Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) were in abundance during my recent visit to Manitoba. While the caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), the butterflies have a more varied palate for sources of nectar. Perhaps most favoured of the many flowers that the butterflies visit are species of Liatris (the blazing-stars), such as this meadow blazing-star.
The late Dr. Tom Barnes, formerly of the University of Kentucky, wrote an article on attracting butterflies with native plants (of Kentucky!). He noted that Liatris ligulistylis emits a specific odour for attracting monarchs. I wish I would have known that prior to my trip, as I would have patiently waited for a monarch imbibing nectar from one of these flowers for a photograph. Next time.
If you’re a gardener, Kim Hawkes of Brooklyn Botanic Garden has some good advice on growing Liatris.