Butterfly-Bush on the Rocks

— Written By Thomas Glasgow and last updated by Jami Hooper
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Butterfly-bush has been “noticed” by organizations such as the North Carolina Native Plant Society and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The NC Native Plant Society places butterfly-bush in Rank 3-Lesser Threat, just behind Rank 2-Significant Threat and Rank-1 Severe Threat. Rank 3 plants are described as “ … plant species that spread into or around disturbed areas, and are presently considered a low threat to native plant communities in NC.”  The USDA advises a little more strongly that “This plant establishes readily from seed and stem fragments in disturbed or natural areas, especially riparian zones, where it can form dense thickets that outcompete native vegetation.”  On a recent trip to Lake Lure, NC, I noticed numerous butterfly-bush escapes around the perimeter of the house we were staying in, but it was a little disturbing to see small plants that had started from seed and then rooted in the moss growing over the rocks in the Broad River.

Invasive tendencies seem to vary by region, and I don’t recall seeing butterfly-bush naturalizing in Eastern NC, where I live and work. Regardless, a good strategy for the future would involve the use of seedless butterfly-bushes such as the Lo & Behold series, which includes ‘Blue Chip’, Purple Haze’, Blue Chip Jr.’, ‘Pink Micro Chip’ and ‘Ice Chip.’

These cultivars were developed by renowned plant breeder Dr. Dennis Werner of NC State University. In September of this year, Dr. Werner received the 2019 Hamilton Award from Rutgers University for his teaching and research accomplishments since joining NC State University in 1979. Appropriate to Dr. Werner’s quiet, low-key demeanor, the award particularly recognizes “an unsung hero, a quiet leader, or patient mentor in the field of horticulture.”

butterfly bush

To the left, a Buddleia seedling gains a foothold on the moss-covered surface of a rock in the Broad River. To the right, a wider perspective with an arrow pointing to the interloper.