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 Courtesy Ray Mathews, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

FLORA FACT: NATIVE POLLINATOR PLANTS

Meals for Monarchs

Fragrant mistflower provides a late-season food source for pollinators.


After a hot, dry Texas summer, there aren’t a lot of nectar and pollen choices for hungry monarchs during their fall migration south to their winter home in Mexico. Nature does provide some amazing native plants that can help provide sustenance each November; one you may see (and smell) right now is the fragrant mistflower.

Fragrant mistflower (Ageratina havanensis) can grow to 6 feet, massed with clusters of small, fuzzy, snow-like blooms from fall through early winter (and, occasionally, in spring) in Texas. The buds sometimes blush a bit of pink. Mature flowers attract monarchs with their nectar; bees, hummingbirds, other butterflies and many other insects are also drawn to this beauty, which makes a splashy late arrival to the Texas blooming season.

Found in the rocky Edwards Plateau and the Trans-Pecos, the semi-evergreen plant has many other names: Havana snakeroot (because it’s also found in Cuba), shrubby boneset, thoroughwort or Barba de Viejo (old man’s beard). The genus name derives from the Greek agera (to never grow old) because the blooms last a relatively long time.

Only new growth provides flowers. In some parts of Texas, the fragrant mistflower may die back significantly each winter but grow back in spring.

This fall beauty proves its drought resistance by the very timing of its bloom. It’s also attractive to our plentiful white-tailed deer, who find little tender growth to nibble in this late season.

Keep on the lookout for this rare source of late-season nectar and pollen. You might see a monarch stopping for quick meal.

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