Master Gardener Deb Carman talks about the importance of native plants to butterflies and moths John A. Pavoncello, 717-505-5449/@Jpavoncello


Summer is here, and Deb Carman is hoping that neighbors look at native plants while they are out shopping for their gardens.

As a Penn State Extension Master Gardener and a member of MAEScapes, Carman knows a thing or two about native plants, specifically about how butterflies and moths use them.

Carman has written several papers on native host plants and the butterflies and moths they help, and she suggests gardeners to look for plants native to Pennsylvania or the mid-Atlantic region.

"Sometimes they are labeled in nurseries, but there are (local) native plant nurseries that do specialize in that," she said. 

The popular butterfly bush is a prime example. Originally from China, the butterfly bush is becoming invasive in disturbed areas.

While butterflies do feed on the nectar, the plant is not a "larval host plant." Larval host plants provide more than just food for a butterfly or moth life cycle; they provide the specific habitat certain insects need, Carman said. 

Carman suggests residents plant native plants such as goldenrod and asters.

"A good thing to plant right now is our milkweed species," she said. There are 11 different species of milkweed, and the plant is the only larval host plant for the monarch butterfly, for which the population has been in decline. They also are great pollinator plants for all a variety of wildlife.

"Milkweed has gotten a bad reputation just because (of) the name weed," Carman said.

"Become educated about what is native and what is not," she said. 

For more information about native plants, visit


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