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Butterfly Nectar Sources Nectar-Rich Connecticut Native Plants

Butterfly Nectar Sources: Nectar-Rich Connecticut Native1 Plants

The following species are native1 in Connecticut. Many are rather large for garden settings and some spread aggressively. The symbol % indicates plants that are exceptionally unruly in gardens.

  • When purchasing these plants for use in restoring natural areas, it is important to make sure to get plants grown from local seed stock, as well as from site types similar to the intended planting site.
  • The addition of a variety or subspecies to the Scientific Name indicates additional varieties or subspecies exist in the USDA, but those other ones are not native in Connecticut. Be aware that plants imported from other parts of the country may not be labeled down to variety or subspecies because it is already known to the locals what variety is locally native.
  • Note that cultivars (with names in single quotes) do not represent the full genetic diversity of typical natives.

In the list below, heights are given in feet (') or inches (") for plants growing in natural habitats.

Common Name Scientific Name Height
Blueberries; e.g.,
  Low Bush Blueberry
Vaccinium spp.
  V. corymbosum
  V. angustifolium

6' - 15'
6" - 24"
Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis (3'-) 5' - 6' (-10')
Meadowsweet2 Spiraea alba var. latifolia2 2' - 5'
New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus 2' - 4'
Steeplebush (Hardhack)2 Spiraea tomentosa var. tomentosa2 2' - 4'
Sumacs; e.g.,
  Smooth Sumac
  Staghorn Sumac
Rhus spp.
R. glabra
R. typhina

2' - 20'
Max. 40'
Sweet Pepperbush Clethra alnifolia 3' - 10'
Wild Azaleas; e.g.
  Swamp Azalea
certain Rhododendrons
  R. periclymenoides (formerly R. nudiflorum)
  R. viscosum

2' - 8'
3' - 8'
Wild Cherries; e.g.,
  Fire (= Pin) Cherry
  Wild Cherry
  (Note: Wild Cherry leaves, twigs,
   seeds, toxic if ingested)

Prunus pensylvanica var. pensylvanica
Prunus serotina var. serotina

Max. 35'
Max. 90'
Asters; e.g.,
  Calico Aster
  Heath Aster
  New England Aster
  New York Aster
  Smooth Aster
  Stiff Aster
Formerly Aster spp.
  Symphyotrichum lateriflorum var. lateriflorum (formerly Aster lateriflorus)
  Symphyotrichum ericoides var. ericoides (formerly Aster ericoides)
  Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (formerly Aster novae-angliae)
  Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (formerly Aster novi-belgii)
  Symphyotrichum laeve (formerly Aster laevis)
  lonactis linariifolius (formerly Aster linariifolius)

1' - 5'
1' - 3'
1' - 3'
3' - 7'
1' - 3'
6" - 18"
Bergamot, Wild Monarda fistula ssp. fistulosa 2' - 3'
Blackberries; e.g.,
  Highbush (or Sow-teat) Blackberry%
Rubus spp.
  R. allegheniensis

2' - 8'
Boneset Eupatorium perfoliatum var. perfoliatum 2' - 4'
Butterfly-weed (Orange) Asclepias tuberosa ssp. tuberose or A. tuberosa ssp. interior 1' - 2'
Coneflower, Green-headed
  (= Tall or Cut-leaved Coneflower
  (Note: no other Coneflowers are
  native to Connecticut)
Rudbeckia laciniata var. laciniata 3' - 12'
Dogbane%; e.g.,
  Indian Hemp% {poisonous}
  Spreading Dogbane% {poisonous}
Apocynum spp. {poisonous}
  A. cannabinum
  A. androsaemifolium

1' - 4'
1' - 4'
Goldenrods; e.g.,
  Blue-stemmed Goldenrod
  Gray Goldenrod
  Rough-leaved (= Square-stem) G.
  Seaside Goldenrod Sweet Goldenrod
  Zigzag Goldenrod
Solidago spp.
  S. caesia var. caesia
  S. nemoralis var. nemoralis
  S. patula var. patula
  S. sempervirens var. sempervirens
  S. odora var. odora
  S. flexicaulis

1' - 3'
6"- 30"
2' - 7'
1' - 8'
2' - 4'
1' - 3'
Joe-Pye Weeds
  Hollow Joe-Pye Weed
  Joe-Pye Weed
  Purple Joe-Pye Weed
  Spotted Joe-Pye Weed
certain Eupatoriums
  E. fistulosum
  E. dubium
  E. purpureum
var. purpureum
  E. maculatum
var. maculatum

2' - 7'
2' - 5'
3' - 10'
2' - 6'
Milkweeds; e.g.,
  Butterfly-weed (Orange)
  Common Milkweed%
  Swamp Milkweed
Asclepias ssp.
  A. tuberosa var. tuberose or A. tuberosa ssp. interior
  A. syriaca
  A. incarnata
var. incarnate or var. pulchra
(a hairy variety)

1' - 2'
2' - 5'
2' - 4'
Pearly Everlasting Anaphalis margaritacea 1' - 3'
Strawberry, Wild% Fragaria virginiana var. virginiana 3"- 6"
Vervain, Blue Verbena hastata var. hastata 2' - 6'
Purpletop Tridens flavus (very often planted from non-local sources) 2' - 5'


1Used in an ecological sense, the word "native" refers to species that are a part of the native (sometimes called "indigenous") ecosystems in which ecological relationships among plants and animals and their environment (including pollination, food chains, and nutrient cycling; etc.) developed into a balance over many generations. In contrast to these native species, many familiar plants of New England roadsides are non-native, "naturalized" species. "Naturalized" refers to the descendants of introduced plants that were able to survive, reproduce, and spread without human help. Even though naturalized plants often grow quite well in their new territories, they are not part of the indigenous ecosystems in the places where they have been introduced (and, in fact, certain naturalized plants are disruptive of native ecosystems). The above list of plants includes only plants actually native to Connecticut.

2The genus Spiraea has been described as not attractive to butterflies in eastern Massachusetts and the New York City area.