There are many reasons to put specific plants in a landscape or garden area. Love of the bloom, the color, the rich texture, or the plant does specific things such as attract butterflies, hummingbirds, or songbirds. Not everything that attracts butterflies are flowering plants, there are also trees and shrubs that will attract certain butterflies. These trees, all native to Georgia, are nice specimen trees that will bring specific butterflies and moths to the landscape.
Common Name: Scarlet Maple, Red Maple
Description: Growing 40 to 60 feet high in most yards and up to 120 feet high in the wild, scarlet maple has a nice fall color. Its red flowers and lobed leaves are in a round crown form. Flowers have a bloom season of March and April. Green leaves will turn red and yellow in the fall.
Planting Guide: Acer rubrum prefers sun or partial shade and moist acidic or neutral pH soil. It is tolerant of both cold and heat.
Propagation: Scarlet maple is propagated by seed that matures in summer or by softwood cuttings with rooting hormone applied. Collect seed when firm and dark brown; samaras will be yellow-brown or red-brown. Soak in cold water for 2 to 5 days for best germination results.
History: It attracts butterflies to the landscape and moths. It is a larval host to the Cecropia (Hyalophora cecropia) moth and the Rosy maple (Dryocampa rubicunda) moth. It makes a good browse for deer, moose, birds and squirrels.
Its bark has been made into dyes and inks from early Pioneers.
Warnings: The scarlet maple has poisonous leaves and bark, especially to livestock.
Distribution: Acer rubrum is found in AL, CT, AR, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, LA, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VT, VA, WV, WI and DC.
Common Name: Honey Locust, Thornless Common Honey-locust
Synonyms: Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis
Lifespan: Long-lived Perennial
Description: Growing from 30 to 75 feet high, the honey locust has yellow-green compound leaves and greenish flowers. Seed pods start out red-green and will age into a maroon-brown. Leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Planting Guide: Gleditsia triacanthos prefers partial shade and moist nearly-neutral pH soil. It should be well-drained soil. It has both cold and heat tolerance.
Propagation: Honey locust is propagated by cutting or by seed. Cutting will not produce fruit, as they need to be from male tree branches. Seed should be scarified for 1 to 2 hours in sulfuric acid for easier germination.
History: It is a larval host or source of nectar for the Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) Butterfly, the Bicolored honey locust (Sphingicampa bicolor) moth, and the Bisected honey locust (Sphingicampa bisecta) moth.
The pods were dried and ground by the southeastern indigenous people as a sweetener.
Warnings: In the wild, the honey locust is not thornless and has needle-like thorns.
Cankers and mimosa webworm invaders are just some of the pests that can bother this tree.
Distribution: Gleditsia triacanthos is found in AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, IN, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TX, TN, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, WY and DC.
Common Name: Moral, Red Mulberry
Description: This tree grows 12 to 36 feet high with simple green leaves and white, green or brownish flowers. Bloom season is from March through June. Fruits are black, purple, or red in color. Leaves can be lobed or not and have serrated margins. They are hairy, somewhat heart-shaped, and up to 8 inches long.
Planting Guide: Morus rubra prefers any lighting and is adaptable to the soil. It does fine in sand, clay, and loamy soils.
Propagation: Moral is propagated by seed that is directly sown into the ground during the fall.
History: It is a larval host plant for the Mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterfly.
Native Americans used the fruit for cakes, preserves, breads and drinks. They also used it in herbal medicine as a worming agent and a laxative.
Warnings: This plant has a low toxicity, especially in the sap and fruits.
Distribution: Morus rubra is found in AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, IN, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NY, NC, OK, OH, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, VA, WV, WI and DC.
While there are many reasons to plant these three trees in a landscape, for those looking to increase their selection of butterflies to watch, they definitely fit the profile.