This page contains 1) sources of general native plant information; 2) links to local and regional groups in North Carolina to help you learn more about butterflies and moths and regional outings; 3) Monarch conservation info links; 4) websites for butterfly ID and information; 5) native plant and seed sources for Western North Carolina gardeners; and 6) a list of milkweed species native to Western North Carolina.
Native Plant Information:
Asheville’s 4×4 Wild, a local conservation project, plants small patches of native pollinator gardens around Buncombe county for the bargain price of $20. Contact them on Facebook to learn more.
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville (BGA) is a 10-acre non-profit dedicated to the promotion and conservation of plants native to the Southern Appalachians.
Bringing Nature Home — This site supports the lecture series and OUTSTANDING book Bringing Nature Home by University of Delaware professor Doug Tallamy. The site features a list of woody and herbaceous plants that his research has proven “best bets” at attracting butterflies and moths in the US mid-Atlantic region.
Mistaken Identities is an identification guide to native plants and their invasive look-alikes.
Local/Regional Butterfly Conservation Groups and Information for NC:
(This is a list in progress.)
Butterflies of North Carolina: a compilation of information about all of the 177 butterfly species that have been recorded in North Carolina, as of the end of 2016.
The Carolina Butterfly Society is a non-profit based out of Greensboro that helps groups and individuals with education, habitat restoration, conservation, and other activities that benefit butterflies in the Carolinas. Unfortunately, they don’t have an official chapter in Western North Carolina.
The CarolinaLeps listserve provides a forum for butterfly enthusiasts or “butterfliers” to discuss all aspects of butterfly life in the Carolinas, including butterfly finding, butterfly identification, trip reports, butterfly counts, butterfly behavior, backyard butterflying, butterfly gardening, butterfly photography, and butterfly club information.
Will Cook: Cook, a researcher in plant ecology at Duke University, has a nice list of links for NC lepidopterists and birders, including a link to his website.
North Carolina Biodiversity Project: a fantastic (!) source of information created to help fill in our knowledge of the distributions, life histories, habitats, and other ecological associations of species, particularly as they exist in our state. Need a butterfly/moth list for your particular NC county? You’ll find it here.
Monarch Butterfly Conservation Information:
The Monarch Joint Venture is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs that are working together to support and coordinate efforts to protect the monarch migration across the lower 48 United States.
MonarchParasites.org is a citizen science project in which volunteers sample wild monarch butterflies to help track the spread of a protozoan parasite across North America.
Monarch Watch is a cooperative network of students, teachers, volunteers and researchers dedicated to the study of the Monarch butterfly. This is where you can get your monarch tags and report sighting.
Websites for Butterfly ID and Information:
Butterfly-fun-facts: A great resource from the Shady Oak Butterfly Farm in Florida.
Native Plant Sources for Western North Carolina Gardeners:
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville — This scrappy, amazing 10-acre native plant sanctuary near downtown Asheville hosts two native plant sales a year (spring and fall); members get a 10% discount on plants raised by the Botanical Gardens and located under and next to the gazebo. I’ve included an asterisk (*) next to the native plant vendors who generally attend the BGA’s plant sales.
Carolina Native Nursery * — Located in Burnsville, NC, Carolina Native Nursery specializes in native shrubs and perennials.
Elk Mountain Nursery — This Alexander, NC, retail grower offers a wide variety of of perennials, shrubs and trees native to the Eastern states. They only sell at their nursery or at regional plant sales.
Gardens of the Blue Ridge — This Newland, NC, nursery specializes in wildflowers, ferns, native orchids, trees and shrubs.
Natural Selections Nursery * — My friend Pat Sommers specializes in herbaceous perennials and ferns of the Southern Appalachians that she raises from seed, spore, cutting or division.
Prairie Moon Nursery (online vendor) — This Minnesota nursery sells native plants and seeds for restoration and gardening. Their catalog is gorgeous and packed with great information. Online, they provide a range map to tell you if the plant you want to buy is native to your area.
Prairie Nursery (online vendor) — Located in Westfield, WI, this mail order company offers a first-rate selection of native plants and seeds. They also have a range map to tell you if the plant you want is native to your area. They also have pre-planned gardens on order — for instance, they will sell you all the plants you need to start a garden to attract Monarchs.
Red Roots Native Nursery * — This is a wholesale nursery located in north Buncombe. I’ve included Red Roots on this list in case you are a retailer looking for a native plant source.
Sandy Mush Herb Nursery * — Located in Leicester, NC, the good folks at Sandy Mush offer all kinds of plants and have quite a few native plants among the mix.
Sow True Seed — This Asheville-based seed company sells open-pollinated, non-hybrid, gmo-free seeds featuring heirloom, organic, and traditional varieties. This link will take you to their milkweed seeds.
Mountain Mist Nursery * — “The deciduous native azaleas or wild azaleas that we grow are native to the East Coast of the United States. Our goal is to produce plants as they reproduce in nature, from seed, some are by cuttings, from those that will root.”
Milkweed species native to Western North Carolina
(From “Flora of the Southern & Mid-Atlantic States,” by Alan Weakley.)
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Eastern Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Common Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Fourleaf Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia)
Tall (Poke) Milkweed. (Asclepias exaltata)
Milkweed that you would have to go out of your way to find in WNC:
Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis)
White Milkweed (Asclepias variegata)
Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)
NOTE: DO NOT PLANT TROPICAL MILKWEED!!!! Whatever you do, please do not plant a non-native milkweed. Many people order tropical milkweed aka Bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica). The video below is from UGA PhD student Ania Majewska, created with the support of Monarch Joint Venture. I found it on MonarchParasites.org:
Karen Oberhauser, the top banana in monarch research, has this to say about it:
“Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is not native to the United States or Canada. Because it is attractive and easy to grow, it is often the most widely available milkweed at commercial nurseries. Because tropical milkweed historically occurs in the New World tropics, it is adapted to grow year-round, whereas most native North American milkweed species die back each winter. When tropical milkweed is planted in the coastal southern U.S. and California, these plants continue to flower and produce new leaves throughout the fall and winter, except during rare freeze events. Potential negative effects on monarchs include 1) continuous breeding on the same plants, which can lead to a build-up of Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) infection, and 2) availability of milkweed during a time that it is not naturally available, and so potential consequent impacts on monarch breeding during the fall migration.”
I feel very strongly that if a plant didn’t evolve in an area, it shouldn’t be encouraged to grow if it has the potential to disrupt the natural ecosystem. In WNC, we do have freeze events that should keep this plant in check. However, with global climate change disrupting weather patterns, I don’t think the risks of using this non-native outweigh the rewards.
This site is sponsored by:
Thank you Ben Gillum, of Keller-Williams Realty in Asheville, N.C.