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Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly on Porterweed Flower

Photographed in Mead Garden on July 31, 2009.

The Butterfly is getting nectar from a Porterweed Flower. Porterweed is a four- to six-foot woody shrub with violet to purple flowers that only last a single day. It is a member of the well-known Verbena Family, or Verbenaceae, and are highly regarded as butterfly attractors. In the tropical Americas, they attract hummingbirds as well. It is for this very reason why many species have found their way into cultivation in tropical and warm temperate regions of the world.

Throughout the Caribbean, and in Florida, these plants are commonly called “porterweeds” in reference to the medicinal properties bestowed upon them. A foaming, porter-like brew, much like beer, is made from at least one species in the Bahamas. This concoction is used as a drink for fever, for “the cooling of the blood,” as a wash for skin irritations, to relieve constipation and for worms in children. Whether it works or not is open to conjecture. Other local names include “snakeweed,” “rat’s tail” and “vervain.” The generic name is taken from the Greek stachys, meaning “spike,” and tarphys, meaning “thick,” referring to the thickened flowerspike typical of the genus. -From Miami-Dade, “Florida Native Plant Society,” Chapter’s newsletter

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