Butterfly Bush: Dark Truths Revealed

Christine Pritts

March 8, 2024

Today’s weather app. reads, “40 degrees, feels like 32”. I can think of no better way to respond than to brew a cup of tea, while beginning research about invasive species for our newsletter. Bad News came right away: one of my favorite landscape plants popped up on my computer screen.

Seeking more information, I typed in, “Butterfly Bush”, and a poem, The Butterfly Bush, appeared. Not what I was looking for, yet “on topic” because the poem speaks to the potential allure of many invasive species when we choose them for landscaping. To illustrate, I share only an excerpt:

The Butterfly Bush

I didn’t plant the butterfly bush. It grew there of its own accord,
in between the apple tree and the perennial sweet peas,
an uninvited guest spiraling skywards like an exploded party popper.
It crowded out the garden path entirely, but I had not the heart
to cut it back — I enjoyed its honey fragrance too much . . . . .

Caroline Mellor

The poem continues entrancingly, using descriptors such as: “ambrosia nectar, sweet fragrance, showy purple flower cones, attractor for butterflies & bees”. It’s a lovely poem: I encourage you to read the entire poem here.

Yet, there must be a dark side since Butterfly Bush appears in ODA’s “B” noxious weed listing. Here you’ll discover that this non-native plant out-competes native vegetation, and it grows in a variety of soils and habitats. It rapidly invades meadows, forest edges, dunes, stream and river banks. It is difficult to control, and it is reported to exist locally, along many roads in the Willamette Valley.

Both Washington and Oregon ban the sale of Butterfly Bush.

There is one broad exception: Oregon Department of Agriculture permits the sale of certain cultivars, which have been determined to produce 2% or less viable seeds, as listed here.

Some are available in our local nurseries, listed as “Non-invasive Variants” or “Sterile”. Unfortunately, even these variants can be controversial. Looks like I have more research to do for next month’s horticulture article.

If you have a horticulture question that I can look into for our next Garden Club newsletter,
please send me a note below

Stay Calm & Garden on

Christine Pritts

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