Huntsville Botanical Gardens will be coming to talk on Pollinator Plants in September!! September 8th 10.30 am to 12.30 pm. More details HERE!

This will be the second of our Featured Plant Sales! The first, July is Gingers Month, was a great success! and we are planning more in future months!

Thanks to Brad Boland for his great photo!

Our next major Market Place Sale will be in September!

But we have another way for you to buy! Follow the SHOP ONLINE link on the top menu!

You can also reach it from the Shop Now links on our Facebook Page! You do NOT have to have a Facebook Page, nor do you have to join Facebook to shop! Just ignore the Sign Up for Facebook messages, and SHOP!

Sales are for PICKUP only. We will be at the Market Place at MBG on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings from 9am to 11am for you to collect your pre-paid plants.

Email with subject Plant Pickup or Member Code if you need to arrange a different pickup time or if you have forgotten your membership code.

The prices shown include the 10% sales tax. Members can enter the shopping code sent in their membership confirmation AT CHECKOUT to receive a 10% discount on the total. That is our ‘thank you” for being a member and ordering and paying ahead of time! The discount applies to ONLINE sales only – we cannot give a member discount at regular Market Place Sales.

We are using Paypal to receive payments. You do NOT have to have a Paypal account to buy – Look for the box near the bottom that says Pay by debit or credit card or Paypal credit.You will then be able to enter your card details. If all else fails then email with a the names of the plants and quantities and we will send you an invoice to pay from!

We will be adding different plants weekly, but our current offerings are select Gingers and Citrus Trees – the citrus trees are at LOW, LOW PRICES – 50% off our usual retail price. So if you are yearning for a fresh from the garden Orange, Satsuma or Kumquat, take advantage of the price. Just make sure you keep them watered during summer dry spells in the containers or ground!


Effective as of August 1st 2015

Monday, Thursday and Friday – 7am to 4pm. Gates will be locked at 5pm.

*** NEW *** Saturday and Sunday – 7am – 11am Gates will be locked at 12 noon.


The gates to the main Gardens will be locked outside of the opening hours.

Access to the Longleaf Forest from the main Parking Plaza will remain open from dawn to dusk every day.

If you need access outside of these hours, please call the Office at (251) 342-055 to confirm.

Gardens serve as islands of beauty for the soul, natural pharmacies for humans and other animals, havens for local and rare plants, and teachers of children and adults alike. They help give us a sense of time and passing of seasons. Mobile Botanical Gardens is right in the Mobile area backyard to provide these resources to the community.

The new Aromi Azalea Garden gives Mobile a place to conserve and display the life’s work of the late Dr Eugene Aromi, a Mobilian who worked on breeding evergreen and deciduious azaleas for more than 40 years.

Of the 108 cultivars of deciduous azaleas that have been names, 25 have already been lost to the world of horticulture. By providing a dedicated garden, we are able to preserve his azalea heritage for the future.

Maarten van Der Geissen , of van der Geissen Nursery in Semmes, AL, inherited many of Dr Aromi’s plants when he passed away, and has been looking after them for more than 10 years. He has generously donated specimen plants for the new garden, so they can be shared with Mobile and the world in perpuity. Along with Tom Johnson, Director of Magnolia Gardens & Plantation, Maarten spearheaded a campaign that, through private means, has provided the financial resources to create the new garden area.

First, I’d like to than the 200 Facebook friends who contributed to this Garden – don’t worry, I’m not going to call their names. Their contributions were the catalyst that got this Garden off the ground. It’s one thing if I tell the Board of Directors that I want to build a Garden, it’s another thing completely when 200 people show up at the door waving hundred dollar bills.
This story really starts with a Facebook conversation I had with Tom Johnson, the Director of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston. I was talking about (whining about) how to fund this installation. Tom comes back with “You know, we really only need two hundred people to give us $100 dollars. I’ll kick in $100.” John Davies of Panhandle Growers chimed in with $100. Bill Ray in Florida, and Dr. Ken Tilt from Auburn pitched in their $100. They had me backed up to the wall, so I pitched in $100. From there it snowballed. We had donors from Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and even the Netherlands and Spain sending in their money, telling Mobile Botanical Gardens to build this Garden. Through the whole process Tom was a relentless cheerleader. He posted photos of Aromi’s plants daily. He exhorted, cajoled, pushed and prodded. Mobile Botanical Gardens owes him a deep debt of gratitude.
I also have to thank the members of our gardening community – good, decent folks who just wanted to make Mobile a better place. I won’t name them here. They know who they are, and they have my undying gratitude. With their help we doubled the Facebook donations, and raised $40,000 in private money.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Dr. Aromi. I was honored to have known and worked with him and his wife Jane in the last few years of his life. His 40 years of dedication to hybridizing resulted in 1045 crosses and over 100,000 seedlings that he brought to flower. His work I believe is the largest hybridization project in the United States. Yet, he named only one percent of what he created. Each of those hybrids is a treasure.
Certainly, I have to thank Mobile Botanical Gardens for taking on this project when their plate was already full to overflowing with needs, crises, and burdens. Their installation of this Garden allows Aromi to take his rightful place in the pantheon of great Mobile horticulturalists, creative men like Tom Dodd Jr, and Kosaku Sawada whose work is known throughout the world. The author J.R.R. Tolkien called such men “Sub-Creator, the refracted light, through whom is splintered from a single white, to many hues, endlessly combined in living shapes that move from mind to mind.”
Mobile Botanical Gardens is ground zero for horticulture in Mobile. We have a gift here that our neighboring cities can only dream of. They clothe their neighborhoods in the offerings from the dime stores of Bentonville Arkansas and the hardware suppliers of Huntersville North Carolina, because that’s what they have. But we have a Garden.
Here’s how it works. In a few moments Gina Gregory, for example, is going to walk through our new Garden. It’s a safe bet that she’s not going to be thinking about the history of Mobile horticulture, or hybridizing, or even horticulture. She is going to be thinking “Wow that would look great in my yard. Where can I get that?” Our marketplace carries a lot of the plants that we have in the Gardens. So she plants her new azalea, and when it blooms? The neighbors are going to say “Wow that would look great in my yard”. Through the Gardens we create a local market for plants from our greatest horticultural minds, rather than what we are fed by the chain stores. The result? A more beautiful and unique city – a richer city. And in the larger view this spreads to our neighboring cities as well. Visitors come home and say “I saw this in Mobile. That’s such a lovely place.”
I also want us to think about Mobile Botanical Gardens as a refuge. Let’s say you want to collect all of Sawada’s camellias. You do your homework, buy the camellias, plant them in your garden. What happens when you pass away? The greatest collection of camellias in the last generation was at the corner of Broad and Government, now a Greer’s Grocery. Down the road at Catherine and Government Blacklawn Gardens is now an Office Depot. Rubel’s magnificent Longview Gardens with its roaring lions and giant Buddah is now Mobile waterworks. The lions sit silently in a museum. Even the garden of Dr. Aromi, where all these wonderful hybrids were created, is now a lawn.
Mobile Botanical Garden allows us to hand down what we value to our children, and to their children. It is an enduring home. It is our enduring home.
Today we celebrate the completion of a new room in that home. We can meet our friends here. We can marry off our children here. In these times of turmoil, we can find some peace here. But our home is not complete. We still have a long way to go to create a Garden worthy of the name Mobile. See, I maintain that Mobile is a reflection of this Garden, a refracted light. As we love this place, so we show our love for our families, for our neighborhoods, and for our City.
By being here today, you are showing your love for this place. I thank you. I thank you for coming here to see, for coming here to learn, for coming here to share, for coming here to grow.