Sunday, November 28, 2021

Great Southern Whites

Zebra longwing, Florida state butterfly.

Zebra longwing, Florida state butterfly.

Mike Malloy

No, this is not another article on sharks on the west coast of Florida, which seems to have dominated the news since the summer started. Funny, “Jaws” was one of my favorite movies. Anyway, it’s about a couple of South Florida’s beautiful butterflies.

Well this is another great year butterfly gardening in South Florida. It seems every year has a new surprise. This year the white butterflies in South Florida are more abundant then I have seen. Actually, I have seen more great southern whites, Florida whites and cabbage whites this year then I have seen in 25 years in South Florida. Every year is different and exciting. The whites stand out against the greens in the garden, making them really noticeable.

The zebra longwings, which are the Florida state butterfly, are abundant in my garden this year. Their motion in flight makes it so easy to distinguish them from all other butterflies. They could be my favorite. They float like the old paper airplanes we made as kids, but when disturbed they can fly like a rocket. Who knows, they are all great. People always ask me “what is my favorite?” Honestly, I cannot decide. To me they are all special.

As I have always said, plant the right plant for the right butterfly; they will come.

Great Southern White.

Great Southern White.

Each butterfly has a specific plant it lays its eggs on. This is very important because butterflies can smell the plants up to two miles away, and they will appear. Nectar plants feed adult butterflies, and this list is almost endless in Florida. To be real, almost any flowering weed or cultivated flower will provide nectar for adult butterflies. Actually, a lot of weeds here in Florida are both host and nectar plants.

So far here in the end of May, the butterfly counts are really high. All the very abundant butterflies in South Florida are coming in as usual, maybe above normal. In my garden, the giant swallowtails have arrived, and they are so noticeable because they are the largest butterfly in South Florida. Gulf fritillary, zebras, white peacocks, and many different sulfurs (yellow butterflies), black swallowtails, queens, gold rims, and just for fun there are numerous skippers and day flying moths, and of course, monarchs. And in the fall, the hummingbirds will return, which is a bonus of butterfly gardening.

I could continue this article and add tons more of information, but I’m trying to keep it simple.

These butterflies are some of the most abundant here in South Florida and the easiest to attract. A follow up article will go into more difficult host plants to

Monarch butterfly. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Monarch butterfly. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

find and butterflies they attract. KEEP BUTTERFLYING!


Plant the right plant for the right butterfly and they will come! Keep butterflying. 

And don’t forget the hummingbirds in the fall.

Milkweeds will attract monarchs, queens and soldiers

Cassias will attract yellow butterflies (sulfurs).

Passion vines will attract zebra, gulf fritillary and julias.

Frog fruit will attract white peacocks.

Wild lime will attract giant swallowtail.

Parsley, dill and fennel will attract black swallowtail.

Cabbage, kale, pepper grass and capers will attract cabbage white, great southern white and Florida white.

Mike Malloy, local author and artist known as “The Butterfly Man” has been a Naples resident since 1991. A Collier County Master Gardener, he has written two books entitled “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida,” and “Tropical Color – A Guide to Colorful Plants for the Southwest Florida Garden”, and currently writes articles on various gardening topics for several local publications. Mike has planted and designed numerous butterfly gardens around Naples including many schools, the City of Naples, Rookery Bay, the Conservancy and Big Cypress. Bring your gardening questions to the Third Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or on Thursdays at the Naples Botanical Garden where he does a Plant Clinic or visit his website, He also can be heard every Saturday at 4 PM on his call-in garden radio show, “Plant Talk with Mike Malloy,” on 98.9-WGUF.



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